Hiding In Plain Sight
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I was over at Sabino Canyon the other day, walking slowly up the drying bed of Sabino Creek. The water’s flow has completely stopped and the creek is turning into a series of rapidly shrinking disconnected pools. In a matter of a few weeks even these will disappear, leaving just a sandy creek bottom. The creek will resume running in mid-July if the monsoon rains are on schedule.
I met up with an acquaintance and we slowly picked our way around a series of refrigerator-size boulders. During peak flow these boulders would be mostly submerged but now they sit high and dry. Suddenly, he pointed at one of the boulders and said: “there’s a Canyon Tree Frog on that rock.” “Where?” I asked. “There,” he said. “Where?” I asked again, bewildered. “Right there!” he exclaimed, pointed directly at a spot on the rock. I peered closely for about 10 seconds and then, I saw it.
Canyon Tree Frogs are pretty defenseless in the face of predators (well, they will pee when grabbed, we know that). They can’t outrun anything, they don’t bite, and they don’t excrete toxic substances like some amphibians do. Camouflage is their primary defense and at that, they excel. They have the ability to change their color to match their background. Put this frog against a solid colored surface and those black blotches on its body will quickly disappear. Put it against a light surface and the frog becomes much lighter in color. It darkens against a dark background. This frog has adjusted its body color and patterns to almost perfectly match the boulder on which it is sitting.
The little frog becomes much more obvious when viewed up close.
Of course, if a predator were to get this close to one of these frogs the jig would probably be up and all that would remain for the little frog to do would be to pee.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro lens, assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 125, M setting. The first photo was taken at f16 @ 1/160, the second at f18 @ 1/160.