July 16, 2013

The center of amphibian life has shifted to the ephemeral dirt tank, which, with a half an inch or more of rain having just fallen, has been filled yet again to overflowing. The water is muddy brown, much of it covered with suds and bubbles and it’s full of mesquite leaf duff and all that can be brought down from the gulches above it. The merry chortling of the Sonoran Desert Toads is the music cued to accompany the froggish couples entered in this olympic match of Synchronized Swimming, they stare out through pairs of polished Tiger’s Eyes. Four different amphibian songs come from the edges, the foam, or mid-water–but I can only make out one other of these singers, two will remain a mystery. Floating near the edge and in the foam, is a tiny Western Spadefoot, its eyes silvery and glittering like diamonds, with dark vertical slits of pupils. It pushes out an inflated pouch almost the size of its whole body, and from this bagpipe instrument comes what sounds like the rapid clicking of a geiger counter. The musical balloon looks uncannily like the larger foam bubbles that drift past.

Vast drifts of amaranths are growing rapidly now.

That tanager is singing in the evening above The Stockpond, whose waters have remained clear despite the rains and flooding, and there’s not a strand of algae to be seen in it.