Frogger

140821_Bartrams Garden_8021acsOnce upon a time, there was a handsome frog. He sat upon the edge of a pond, waiting. But not for the kiss of a human lassie to change him into a human prince, for he was happy and proud to be a bullfrog. So proud that he soon burst into robust song. His skillful bellowing quickly drew a pretty female frog to him. All around him that spring, frogs and toads were staging similar little romantic dramas in ponds and bogs throughout the land.

140409_Tyler_8623 FrogspawnNot long after, little clumps of clear jelly filled with dark spots began to appear. Eggs! Thousands of them. This is the frogspawn of the wood frog, and the tadpoles-to-be are already visible.

140416_Tyler Toadspawn & Tadpoles_8961 acsToads lay their eggs not in round masses, but long strings. When the tadpoles emerge, they will consume the gelatinous casing for the nutrients it holds.

140423_Tyler Frog Bog_0969 acsIn spring and early summer, tadpoles are everywhere, swimming above the leaves left behind the prior fall…

140503_Mt Cuba_6509Harassing a fish who has no interest in them as a snack…

140416_Tyler Tadpoles_9041 acsAnd just doing what tadpoles do, eating and growing. Tadpoles are exclusively aquatic, and breathe through gills like fish. Dinner is algae and water plants. The length of time frogs and toads spend in the tadpole stage varies according to the species; in bullfrogs it may be up to two years. Eventually tadpoles begin the amazing transformation from aquatic larvae to terrestrial adult. Legs appear, and then arms. Their bodies change shape, the tail shortens, and gills are replaced by lungs.

140809_Bartrams Garden_7524acsBehold the froglet. Not yet fully mature, but no longer a tadpole, this youngster can breathe air and move about on land. He’s still got that tail, though.

140821_Bartrams Garden_8078acsYoung bullfrog, finding shade from the hot August sun in the lily pads. The tail has been absorbed into his body, and he’s fully mature, but he will continue to grow in size. Adult bullfrogs rest during the day, and hunt at night. Anything they can catch becomes prey – insects, fish, birds, even small mammals.

140821_Bartrams Garden_7983acsThe small pond is home to a surprisingly tame group of young bullfrogs. The presence of humans with cameras doesn’t seem to bother them much. Bullfrogs will remain near water much of the time, as they must keep their skin moist.

140813_Tyler_7665aAnother pond finds a green frog amidst the cattails. Green frogs are also primarily aquatic. See the ridges running along the frog’s back? That’s the best way to tell green frogs from bullfrogs; the latter lack these dorsolateral ridges.

FUN FACT: The roundish circle behind the frog’s eye is the tympanum, an external “ear” of sorts. It transmits sound to the frog’s inner ear. In females, the tympanum is about the same size as the eye; in males it’s twice as big. An easy way to tell the boys from the girls!

140810_Mineral Hill_7643acsA wood frog sports a robber’s mask as he lingers on the leaves scattered across the forest floor. Wood frogs live in low moist woodlands and forested swamps. In the winter they migrate to nearby uplands, returning in the spring to the vernal pools, to search out a mate and begin the cycle anew.

Last of the Summer Wine

140809_HNWR 420_6686acsSkipper butterfly, John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, PA

140729_HNWR Evening_4767a   Wild rice, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_6926acsOsprey, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_7286acsCabbage white butterflies, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4619acsQueen Anne’s lace, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4942acsRed-eyed Vireo, Heinz NWR

140719_Elk Neck State Park_2495acsZebra swallowtail, Elk Neck State Park, MD

140809_Bartrams Garden_7591aPassion vine flower, Bartram’s Garden, PA

140809_HNWR 420_6636acsSkipper butterfly, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4678aGreat Blue Heron, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_7222acsBlack swallowtail, Heinz NWR

140729_HNWR Evening_4986acsGreat Egrets, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_7173acsSkyline and marsh view, Heinz NWR

140809_HNWR 420_6916acsBlue dasher dragonfly, Heinz NWR