Posts Tagged 'frogs'

Keep an eye or two out


One Froggy Morning

frog1Green-Wood’s Valley Water, filled with tadpoles earlier in the spring, is now full of young Bull Frogs (Rana catesbeiana). At least, that’s what I think they are. The crowd including this frogpole, not yet completely transformed into an adult.frog2The lily pads spluttered as these little ones hopped, skipped, and splashed away, sometimes hitting several pads before find the shelter of the water. Most skedaddled well in advance of the camera.frog3But I managed to digitize a few of the dozens upon dozens of them.frog4The telephoto compresses space, so I’m not sure how close these two were. The mature frog would be a mouthful.

Frog, Turtle, ‘Gator

Lithobates catesbeianusBig Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus).Chelydra serpentinaBigger, much bigger: Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Possible looking for a place to exit the water and lay eggs (you need another reason to enforce the leash law in our parks?). Judging by the shell, I’d say I’ve seen this giant before. Also, even enormous Snappers start small; here’s a baby I found in Mass a couple of years ago.Alligator mississippiensisAnd much bigger still: an American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)Alligator mississippiensisSteady! Not in Brooklyn. Spotted on my Texas trip last month.

Green-Wood Harvest

Regulus satrapaGolden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa).g7g6g5Three different hickories, genus Carya. Bitternut, Mockernut, Shagbark? Rana catesbeianaBulllfrog tadpoles (Rana catesbeiana) were still to be seen swimming. A single Common Green Darner was flying. There was also a bee of some kind passing by. Dendroica palmarumPalm Warbler (Dendroica palmarum).Juglans nigraA field of Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra): these were thudderdudduding down in the wind; don’t stand under the walnut tree with anybody, not even yourself.Catharus guttatusHermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus).Diospyros virginianaCommon Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). They smelled absolutely fantastic. But, alas, the very ripe ones were mostly squashed.Diospyros virginianaAlthough they say the fruits need a freeze before they’re palatable. Brooklyn is just beyond the traditional natural limit of this species, but Green-Wood is full of exotica. As in this sprite:woodland sprite

Field Trip: Cape May

sunriseRothko sunrise on the big beach at Wildwood Crest on the Cape May peninsula, hanging down from New Jersey’s southeastern end like an appendix. I was on the beach about 50 minutes before sunrise, with a long row of mostly-empty-in-the-off-season motels behind me, and the Sanderlings already working the edge of the waves in the near-glooming dark. big bird boardA migratory bottleneck, Cape May is renown for birding in the fall, when southbound birds funnel along the coast turn right at the end of the peninsular, continuing over the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The place was simply swarming with bird-watchers, showing, incidentally, their economic if not yet their full political potential. We — a NYC Audubon tour led by Joe Giunta — visited the famed hawk watch on Saturday and Sunday, both times under unusually hot and muggy conditions. That’s crappy weather for migration; birds want a tail-wind behind them, and in October that’s a cold wind from the north. Still, birds were moving: 443 Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen there on Saturday. Our highlights included a mature Bald Eagle passing overhead, as well as numerous accipiters and falcons, giving me an opportunity to refine my sense of the differences between Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s, as well as between Kestrels, Merlins, and Peregrines.Hyla chrysoscelisHiding from the brutal sun, two Southern Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) no bigger than my thumb joint, were tucked into the hawk watch’s woodwork. This is an endangered species in NJ. Elsewhere, we heard tree frogs and cicadas (and mosquitos!), giving a rather tropical feeling to the woods at Higbee Beach WMA, except for the masses of black walnuts going to rot and squirrels at our feet.Sterna caspia, Larus atricillaThere are a number of ponds around the hawk watch, luring in ducks and waders (among many others, we saw Wood ducks, a Eurasian wigeon, Stilt Sandpipers, Black Skimmers, plenty of egrets). Here are some Caspian Terns (Sterna caspia), a new species for me, amid a scrum of immature Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla).Junonia coeniaBuckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia). Cape May is also noted for its Monarch butterfly congregations, channeled down the peninsula during migration like the birds. A volunteer was capturing and tagging the distinctive orange and black fliers with tiny little stickers; but it was a slow day in bad year for Monarchs (beset as they are at both ends of their epic migrations: their Mexican habitat is ever more chopped down and we continue to mow and pave over our grasslands, including the all important milkweeds).

An especial highlight of the trip was at sunset in the heavy fog on Nummy Island. Black-crowned Night Herons were leaving their diurnal roosts. Their bark-like “kwok” calls echoed in the fog, then the birds began to take flight to their nocturnal feeding grounds in the marshes and tidal flats around us.


greenfrog4Valley Water in Green-Wood is swarming with tadpoles right now. Here’s one of many hundreds popping up for a gulp of air. They were zooming up and then down into the murk.greenfrog2This rock, however, provided a nice docking area for them. Not sure if there is more than one species here or some are just older than others. Green frogs (Rana clamitans melanota) and Bull frogs (Rana catesbeiana), have been noted here before.greenfrogThis is a young female Bull Frog, judging by that tympanium, which in males is larger than the eye. The females are ultimately larger than the males in this species. It can take up to three years for a Bull frog to mature.
greenfrog3And speaking of maturity, this froglet — yes, I just came across that word several times — has not quite shaken off the inner and outer tadpole. The tail will be reabsorbed before it’s all over.

Frog Weather

Rana catesbeianaAn enormous Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) in the Lullwater.Rana catesbeianaNonchalant as a dozen people file by five feet away.

Staten Island’s Frog

We interrupt this blog to remind you that while I sometimes range far and wide (Iceland, New Mexico, Nantucket, etc.) my heart remains right here in the great outdoors of the urban conglomeration that is New York City.

Photo by Brian Curry for The New York Times

Nature, as I like to say almost daily, is all around us, even in the city. Case in point: the New York Times today reports that a new species of Leopard frog has been discovered. Here, in New York City, specifically on Staten Island. The Northern and Southern Leopard frogs somewhat overlap in the region, but this is an entirely different genetic beast, as yet unnamed (not that it doesn’t know its name, thank you very much). It’s obviously been here all along, of course, but like the purloined letter, even what is right in front of our faces often remains unseen.

Frog habitat, like that of all amphibians, is very much freshwater dependent. Staten Island’s course of development, a cancerous post-WWII growth, has blighted much of the landscape on that island, but the borough still has a strong component of undeveloped (undrained, unfilled, etc., how I’d like to say unpolluted!) land locked up in parks and the Greenbelt. This Leopard frog is another reason to remain aware of the threats these spaces, and their myriad species, of which there are many we don’t know anything about, always face.

Frog and toad

Out of town recently, I ran into a couple of amphibians I don’t see often. This is the northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens, seen amidst its bullish and greeny brethren along the side of a road in Haverhill, MA. UPDATE 6/14: see the comments for discussion of this frog, which is probably a green frog after all.This American toad, Bufo americanus, was also spotted in Haverhill, but at night, on the lawn. Caught here with flash as it scampered up a tree. (May last year at Doodletown we saw all the toad tadpoles.)

All around us we heard tree frogs.


Some frogs from a recent trip to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border: In a swimming pool. The clarity of the water allowed us to watch this green frog swim: it’s all in the meaty back legs, the forelimbs streamlined against the body.
Two more green frogs in a small man-made pond. Up to five frogs have been spotted in this tiny rectangle of water.
Here’s one of them up close and personal.


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