I started my 56th year of life with a splash, by drowning my camera.
Around midnight, while visions of sugar plums were dancing in the heads of the rest of the family, I heard an unfamiliar clicking coming from the temporary pond at the edge of our property. I grabbed a flashlight, my point and shoot camera, and my macro camera with lights. As has now become habit, I waded into the pond with my macro set-up and a flashlight, ready for a prolonged waiting session, and determination to figure out what was making that sound. The toads, as usual, were in a mating frenzy. I put my hand near one, which immediately swam over and grasped it. I photographed a number of couples who were so wound up regarding mating that I knew the evening wouldn’t be wasted, even if I didn’t hear the new clicking sound again.
Then the clicking began about a foot away from me. The first click was answered by a second click a few feet away, which in turn was answered by a third click. Suddenly these new animals were chorusing and I was in the middle of the chorus triangle. I’ve become pretty quick with the flashlight over the last few nights and directed my beam in the direction of the clicking midsession. Like the toads, these unknown creatures continued chorusing from start to finish regardless of the intensity of light and the water movement caused as I moved toward them.
I crouched low, trying to find whatever was making that noise. I knew that my flashlight had to be positioned correctly based on the location of the clicking. I looked for evidence of a pale vocal sac expanding and contracting in time to the clicking chorus. And then I saw it. It had been right in front of me all the time. The sound was coming from a tiny brown and green frog who sang for almost a full minute, undeterred by the flash of my lights as I moved through the water around it. The frog stopped, moved forward about an inch, turned sideways, and began to sing. I lowered myself into the water so that I was almost level with the frog and got the shot I was hoping for. It was perfect.
The frog jumped into the water and swam off to another area of vegetation. I waded back to the shore, swapping my macro set-up for my point and shoot so that I could record the clicking song and may be even capture some video of the new frog species. I waded back out, the amphibian chorus began immediately, and I captured the desired audio immediately. Pushing the envelope, I moved forward to capture some chorusing footage. The point and shoot’s video capability is pretty limited, but I didn’t care. I was having fun. I moved along an upraised ridge of underwater grass, lowered myself into the water, and prepared for the chorusing to begin. This was going to fantastic.
And then the upraised grass ridge gave way, sliding backward into the pond. I lurched forward, but had nothing to grab onto. One hand held the camera, while the other held the flashlight. I held tightly onto each as I plunged forward into the water. I wasn’t going to let go of either. My hands plunged into the water and I caught myself, as my hands plunged close to a foot deep into the soft mud. As I pulled my mud-covered hands out of the water, I saw that the flashlight was still on and the camera was still recording video. For a few moments anyway…
It’s all captured on video at https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=720945981295590&set=vb.100001405858431&type=2&theater. The battery and memory card seem fine. The camera lies in a bowl of rice on the kitchen counter. And I’m now 56.