So I thought I was pretty good at catching frogs. I liked to think I was something of a master - the result of many years spent honing my skills. A sort of human heron, but bigger and without feathers. And obviously I don't eat them afterwards.
But it seems that I have been totally outclassed by Claudio and Andrew, who are in another league. These Darwin's frogs are super rare, super tiny and do a great impersonation of a leaf and yet they have both managed to catch several specimens whilst I am still empty handed. It's beginning to bug me.
Like some sort of bad acid trip, I start seeing frogs everywhere. Beetles whose bums look like frogs...
...and even my frog catching colleagues are starting to look distinctly amphibiany...
Anyway after several days of pouncing victoriously on god knows how many leaves, I finally spot one. What makes me especially happy is the markings on his stomach are shaped like a letter L. He was destined to be Lucy's frog. It was meant to be.
As you can see from the photo I have now graduated to BLUE GLOVE status. This means that I am now a fully paid up member of the froq squad and officially allowed to touch the little webbed wonders. But weirdly, I don't really want to. Which is very, very unusual. But they are so precious (and also potentially pregnant) that I'm too nervous to fondle them for fear of squashing their delicate little bodies. Manhandling a bullfrog is one thing (a big brutish invasive species) but a tiny little pregnant Darwin's frog is another. Even with the glove.
The single blue glove by the way is not some rubbery homage to the late great Michael Jackson, but rather a bio-security measure. Each frog gets its own glove so we minimise the risk of cross-contamination should any of them carry infectious diseases like the dreaded fungus.
As with all the frogs, we swab my specimen for Chytrid, measure and photograph him before setting him free in the exact same spot we found him. This is very important as we think these frogs have a very small range - we keep finding the same individuals in their same square foot of moss, day after day. We wonder if this could be a breeding season thing and they are guarding their eggs waiting for the right moment to eat them, but who knows. So little is known about this species that almost everything we observe about them was previously unknown. This is such an incredible thing to be a part of and I realise that compared with studying well-loved species like chimps or pandas, studying amphibians really is like going to the moon - every step is a first for mankind.
And what a step...this may look like a double dog turd disaster but it's actually me and Andrew disinfecting our boots after an amazing day in the field. Only one thing could have made it more perfect...finding a pregnant male.