Cute as a Button

Volume 6, Issue 67; 02 Aug 2003

Way before I became a bit pusher, I was going to be a zoologist. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a herpetologist.

Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog.
Macbeth. Act iv. Sc. 1.

Way before I became a bit pusher, I was going to be a zoologist. In fact, for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a herpetologist.

When I was about five or six, my father and I, and a bunch of his high school students, visited an acid bog in far northern Maine, where we lived at the time. I'm sure it was some sort of field trip for his biology class. Anyway, someone captured a garter snake and it moved into an aquarium in our house. I got up one morning a few days later and discovered a writhing mass of snakes in the aquarium. Garter snakes are ovoviviparous and she had given birth. I was hooked.

In the intervening years, I've wrecked countless pairs of shoes venturing off the trail into ankle-deep muddy water. I just love these little guys. Toads and treefrogs, especially. Oh, and newts.

Cute as a Button
Cute as a Button

This little guy is an American Toad, Bufo americanus. He was probably born this spring.

American Toad
American Toad

This is the same little guy, now safely tucked under the coleus in the back yard.

Wood Frog
Wood Frog

As I followed my little toad around, trying to get a natural looking photo of him, I was surprised by this little Wood Frog, Rana sylvatica. There's nothing in the photo above to show scale, but he was a good deal smaller than the toad. And a good deal hungrier, too, by the looks of him. Poor fellow.

This little essay marks the beginning of a series: a photograph of every reptile and amphibian species in Massachusetts. Two down...