by Marlene Testaguzza
They're gone now; most of the California Newts have gone back to their burrows. A very few lethargic males remain in a pond busy with blossoming vegetation, hatching amphibian eggs, tiny swimming larvae and tadpoles, different sized and colored water bugs, frogs, and toads.
My attention now centered on hopping tree frogs, which can change their color seemingly at will, and thoughtful, slow-moving Western Toads.
While spending some time with the active, diminutive frogs, I noticed two seemingly immovable toads in a shallow part of the pond. The smaller male was on top of the larger female, and they were surrounded by long necklaces of black pearls encased in transparent strands. The sun made the strands glisten. They were beautiful.
The toads weren't moving. But, shouldn't they be? After all, I knew the female could lay over 16,000 eggs! Two pairs of eyes were open, and they saw me. I know because when I moved they moved, just enough. This was relaxing. I decided to sit on a nearby flat rock and further observe. Twenty minutes later we were still there. And, twenty minutes later, we were still there. And, twenty minutes after that . . . . Finally, I conceeded defeat. If anything had happened, it remained the toads' private affair.
Two weeks later, I returned to the pond. I saw neither toads nor egg strands, but everywhere tiny jet black tadpoles were propelling themselves through pond traffic.
The pond I've been talking about is actually a vernal pool. It is born when the rains begin and disappears when the rains stop. By late spring, early summer, only a depression in the meadow remains.
It is something of a race for the animals of the pool to fulfill their missions in time.