Matang, Sarawak, Malaysia – “Froggy went a courting he did ride, uh hum, froggy went a courting he did ride, sword and pistol by his side, uh hum”
I could not get this song out of my head and even sang it to my friends from the Natural History Museum in London, who took me to a jungle frog pond one dark night. They told me to bring my torch, so I assumed they wanted kerosene soaked rags wrapped around a pole to be lit when we got there. Not really, but that is what came to mind. I finally figured it was a flashlight, in American lingo.
Earlier in the day, while walking through the rainforest, I said to my friend George that I could only see two butterflies. “Where in the world are they,” I inquired.
He glanced around and within five seconds spotted 20. Thinking he had butterflies in his head, I said “Where?” He patiently showed me each one, and then a few more. He was also able to give me the name, both common and scientific. They were a mere flicker of light lasting but a nano-second before blending into the background. After awhile I got the hang of it but still could not spot as many as he did.
I wanted to find some of the creepy crawlies (not a science term) that roam the forest floor. I scraped away about three meters of litter and couldn’t find anything. Jan, his wife and an entomology (bug person) expert, casually looked around and spotted a millipede that both of us played with.
The pond, located about 200 meters from the forest road, was elongated and wide, formed from a dammed stream. Fallen trees created jumping paths to cross over. I was bound and determined to redeem myself from my previous eyesight failure and wanted to find the first one.
I walked a few paces ahead of the group and proudly announced I had spotted one in my light shine. One could not miss it, however, as it was the size of my size 10 shoe. It also made enough racket that even the hard of hearing could immediately locate it.
Instead of searching the waters, we spent time looking at the clumps of bushes and small trees lining the waters edge. Jan spotted the first tree frog. It was located about waist high on a thin tree branch. I eagerly became proficient in finding these creatures but both my friends could spot many more of the thumb nail sized ones.
A person from the Malaysian Nature Society joined us and also went frog watching. Then the three of them began discussing the different varieties of frogs, colors and habitat. Scientific names were thrown around. I just stood there agreeing with everybody, barely following the conversation.
We walked along the road to see what was residing in various places. I earnestly looked for stuff but as usual could find nothing while my friends introduced me to spiders, moths, scorpion burrows and a snake with a red-tipped head that none of us could identify.
Oh, by the way, should you ever need to know, to get a scorpion out of a burrow, find a long very thin twig. Tap the twig slowly and gently while pushing it down the hole. The scorpion will latch on and you can ease him or her out. What you do with it after that is your problem.
Froggy went a court’in he did ride, ah hum, Froggy went a court’in he did ride, sword and pistol by his side, ah hum!”
Life is good.