Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer’s really hoppin’ at the ol’ swimmin’ hole!

This year’s extraordinarily wet spring may have put a crimp in the plans for your garden, but the repeated soaking rains and slow progression of warming temperatures have provided that perfect world about which frogs usually can only dream.
While deep, dark ruts still mark the depths to which the tractor labored against mud and tall grass in the first mowing of spring, the amphibians in my yard couldn’t be happier. This year, those dual-lived dwellers of puddles, pools and ponds can casually complete their life changes without the race against water drying out, as happens so many other times.

Cope's Gray Tree Frog, adult
Hyla chrysoscelis

While my property with its pond, vernal pools and countless puddles offers no shortage of real estate for those in the market for a watery abode, the Cope’s gray tree frogs consistently move in to the shallow basin that develops on top of the above-ground pool. Draped in its dark plastic liner, the 15-foot circle collects melting snow and spring rain in yet another vernal pool of sorts, catching leaves as well, from the cherry tree and sugar maple towering above.

Even before dusk, as the days of spring warm and the air thickens and becomes sweet with honeysuckle and black locust, a frog calls from a nearby tree. Before nightfall, he will climb down from his lichen-covered post nearby, make his way across the few feet of lawn and scale the cool, white side of the swimming pool. In the darkness, others will join him until 15-20 perch at the surface, poised in just several inches of clear water. Their raspy calls fill the damp night air.
By morning, small gelatinous clusters of 10-40 cloudy, white eggs stand out easily against the dark pool liner. The frogs, clinging by their sticky toe pads to the branches all around, seem to have become invisible in their lichen-colored skins…until the day fades and the frogsong brings them out once more.

Cope's Gray Tree Frog eggs

For a lover of nature and, especially, a watcher of the same, this arrangement couldn’t be any better. Just feet from my backdoor and without even squatting down, I can stand eye-to-eye with this cauldron of amphibian activity. Of course, if you’d like to take a swim, the people pool must wait for its upstairs tenants to move along. Slower springs have found us carrying tadpoles by the 5-gallon bucketful to new homes across the field. Little Pond always welcomes them readily, though it’s far easier on the human transports if the frogs vacate the premises under their own leg-power.

I measure the progression of spring,
as 2 legs become 4,
as plump, dark, tailed bodies slim to frog shape,
as hundreds climb from the water to cross the cool, white side of the pool.

Summer is near when tiny gems of jade and gold escape to the safety of green.

Cope's Gray Tree Frog, froglet on pool

Cope's Gray Tree Frog froglet
Look at those sticky toe pads!

With a pointed posterior where the tail has disappeared,
these tiny froglets are under 1/2 inch long!

Seeking green, he climbs onto a blade of grass.

Toes are so small they're almost transparent!

Little Froglet in the Clover

Although gray tree frogs call throughout the summer, especially on nights when the air is warm (60F+ degrees) and moist, their breeding season is late spring. Ponds, vernal pools and, often, swimming pools are used by tree frogs for breeding. The gray tree frog (tetraploid gray tree frog), Hyla versicolor, and Cope's gray tree frog (diploid gray tree frog), Hyla chrysoscelis, are visually indistinguishable from one another. In parts of their southern geographic range where the 2 species have overlapping distribution, the difference in their calls must be used to tell them apart, with Copes' being shorter and faster.
Tree frogs, in comparison with other frogs, are rather slow-moving and often climb, rather than hop, moving effortlessly along tree branches, well camouflaged by a quickly-changeable skin color. Adults eat crickets, moths and flies.
Can you see the spider, a bold jumper, waiting to tackle a tiny froglet?

Adult Cope's gray tree frogs

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Kelly said...

...little froglet is adorable! Loved this post...

Sally said...

Awesome post, Nina... and what a great story, right there on your pool! I'm wondering why they're called "gray" when they're SO green?

Thanks for taking such great care of the little ones.

rebecca said...

Adorable, adorable, adorable! I love baby frogs.

swamp4me said...

Glad to know it's wet somewhere. We have had next to no rain for two months. Our treefrogs are not happy this year.

Tom said...

Cool Nina! Your images remind me when I collected tadpoles as a kid, not knowing what species they would be, and they turned out just like these little froglets.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Sally, I should probably post some pictures of the cool gray shade they also wear so well.
Actually, I usually find them in their gray tones, matching tree bark, less green.
Adults have the ability to change color to blend with the background they're on. I don't know why the first adult is green on gray.
But I imagine the little froglets start out in life so very green because in leaving a spring pool, most of the landscape they slip into will hide them very well.

Swamp4me, our farmers are just setting crops into the field now, weeks late. It's been a muddy mess...good froggy weather.

Kat said...

I so love your photography! Having just returned from a super-windy super-sized family picnic, these photos lowered my blood pressure by about 90 points.

Mary said...

I'm in love. I once had a froglet friend named Sticky ;)

Bill S. said...

What a great post. I love your writing as well as your photography. Nature is so very interesting.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Mary, I love these little froglets, too. And the adults as well. They seem so contented wherever you find them--even just to sit on your hand.

Kat & Bill, thanks for the compliments. Frogs are one of my favorite photographic subjects--cool color, cool texture...and they hold a pose pretty patiently!

Tom, I imagine you'll soon be repeating some of those childhood adventures with your very own!

Endment said...

I for one - am not looking forward to summer's heat but I could do with a few less gray days.
Frogs are such a wonder and your photos are inspirational.

Joni James said...

Loved reading this post! I often find Gray Treefrogs feeding on my doors at night when I have left the porch light on. A tip-- if this happens to you-- carefully close the door so a frog does not get caught between the door & enclosure! Thanks Nina!

Murr Brewster said...

How is it I've never seen a Cope's? I suffered from not having vernal pools in my back yard. Suffered turrible, I did.

Max said...

It's great to see healthy frogs and habitat in my old home state. Earlier this spring I was helping my friend Jef Jaeger survey endangered frog populations in an unlikely but beautiful habitat: the Mojave Desert:

Kay said...

Wow! Love the frog on the curved blade of grass.

Guy said...

Hi Nina

Another really well written post with great photos and lots of information. The small froglets are really charming.

Thanks guy