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Thursday December 18, 2008

Raining Toads and Frogs

The other morning I awoke after a terrific rainstorm to hear a rhythmic croaking emanating from the garden but something was wrong. The frog anthem was coming not from our pond, but the swimming pool at the back of our finca. A moment later beneath the window came woops of excitement from my eleven year old son, Ollie.
‘Hurry! The pool’s full of frogs.’
I dashed into the garden just in time to see a row of at least twenty, glistening green frogs dive in perfect synchronization from the side of the swimming pool into the azure depths. That wasn’t the end of the show. In nearby puddles left by the night’s rains, tiny frogs were puffing out their chests and hopping about as if they owned the place. Peering into the water, I noticed with alarm that a massive bubble of frogspawn was floating serenely on the surface. How in heaven’s name had this web-footed invasion occurred seemingly overnight? It’s an accepted myth up here in the hills that in springtime frogs arrive en masse at precisely the same time across the valley and depart without a croak in early October. I pondered whether some new frogs on the block had got their time clocks muddled. Here we were in late September waiting for our frogs to depart, not more to arrive.

Now much as we’re on the verge of converting our pool to a more environmental system, at present we use chlorine and I was mightily worried about the effect this would have on the new inmates. Rather less charitably, my Scotsman seemed more concerned about having to share the pool with our amphibian friends.
‘It’s not like swimming with dolphins, is it?’ he tutted. ‘We’ll have to turf them out.’
Easier said than done. The next morning we waded through the pool with a net trying to nab our Olympic swimming champs with little success. Ollie proved a nimble catcher, managing to transfer five baby frogs to the pond as well as the mass of frogspawn. The Scotsman and I fared miserably and resorted to seeking advice from our local builder, Stefan, who doubles up as a pool man. He shrugged his shoulders in some bemusement at the sight of our basking frogs croaking loudly like an amphibian boy band from the pool decking. We’d need to drain out the water, he told us, and also suggested keeping the pool cover on at night. That would see them off. We waited patiently for the pool to clear of water and a few days later slithered about in wellies on the slimy tiles trying to chase out our reluctant invaders. Ollie expressed some doubts about coaxing them to depart.
‘Imagine going from a clean swimming pool to a murky pond full of weeds? I mean it’s like sending a New Yorker to deepest Africa and how do we know they’ll cope?’
I saw his point. Besides, I added, the frogs in the swimming pool were vivid green and those in the pond were a mottled grey. Perhaps they might belong to rival tribes. What if they didn’t get along or were homesick?
The Scotsman sniffed impatiently. ‘I’m sure they can get trauma counselling once they’re ensconced in their new watery abode,’ he muttered dryly.
By nightfall, exhausted, we had transported all our chirruping lads and ladettes to their new lily pad-laden home. We refilled the swimming pool in some trepidation but a funny old thing happened. The next morning Rafael, our nearest neighbour called round.
‘All the frogs have gone for the winter,’ he announced.
We rushed to our pond. Sure enough there wasn’t a croak or a splash and now we came to think of it we hadn’t heard their habitual raucous chorus during the night. Our frogs appeared to have hopped off to some mysterious amphibian-only holiday resort beyond the island.
‘It’s like magic,’ Rafael smiled, ‘I always wonder where they go.’
The Scotsman shook his head. ‘To think we went to all that effort moving them out of the pool only to see them disappear overnight.’
‘Maybe they were playing a joke on you all along,’ laughed Rafael.
Maybe so, but when the little devils return in the Spring we’ll have the pool cover at the ready. Until then we’re taking no chances. Ollie has erected a crude sign at the poolside which reads: ‘NO FROGS ALLOWED.’ So that should stop our amphibian jokers in their tracks, that’s assuming, of course they can read.

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