Author Archive | Margot Fass

3. Pittsford Adventures and Frogs- 2018.10.26

frog eggs

For modesty’s sake, the couple above, held up by the female, is hiding behind a leaf.

A. Amplexis*** can be acrobatic. Five days into our trip, we were out around a little pond on the property, when a red-eyed tree frog couple was spotted on branch. Suddenly, they dropped. The female grasped a leaf with one hand while they were falling, and there they hung to complete their mating mission. The process can take as long as one to two days.

*an “embrace”: the smaller male positions himself on the larger female’s back to fertilize the eggs she drops on to a lower leaf.

Smoky jungle frog Leptodactylus pentadactylus

A Costa Rican relative of Smokey Jungle Frog, both Leptodactylidae

B. Butt shakes and pushups are the way the Smokey Jungle Frog mom communicates with its young, along with growls; or if she’s being threatened, a high-pitched scream. She might lay thousands of eggs, but only a small percentage hatch from the foamy nest, as the remainder are eaten by the first-born.

Rain Forest Frog

Frog at Rainmaker Conservation Project

C. Calls by frogs are as diverse as the frogs themselves, and used as important identifiers and locators by frogs, other animals, and humans. At the Rainmaker Conservation Project in Costa Rica, I was mesmerized and haunted by the sounds at dusk, especially one that sounded like dead spirits calling from their graves. So far I have found no one to identify it. Could it have been this little guy?

Margot with Frog on Arm

My page on the About Them website describes other highlights of the SAVE THE FROGS! Costa Rican ecotour.This photo was taken by our leader, Michael Starkey at the above mentioned project site. I was sitting there with my arm hanging down when I felt something squishy. Fortunately, I didn’t shake my arm or swipe it away, because Froggy and I had a friendly chat for 45 minutes or longer, until we had to leave.


The end of this tale is another major highlight: in Costa Rica, I saw my very first froglet (a tadpole who has grown legs, or conversely, a frog that hasn’t yet lost its tail).

If you love these “tales”, please subscribe to my Frog Blog at If you are in the Rochester area, please come visit our Frog House on Sunday afternoons from the Erie Canal in Pittsford, N.Y.

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2. Pittsford Adventures and Frogs – 2018.10.17 – Frog Paintings, Serious and Whimsical

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The painting above is the second version of a still life that was started in a class. Rochester Art Club show entry rules prohibit class paintings, so I did scene again with the sea and clouds as background.

A young man in Jamaica who calls regularly often tends to be sad and frustrated, because he is brilliant, has Asperger’s syndrome, and is very much underemployed.

I sent him the photo of the painting above and he wrote back “I see serenity, that painting inspires comfort.”

Of course, I was happy that it fulfilled its intention. Still, I wanted to finish the first version.

The background originally was 1) all black. First I changed this into a 2) stone wall with an arch, then turned that into a 3) venetian bridge with a canal and boats and the frogs in the dish floating downstream, then tried them 4) in a tornado, and finally, about 11 pm, I decided to 5) place the face of the painting on my wet palate. The result wasn’t too bad, so I turned it 180 degrees and did it again. With a few more blobs, by 11:30 pm I was done!

There is no end of subjects for an artist to paint. Even limiting oneself to frogs, there are infinite possibilities. Here are two angles of the same frog. How many paintings could be done from either the side or top angle?

My NIA dance teacher and friend Jane Pagano, took the photo on the left below, I decided to make one free association and one realistic painting from her image. Both are 6 x 6 inches.

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Somehow, I find it especially fun to paint from photos that friends have taken and given to me. A friend gave me a picture of a green pumpkin frog, and it seemed instructive to combine that image with our Pittsford canal side Frog House.

A Frog House is open every Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm through December 23rd.

You can buy or donate YOUR favorite frog book, frog shot, frogabilia, or art work for me to sell to help me help the frogs,

And/or please help by donating through GoFundMe Froggy Family Fabulous Foundation.

1. Pittsford Adventures and Frogs – on pesticides and gardens 2018.10.9

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Lindsay Graham lives on the edge of the Erie Canal. The groundskeeper had been using pesticides. The gardener said that if Lindsay didn’t want pesticides, she had to find someone else do the work. That someone turned out to be me.

What were previously barren gardens with toxic colored mulch or filled with weeds and sprayed with pesticides, where new plantings have struggled to survive, are now areas of year round color and delight.

canalside gardens

We removed broken glass, and tidily stacked left over lumber and old bricks behind the hedges.

There isn’t a day that I stand near the gardens on the slope to the canal, that most people who go by on the path don’t tell me how lovely, beautiful, impressive, etc they are. Many have said that they are a real gift to passersby.


As if that weren’t enough reward, I also learned that the property on that slope technically belongs to the Erie Canal Authority, so it felt more like a public service than enhancing another person’s private property.

One thing led to another. The property has a canal side cottage, previously used as a law library, which was in disrepair. The spackle on the ceiling was just half finished, there was a non functioning telephone hookup needing a cover, the high inside window needed to be trimmed, and the rotten, ant infested threshold needed replacement. So, with good help from Ed*, we fixed all that, and gave the interior a nice new paint job, with (of course) green trim.

Next, to give purpose to the space, we put in an art hanging and lighting system, ordered frog outdoor flags, door mats, curtains, and carpet, reprints of my book, (Froggy Family’s First Frolic) (link), and started painting some frog portraits. I have no end of frogabilia that people have given me over the years to put on the shelves along with the books. Voila, on October 21st, from 12 to 5 pm, we will have a genuine Frog House (no peeking inside until then).

Blue dish

Lindsay had spotted a frog near the house, so I wondered how we could protect him or her over the winter. The next project turned out to be to finish the gardens and build a frog friendly habitat.

That was as easy as purchasing 4 dishes, which must be at least 1 foot in diameter, some plants, and some rocks. Galleas sold us one frog house (a glazed upside down pot with an opening),

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According to the directions, once every thing is in place, we should have some frogs within a few weeks, just in time for our Frog House Grand Opening! (see your Invitation here)

*a special shoutout to Kate Baker (not shown), Alex Doolittle (not shown), and top to bottom, Tony Mikiciuk, Ed Wegman, Laurie Bennett, (me) Theresa LaPietra, Lindsay Graham (cheerleader in chief) and Christine Rodriguez for their physical labor once or twice or a million times on the Frog Estate.

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Pittsford Adventures and Frogs 2018 An invitation


Margot with Frog on Arm


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Please visit our new Frog House at the top of the steps between the two canal-side gardens at 65 State Street (third house east of the Schoen Place bridge).

The Frog House contains new prints of Margot Fass’s children’s picture book “Froggy Family’s First Frolic”, frog paintings, and other frogabilia.

Income will be used to finance her next book, and enable her to continue raising helping frogs in all the ways she does, including writing, see Margot’s Ecuador Adventures and Frogs blog and visiting children in schools, churches and scout groups. .

Margot Lindsay andJosh

Hosted by:
Margot Fass & Lindsay Graham

Sunday, October 21
from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM

Frog House
65 State St
Pittsford, NY 14534
view map

Please park across the street in Schoen place.

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Hope to see you there,

Margot and Lindsay

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40. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Santa Cruz, Balta

Thursday, June 28th Mangrove Sunrise and Going Home


Today we got up at 5:30 am for a dawn pre breakfast boat ride to Black Turtle Cove, to see the sunrise, mangroves,

and maybe, some turtles.  


Mangroves can provide fresh water for themselves through a desalination process.

Turtles do the same, by expelling salt through their nostrils and retaining the less saline water. One female mates with five males for 2 hours plus each, and this feat has to be accomplished while swimming in the water. Normally, a turtle can stay underwater for 2 or 3 hours, but the energy required in reproduction requires them to breathe every 5 seconds.

In 4 or 5 weeks after mating, females go to the beach to lay their eggs. Compared to land tortoises, which live for as long as 200 years, water turtles live a more human lifespan of 80 years. If this activity was going on during our visit, we were unaware of it.  While others were pushing me out of the way to peer overboard,  I simply enjoyed the peacefulness of the visit.

Then it was back to the boat, back to the shore, back to the airport and connecting flights.  Good bye, Galapagos and Ecuador!

(Editor’s note; by the time this last blog is published, on June 5th, I will be preparing for my next ecotour with SAVE THE FROGS! to Costa Rica, and some relaxation time with my friend who lives near Tamarindo.  Look for more in the fall!)








39. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Genovesa

Tuesday, June 27th A Motley Crew

This morning’s hike was a dry landing at a flight of very steep rocky stairs, known as Prince Phillip’s Steps. We were greeted at the top by a mockingbird, singing a happy welcoming song.

As daunting as it was to go up the staircase, we were rewarded for our climb with the sight of innumerable boobies: Brown, Hooded, Masked, Nazca, blue footed and red footed, single, married, divorced (they don’t mate for life) and children, in various stages of development. Apparently there are 150,000 pairs on Genovese. The juveniles have grey or white feet, and some, called morphs, never develop color nor mate. The color in male feet is a sign of very high testosterone, and male boobies are known as the most aggressive birds in the world.

The Nazca mother lays two eggs a few days apart, but the second is only insurance, in case the first dies.

If the first chick lives, it inevitably pushes the second out of the circle the mother has drawn. A chick out of the circle, neglected by both parents, is not fed, and will die of exposure, starvation and/or predation by other birds. Once airborne, they can fly as far as Panama, and do not come back for 5 or more years, mating at age 8.

Nazca Boobies are named for the giant geological plate “conveyer belt” which carries the Galapagos Islands southeast at a very slow but significant speed.


We also saw gulls, herons, pelicans, frigates (Both sexes are pirates.  Males have a big red balloon gular sac and gobble when they find a female they choose to attract) and albatross.

The mating dance of albatross is mesmerizing, and goes on for hours, a tender fencing duel with their beaks. Of course, this is when my camera died for the day. These big birds do mate for life.

Although the water was murky in the morning, I got to see one new species of fish, the Moorish Idol. Next year I want to get an underwater camera!

In the afternoon, I had started reading Paul Stewart’s book, Galapagos, The Islands That Changed the World, which Matthew had discovered and just finished. While the others went to the beach for a hot sunny walk, and then snorkeling in choppier and murkier waters than in the morning, I relaxed under the canopy on the deck and read. It was a delightful and educational way to end our last full day on board the Cachalote,  and gave me more to fill in some blanks when I got home.

To celebrate, all the crew dressed again in their uniforms, as they did the first night we got on board, and we had a fine cocktail to toast with and another excellent meal with modifications for their vegan passenger.

38. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Santa Cruz/Santiago

Monday, June 26th Life from Death

At 1 o’clock from the white ship, there is a large flat rock  around which we later would swim.  Just below that, at 2:30 from the white ship, you can barely see a tiny little sliver of a boat with hairline masts. 

That mere toothpick traversed a minute portion of the Pacific yesterday and carried all 15 of us from Floreana.

Travel and transportation of living things is amazing in and of itself. All of the life on these islands, created exclusively through volcanic eruptions from under the sea, traveled also by sea or by air to differentiate into the endemic species we can now enjoy.

The Galapagos islands all sit on a underwater tectonic plate, which is moving southeast. The younger islands are northwest, the older southeast, and either have disappeared underwater, or will eventually.

Santiago is an younger island than Santa Cruz. To look at a relatively recent lava flow is to appreciate not only the loss of life that might have occurred during an eruption, but the difficulty of life coming again.

The surface heaves, cracks, explodes into minivolcanos (driblets), and/or exposes levels below.

The hot and quickly cooled lava forms in thick puddles and rope like twists which would belie the possibility of any foothold. Then, lo! A tiny seed of lichen blown in from afar, and manages to cling to an apparently impenetrable surface.


Little by little, this seed sprouts short fine stalks, and puts down long strong roots, gradually crumbling the rock. Water, both from rain and the sea, also wears the hard surface down.


The red “soil” is the result of  a combination of iron, calcium and potassium in volcanic spatter.

Some accents of green can be seen, and occasionally the start of a cactus.

Since Cactus provide water and food to the vegetarian land Iguana, and Iguana can survive the cold, hot and dry conditions of a lava field home, it is no surprise that they flourish together, as on the older island of Santa Cruz.

Every lava cactus has a unique shape,

every Iguana a unique personality,

and every Iguana is uniquely coupled to another.

Iguanas mate when they are 11 to 14 years old, and live for 70 years. These prehistoric characters have been around for some 300,000 years longer than the islands themselves. Once they become isolated, like other forms of life, they evolve into differentiated, endemic species, such as pink iguanas on San Isabella, among 10 others throughout the islands.

Iguanas are hunted by hawks, which sit at the entrances to their caves, but the reptiles often manage to elude their predators by having more than one entrance to the same home.

Snorkeling twice that day yielded some new species and variations thereof: hogfish, puffers, sargeant majors, angels, damsels, balloon, trigger, chubs and sea cucumbers, in addition to many of the fish seen before. There were all kinds of starfish, bright blue, bright red, “chocolate chip”, either alone among other marine life, or scattered about like the night stars on an otherwise barren sandy ocean floor. I saw sea urchins of various types, and some beautiful intact sand dollars. The perfect ending to our day was going into a small cove at dusk, and seeing two groups of three penguins! It was definitely the highlight of the whole adventure.  And of course, no working camera! 

37. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Floreana Part II

Sunday, June 25th Floreana Boobies

Because of their incredible fecundity and destructiveness to the environment, 150 thousand non-native goats were shot from helicopters by a New Zealand company, which in turn made off with 10 million dollars for the job, or $70 per goat.

While it was important to restore the natural habitat, it wasn’t the poor goats’ fault. So many factors go into saving our planet. Despite a keen interest in doing what I can to avoid harm, I follow only a fraction of them. It is much harder for a farmer who wants goat milk or meat to drink, eat or sell, to appreciate the importance of conservation, or for conservationists to appreciate exploiting animals for food.  So, the alternative is to shoot them?

Fortunately, the boobies are doing well. Thirty percent of Galapagos boobies live on Floreana. We saw blue footed, red footed, brown and sterile white footed boobies. They are, like most other wildlife in the Island, calm and unflappable as they go about their daily business, either gazing curiously at or ignoring their visitors.

We snorkeled before lunch from the beach, Black Turtle Cove. It is strongly suggested not to leave a beach towel lying out, because sea lions will sneak up and appropriate them.

After lunch, we snorkeled off the shore of Post Office Bay, near a famous diving site called Devil’s Crown.  There are two major points of the rock between which we were not allowed to go, because of sharp underwater spikes rising from the ocean floor and joining the two.

The submerged volcano provides great snorkeling, and I was glad I was not the only one having trouble swimming against strong currents on the other side of the rock. All of us were given a Zodiac lift back to the up-current side to explore the second face of this underwater haven.

The small white tip shark appeared for me once or twice, and there were more marine turtles and sea lions. Sting rays and large sharks did not show up during snorkeling times, but we did see them at night time swimming alongside the boat. Sharks evolved from Sting Rays, which the sharks now feed on.  Sort of like politics.  

On board there was a book on water wildlife, and while my greatest pleasure was simply watching the many shapes, colors, sizes and characteristic movements of the fish, it was somewhat satisfying to discover I had seen many species each of grunts, snappers, parrot fish, surgeon and wrasses, to name a few.

The crew seemed to enjoy helping me practice Spanish. Carlos definitely was the smiliest and happiest among them. You could always tell when Carlos was laughing from the back of the boat. As first mate, when Captain Guillerme was resting, Carlos was in charge.


It was a disappointment to learn that even the sailing yachts primarily use their motors to go from place to place, because we had chosen the Cachalote to try to be a little greener, and sailing is fun!

The breezes this day were going with us, so that at least the front mast sails could  assist with the travel. It was deliciously relaxing and wonderful to be on deck for the only one of our six days on board using wind for power. And so we were off to Santa Cruz and Santiago.


For the thousands of miles frigates fly, you can’t blame them for hitching a ride on ships. Can you see them in the first photo?  Basically, they are thieves, often snatching fish from the very stomach of other birds who have gone to the trouble of making the catch.  The pleasures and perils of life are the same the world over, so why are we surprised or shocked at politics as usual?  We can only do our own personal best.



36. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Floreana Part I

Friday, June 25th Odd Early Settlers.

Floreana is known for it’s expansive white beaches, 

and for flora (flores), such as this tree daisy, and other yellow (preferred by daytime carpenter bees) and white (favored by nighttime hawk moths) flowers.

Floreana’s biggest problem is fresh water, because the lakes and lagoons are brackish. This is great for flamingos (4/5ths of the world population of ruby Flamingos live on Floreana) and other sea birds, but not for humans.

Consequently, the island has a strange history of attempted settlement. English Pirates (legitimized by the crown) captured three Spanish ships (without their treasure) and took over 100 prisoners.

Most of the pirates and prisoners died of a plague or in battle at Guayaquil, except William Daumier, who went back home later to became a high society court writer and chronicler, described by Coleridge as “a pirate of exquisite mind”.

Other prisoners were brought over the years to their most certain death.

Whalers practically destroyed entire whale, tortoise, iguana, bird and fur seal population for profit and for sport. Herman Melville, a whaler hand in his youth, preserved the islands only virtually in a book of collected essays, The Encantadas.

Stranger yet, a married philosopher named Ritter brought his married mistress named Strauch to their “Eden”.  Strauch shared Ritter’s view on a natural life, including nudism. Ritter had prophylactically removed his teeth, knowing there would be no dental care, and she subsequently lost hers, sharing his dentures. Both were vegetarian and during a slip of principles, he died of eating either bad or poisoned chicken. Strauch, who could have been the guilty murderer of her lover,  went back to Berlin and  was killed in Nazi Germany during bombing.

Strangest of all, a self proclaimed German baroness Wehrborn de Wagner-Bousquet, came to her “Paradise” with three lovers.  She decided to elevate herself to Empress of Galapagos. The “empress’s” attempt to open Hacienda Paradiso failed. She and her favorite consort mysteriously disappeared. These two had mentally and physically abused a second lover, who was found dead on a distant island. The third’s fate is unknown, at least to me.

The most stable of the settlers was Margret Wittmer, who came with her husband Heinz and their son. After her family died or left and the other two irritating families were gone (or disposed of), she ran a guesthouse, wrote and published a book about, and lived alone on Floreana until the age of 96.  About 150 people live there now, many probably descendants of the Wittmer Family.

There still is an original “post office” in the form of a barrel. Our group spent time sorting through batches of postcards there to find some to bring home and mail or hand deliver. Each of us in turn left a dated and self addressed card with the hope that someone else also will mail or deliver it to us some day.

There were many other visually delightful sights of non living things, such as a shrine of objects placed  by various fellow travelers and clusters of shells along the path quite far inland from the beach.








 There were ambiguous scenes.  Is this water or sky, or both?

The Ecuadorian National Park system is doing what it can to preserve Floreana’s natural wonders.


I did leave behind one other thing, a temporary and passing imprint of my shoe.

It is named “Hello, God. It’s me, Margot.”

And God said “Hello”, right back.


35. Ecuador Adventures and Frogs – Española

Saturday June 24th, Overboard with wet and dry landings.

Every day we went snorkeling (wet landings, jumping or falling overboard from the Zodiacs) at least once, sometimes twice. The joys of floating quietly or swimming with or against the ebb and flow of sea life were reawakened in me after 40 years since trying it in Jamaica.

Others had underwater cameras, but I only can mention the sea turtles, white tipped sharks, the many varieties of fish, large and small, dull and bright, that had far less interest in me as a species than I in them. However, it is possible that the sea turtles were having some fun with us, suddenly popping up very close by, behind, in front of, or on either side of our funny eyed, flippered, wet suited selves.

There was one playful sea lion that was worrying a long feather, grabbing it and then letting it go, over and over again. Another had a similar game with a large chunk of seaweed.

The saddest part of the snorkeling is seeing for myself the loss of coral life. Naysayers about climate change are the same the world over, like medical personnel who daily witnessed black lungs, but kept on smoking anyway.

Each day also brought one or two hikes (dry landings, stepping onto land from the Zodiac). Today brought a beautiful broad beach and a Sea Lion that unexpectedly and uncannily looked like a member of my own family.
This photo doesn’t show it, but the beaches are strewn with more resting lions. The hiking was difficult in a different way than on the mainland, most often very rocky and sometimes slippery.

There is an interesting interrelationship with sea lions, which attract flies and insects, and lizards, which eat them.

The walks also are occasionally blocked by Iguanas,









who, if not mating, are taking in the sights of their sunny and bright world.




The most common birds on the Islands are varieties of warblers, mockingbirds, frigates, hawks, boobies, pelicans, and albatross.

And what a view they get to enjoy!

Enrique kept us quite busy with information, swimming, walking,and hiking. Breaks for lunch, supper, rest and sleep were most welcome in the middle and at the end of the day.

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