Its that time of the year when kids dart to ponds with nets in hand, searching for amphibians. Frogs, toads, newts and salamanders are among us! In early spring some species use vernal pools as breeding and incubating grounds.
A vernal pool is a temporary body of water that resembles a large puddle. There are obligate indicator (dependent) species and facultative (use only for part of the life cycle) species. The obligate indicator species are wood frogs, eastern spade-foot toads (Scaphiopus holbrooki), and the Jefferson/ blue spotted complex salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium x laterale). The facultative species are most of the other frogs/toads, a few reptiles, as well as fingernail and amphibious clams and leeches, Isopods, caddisfly, dragonfly, dobsonfly larvae, water strider, whirligig beetle, and backswimmers, which get eaten by the adult amphibians.
In late spring, all eggs have been laid, and tadpoles are feeding and metamorphosing. American toads (Anaxyrus americanus ) are the most common tadpoles to be found, are entirely black and don’t get too large in size compared to others. Toads lay their eggs in spiraled strands and make a long trill noise. The gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) also makes a trill but in segments and not nearly as long as the American toad. We have many species of frogs, such as the gray tree frog, which take on a green shade and have sticky digits that help them climb trees. They can also be found in marshes. When toads or frogs call an air bubble gets protruded from below their mouth, assisting in the vocalization.
Green Frogs (Lithobates clamitans) also know as “ banjo” frogs, make loose banjo string “c’tung- c’tung- c’tung” sounds and are very common. Mink frogs (Lithobates septentrionalis) make a sound that resembles a hammer hitting a nail, a short call “cut-cut- cut-cut- cut” almost sounding like small fireworks, when in groups its much more noticeable. Bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeiana) make a call that resembles a swarm of mosquitos “rrrr-rrrrr- rrrrr-rrrrr”. Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) make quick “peep-peep- peep-peep”. The wood frog (Lithobates sylvatica) sounds like the quack of the duck with some carrying power or like a beehive. Pickerel frog’s (Lithobates palustris) sound like a steady low pitch snore lasting 1-2 seconds“ yeeeaahhhh yeah”. The northern leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) sounds like a long snore with 3 clucking grunts that last over 3 seconds.
These can all be identified by ear but many people think they are birdcalls! They come out during sunset and will carry on through the night. There can be many species in a body of water or just one depending on the area. So put on your listening ears, headlamps and waders and go herping! But make sure to get to them before their predators! Which are fish, turtles, larger frogs, snakes, foxes, dogs, Virginia opossums, raccoons and water birds. Frogs end up on our plates as well. Only toads have a mild poison that is stored in its bladder but the color that each frog takes and the ability to jump acts as its defense mechanism.
Ally Gelinas is a student of Technology, and Wildlife Management at SUNY Cobbleskill and a summer intern at the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington.
Photo: American Toad by Ellen Rathbone.