One of the most engaging things about a landscape is how it changes after dark.  I haven't been at TRAC very often after sundown, but last night I was in an Amphibian Watch training program and to count frogs, you have to wait until the sun goes down.  Suddenly, paths that are familiar in the sunshine become enchanting places of pale light and shade and have an element of strangeness after the last of the sunlight has faded.

This is "hunting by hearing" and it takes practice to gain confidence.  The katydids are busy sawing away in the trees, grasshoppers are buzzing in the grass, and the cicadas are adding to the cacophony.  Frogs tend to shut up when large moving things stumble by, though the insects mostly continue until you step into their "comfort zone" and then they go silent.

Our first location was one where I expected we'd get a good count -- in trees on a part of the pond with cattails, next to a second temporary (riparian) pond in a small strip of trees and a few hundred feet from another small pond.  So we stood and listened, and finally heard (almost three minutes into the five minute documenting session) a pair of cricket frogs across the pond and next to the building.  I was somewhat surprised by this, since we'd seen tadpoles in the pond and I knew frogs were around.  This pond is artificial -- it's only been around for five years or so (this is a brownfield remediation site, and this was one of the most difficult spots to clean up.  After cleanup there was a big hole, and they decided to turn it into a pond.  Fish, turtles, frogs, and dragonflies (and birds) showed up to stake a claim.

So we hiked to Great Blue Heron Pond -- a much different environment although it was less than a ten minute walk.  Here we have bottomland forest on a flood plain.  The pond is stabilized and selected vegetation has also been planted around it, but the nearby forest is more extensive and there are actually three ponds within a few hundred feet of each other.  We started listening and counted cricket frogs (which sound like people rapping marbles together), the green tree frog (they sound like ducks quacking) -- and then we went frog hunting and snared one of each of the above plus a VERY unhappy leopard frog.  All were returned to the environment after the human-monsters greeted them.

But I was most delighted to see fireflies.  I haven't seen them in many years (I know they're around -- I just haven't seen them), and their little lights bring back some fond memories.  There were about a dozen on Great Blue Heron pond, and I hope as the summer goes on that I might see more.

I'm starting a project to learn how the ponds shrink as summer progresses.  Long range forecast indicates the possibility of some rain on Tuesday, and the owner of the Audubon shop, T, says that she's seen Great Blue Heron pond dry completely the first summer.  It will be interesting to compare the amount of rain during that summer with what we get this summer and see if the vegetation planting that Dana Wilson has been directing seems to have an impact on how fast the pond shrinks.

I have no idea what to expect -- but that's what science is all about.  You ask the question and are prepared to be pleasantly surprised no matter what happens.