We caught a grumpy old toad. He is not amused.

Having a young son in late middle age, when I’m often mistaken for his grandfather, is wonderful. It keeps me young and hopefully I have wisdom and experience to impart to him that I didn’t with my older kids. That is the benefit of being born late. One of our father-son things is critter roundups. We go looking for bugs, toads, snakes, minnows, whatever we can find, and we marvel at the creative majesty of our God. Each year, we catch generally the same things, after all, there is nothing new under the sun. Until you catch a glimpse of that unusual bird species like the Indigo Bunting, or find a leopard frog in your weed bed.

This year, as we were cleaning out the dense jungle of coastal prairie that had grown up in my raised beds, we found plenty to enjoy. A huge toad, a family of Spring Peeper frogs living under a plastic log, and huge slugs. We turned up the soil to find a Rough Earth Snake and a snake skin. We saw skinks, tree frogs, tiny toads, millipedes and earwigs. And we caught the elusive Leopard Frog.

The elusive Leopard Frog. I remember him as Rana Pipiens, the Northern Leopard Frog, from my school days. We had to dissect these little dudes. He may in fact be a Southern Leopard Frog, not quite the same species as those unfortunate biology class carcasses.

I am not sure where this Leopard Frog was raised and brought forth from egg to tadpole to become the big fella he is now. There is usually no standing water in my yard. Yet for several years, I have seen large Leopard Frogs in the back yard as I cut the grass or whack down the weeds. Well, we finally caught one. These wonderful creatures leap nearly six feet or more depending on their size. They are fast and elusive. But my son and I worked together and caught the thing. How marvelous to admire his powerful legs, the golden rims of his pupils the perfect camouflage on his skin, and his cool white underbelly. This is an amazing and beautiful creature.

In a day when you can no longer send your boy to the local ditch or pond with a net and say “Have fun!”, it is quite special to have a back yard where we intentionally let wood pile up, or leave a board on the ground, or leave a section un-mowed, just so we might provide habitats for little creatures to find later on. As the garden grows this year, we expect even more. Generally we can expect anoles and toads, but you never know who will move in.

All critters released same day, they are out there even now, doing their thing. Enjoy the wonders of creation. Stop and look, and enjoy.

Our Rough Earth Snake, a burrowing type, beneficial animal in the garden, shy and friendly. This is actually a large one for this species.