Nothing for nothing

"Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it; let's do it, let's fall in bed." Or something like that goes the old American songbook.

Yesterday we walked the new footpath around Laide wood. We were watching for The Arrival and that was just as well, for as we approached that jewel of a lochan amidst the denseness of the trees Dee almost stepped on a frog. Well, actually not one frog but two, for the larger, fatter female had a smaller, mightily amorous male clinging tenaciously to her back.

We've been walking / scrambling through this large tract of tangled conifers since first we arrived here in 2002. That was long before the local community (ourselves included) purchased it from the then owners - that is, the tax avoidance wealthy one who had, some forty years previously, bought the land then had the wood planted and fenced. Now the community have tended it well, planted new non-conifers, constructed bridges and pathways and generally made the plce walker friendly.

But I vividly recall the first time we fought and stumbled our scratchy way through to emerge with our pair of lovely old vizslas from the trees. There, unexpectedly, gleamed this wide, lily dotted expanse of a mirror-still lochan. It was at this time of the year, the time when, if you stand still for a while you can imagine yourself hearing the deep sighs of a woodland Spring, almost feel the flora and the fauna - all nature stretching itself for the seasons of growth and reproduction to come.

Then, we had looked down and just like yesterday had found the frogs. Thousands upon thousands of them, most in the water, the rest making their slow way down to it. Green frogs, black frogs, autumnally tinted frogs; all intent upon finding a mate. Mati and Sorosh were astonished to the point of a quick sniff and leave well alone. Often three, four or even five males were heaped upon a single (unfortunate?) female.

In a couple of weeks you won't find a frog anywhere. Each one disappears; goes back, presumably, to its home stanping ground leaving masses of wobbly, black spotted spawn in the water to prove he/she was here. But as the pre-Springs came and went and the miracle repeated itself it became apparent that many of the participants had paid a high price for their love-making. We eventually worked out that the hundreds and hundreds of frog skins lying around the lochan must have been the work of hungry herons. But now, since attending a learned talk on the otter, we're not so sure ...

Either way, even frogs get nothing for nothing, do they? At least they died happy.

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