08:00 am and my family and friends were getting ready to go to the pool for their morning session of sunbathing. But where was I? I was down in a gully, hunting for lizards and fighting off mosquitoes.
As I slowly moved my way along the old overgrown riverbed, I kept seeing little creatures scatter off into the undergrowth before I could even realize that they were there. As the floor was teaming with life, it had a tight grip on my attention in case I missed the opportunity to capture the image of an interesting animal.
For a brief moment I lifted my head to wipe away sweat and there, inches away from my face was a Araneus Diadematus. Otherwise known as Garden Spiders, these arachnids are a common orb weaver spider and can be found in Europe and North America. They can range from extremely light yellow to dark grey, but they all have 5 or more spots on their back which forms a cross.
As the spider hung upside down in it’s web, I began to realize that this particular Orb Weaver was roughly 17 mm in length which is the average size of a female. When male Garden Spiders try and mate with a female, they must approach with caution as the females will often attack and devour the smaller males which are on average between 5.5 mm and 13 mm.
Once I had moved into position, I adjusted my focus and checked my composition before taking my first photo. As soon as my finger pressed firmly down on the capture button and the clicking sound of the shutters emitted from my camera, there was a sudden rustle in the undergrowth. I spun around and began to scan the area in search of the lizard beyond the leaves.
When exploring the surrounding area of the site, I discovered a stagnant pool of water nestled within the bushes. Here is where I would photograph my first subject, the Balkan Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri).
The Balkan Frog can be found in Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. This amphibian is very similar to the Marsh Frog (Rana Ridibunda), there are even possibilities of hybrids between the two.
As I slowly pushed my way between the bushes to get a better view of the pool, I would stop every step for a few minutes to scout out for animals lurking in the water below. Once I was confident that there was nothing which I was going to startle, I descended onto the bank. But as soon as my foot hit the mud covered floor, in my peripheral vision I caught a creature hop off the opposite bank into the water.
Balkan Frogs average length is 72mm for a male and females are slightly bigger at 78mm. They tend to have a green or sometimes brown back with a stripe down the middle and random dark spots on either side. Because of this fantastic camouflage, I failed to see the amphibian until it was too late.
I decided to sit close to the edge of the water, completely still with my camera in hand waiting for the Balkan to re-emerge. After 15 minutes, I thought I seen something slowly break the surface of the still water. I raised my camera to my eye and zoomed in, I could see a little eye staring right back at me. After taking the first photo of the frog, he seemed to raise his body closer to the surface of the water.
Once I was satisfied with the quality and quantity of images which I had taken, I decided to leave the frogs hidden haven and ascend back into the surrounding farmland which defended the tiny ecosystem from the outside world.