The ice went out on the vernal pool in our woods on April 5th and by the 6th the wood frogs were singing their love songs and egg masses had already been attached to fallen branches.
Once I spy such I become addicted to visiting the pool on a regular basis to keep an eye on the activity. As much as I’d love to bring some home, I know that that would interrupt the natural process and so I do the best I can by peering into the water.
One of my great finds early on turned out not to be as extraordinary as I first thought. What I thought were blue spotted salamander egg masses slowly morphed into wood frog masses. They were laid out like sheets on the floor of the pool rather than attached to sticks as is normally the case. But it didn’t all make sense as up to the point that I spotted those masses, I hadn’t seen any salamander spermatophores.
Daily visits to the pool garnered a better understanding and about two weeks later not only had the spotted salamanders left their deposits on the pool floor . . .
and the next day their eggs on sticks . . .
but the so-called blue-spotted suddenly began to look more like wood frog masses with tadpoles developing inside. Perhaps they were laid at the very edge of the pool by young wood frogs just getting the hang of the annual ritual.
With the help of my son who works for a film editing house in Manhattan, I’ve pulled all of this together into a video so even if you can’t get to a vernal pool, perhaps you can enjoy the magic of this place for a few minutes by clicking on the link and watching: Are You in Frog Heaven?
There’s so much more to come and I’ll do my best to keep an eye on the action.
In the meantime, why not create a Frog and Toad Chorus as you stay at home.
In the amphibian world, males sing as a means of attracting a mate and defending a territory.
Here’s how to conduct your own chorus: Assign a species to various family members who will imitate the sound as best they can. Have fun leading your gang as you control who “sings.” And then head outdoors to see if you can identify the species based on your knowledge of the songs they create.
Wood Frog: quacking duck or wruck, wruck in early spring
Spring Peeper: high-pitched peep-peep in early spring
American Toad: sustained trill lasting up to 30 seconds (from your lips or throat), early to late spring
Green Frog: throaty gunk! like banjo strings, late spring – early summer
American Bullfrog: deep, resonant rr-uum, or jug-o-rum, late spring – early summer
Gray Tree Frog: slow, musical bird-like trill lasting 2 or 3 seconds (use your lips or tongue), late spring – early summer
Are you in Frog Heaven? I know I am.