Little frogs

Down at the creek, the upland chorus frogs, accompanied by a few spring peepers, have started their mating songs.  The chorus frogs sound like hundreds of people rapidly running their thumbnails along the teeth of hundreds of plastic combs, while the peepers produce a bell-like chiming, impressively loud for such a small frog.

We don’t have any permanent water in the garden (a pond is definitely on the “to do” list but never seems to arrive at “start now”), but both species spend time here when they aren’t busy calling for a mate.  A third visitor to the garden, the northern cricket frog, will start calling later in the spring and continue into early summer. Its call sounds like someone clicking little pebbles together.

As I was edging a flowerbed on Saturday afternoon, a flash of movement caught my eye.  It almost looked like a small grasshopper or cricket, but I thought it was a bit early and cold for those insects.  When I got down on my hands and knees to peer at the mulch, I discovered a tiny cricket frog, so small that it could sit comfortably on my thumbnail.

Northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) in the garden last Saturday

Adults of all three species are about an inch (~2.5 cm) long.  I usually find chorus frogs and cricket frogs on the ground, but peepers often climb in taller plants.  Occasionally they get into the greenhouse, and I always remove them when I can. They’d be little more than a light snack for the Nepenthes pitcher plants, and I have seen tree frogs injure themselves jumping onto spiny Pachypodium.

If you garden in the piedmont, you can encourage these little frogs by not using insecticides and fungicides that could be absorbed through their skin or contaminate the water that they need for breeding.  Undisturbed leaf litter and, perhaps, a small area of unmown grass make will make good hunting grounds for the frogs, and a small pond (without fish) or trough is always appreciated.

Here are a few more pictures of these frogs that I have taken over the past few years:

Upland chorus frog (Pseudacris feriarum)
Northern cricket frog sitting on a submerged oak leaf
Spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) on pink banana (Musa velutina)
Spring peeper climbing a stem of Burbidgea scheizocheila

And here is a relevant passage from a novel I read recently.  Clearly the author has spent some time considering the peeper:

Spring peepers, the noisiest frog per half inch that Dag knew of, had taken up their earsplitting chorus in the farm’s woodlot and pond when he rounded the corner of the barn to make his bedtime patrol. He stopped short when Whit called unexpectedly over the racket “Wait up, Dag!”

His tent-brother, a lantern swinging from his hand, fell in beside him.  Whit cocked his head, listening to the peepers. “Maybe I could stuff cotton in my ears tonight. I’m sure glad I didn’t have to court Berry by squatting with my naked tail in a puddle and screaming for hours till she took pity on me.”

Dag choked on a laugh. “You just had to put that picture in my head, didn’t you? Maybe that’s why the lady peepers pick their mates. To shut them up.”

–Lois McMaster Bujold, Horizon (The Sharing Knife, Vol. 4)


7 thoughts on “Little frogs

  1. I had a little “pond” one summer – really, just a large bowl sunk in the ground, but the raccoons used it to wash figs and made a terrible mess every night, so I abandoned the effort. Love your frog photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eww, Sounds messy. The spot I had picked out for a future pond isn’t that far from one of our fig trees. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of ‘trash pandas’ using it to wash their dinner.


  2. You keep making me jealous of your variety of wildlife. The only small frogs here are the horde of ordinary baby frogs that result in grass mowing taking all day once they pass the tadpole stage. But how do you get your critters to stay still while you run from whatever you are doing in the garden to get your camera? Or do you have a collection to carry around with you that you don’t mind dropping in the pond, on the ground just before you ram a fork into it, forgetting it’s in your back pocket as you sit down or on a strap round your neck and catching it on a branch as you climb down from tree pruning and hanging yourself?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. These little Hylids are reasonably easy to photograph, because they try to blend in by staying very still. They’ll usually give me enough time to run to the house and yell at the kids to stop watching TV, playing video games, reading, etc, and bring me my camera.

      I use my phone about half of the time, but the autofocus can be frustrating. Last week, I missed a great shot of a green snake coiled picturesquely around a tree branch, because my phone insisted on focusing on the woods in the background. I regretted not bringing a real camera on the walk.


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