Early March, and there is an amphibian orgy at the bottom of my mother’s garden.
Go out in the dark and there is a constant sound, a low throbbing underlying the distant hum of traffic and the barking of the dog in the next street, audible even from my bedroom. It’s the croaking of frogs. Recent warm weather has spurred them into amorous action, and they have gathered in Mum’s ponds to indulge in some hot frog-on-frog action. Huge billows of spawn bear testament to their activities, and there is a mighty splashing whenever we venture down the garden path, as they dive below the surface in a flurry of waving legs. In twos and threes, or even more, they cling together, each male trying to grab hold of a compliant female, even if he has to share her with several other males. He locks his forelegs around her ponderous middle and hangs on until she’s ready to lay her eggs, to make sure he’s in the right place at the right time. But it’s a wise frog that knows its own father, as any one of the attendant males could be Mr Right. Sometimes their cumulative enthusiasm is too much, and the female is so beset by suitors that she drowns.
Feeling rather the voyeur, I venture down the garden and try to count heads (or legs). It’s a losing battle, as they pop up and vanish all over the place, in the ponds or in the undergrowth – I lose count at thirty, and under the reproachful stare of many gold-ringed amphibian eyes, retreat to the house.
In revenge, they croak loudly all night.