Friday, October 5, 2007

A Frog in my....

...Garage, of all places!

Frogs and toads have very specific habitat needs, requiring water for their eggs and juvenile life stages (tadpoles), and generally requiring a moist environment as adults.

My life experience has been that most PROPER frogs--i.e., bullfrogs and leopard frogs--are seen only very near permanent bodies of water, like ponds and streams. Toads may be found pretty much anywhere in a garden, and tree frogs are well-camouflaged but widespread. On Pinwheel Farm, I never expected to see "proper" frogs except perhaps in the wilderness area along Maple Grove Tributary, where I know several species dwell in great numbers.

So my occasional sightings of leopard frogs, in years past, have been real surprises...pleasant ones, since these beautiful big spotted frogs always bring back happy memories of camping in Canada when I was a child. Yet such spottings have been isolated enough for me to assume they were just "vagrants" on their way from here to there...much like the crayfish that appeared on a friends's front porch after a gullywasher thunder storm.

The first leopard frog I ever saw here was just outside the back door. Well, at least I can say I saw enough of it to be pretty sure it was a leopard frog. Most of it was obscured by a chicken's beak, and the chicken was frantically trying to out-race all the other chickens in order to keep her prize. (A lesson could be taken from this familiar chicken scenario: If you try to keep a treasure to yourself, you don't get to enjoy it because you're so busy trying to keep everyone else from getting it away from you.)

The a few years ago I heard a commotion in the grass near the shed, and turned to see a good-sized snake doggedly chasing after a fleeing frog.

This does not seem to be good frog habitat. Many frog-eaters, and no frog pond.

But wait...what does a "pond" look like to a frog? Perhaps they don't have such pre-conceived notions as I do. Perhaps water is the only requirement, not a mossy muddy bank with cattails. One day I lifted the plywood lid on a plastic stock tank to check the water level, and saw dozens of eyes staring back at me. Leopard frogs surrounded the lip of the tank! My guess is that I have a breeding population in that tank, which is shaded much of the day and little used in the summer. They are there again this year.

The frog that startled me by hopping across the garage floor tonight was a new sighting for Pinwheel Farm: a young bullfrog about 3 inches long, about the color of wet concrete. Without the classic green lips, and considering the small stature, I wasn't sure it was a bullfrog until I googled "bullfrog" and found a picture that confirmed my guess. It was pretty patient about being put in a container for close examination and photographing....

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