World Wetlands Day – February 25th

Wood Frog

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) enjoying an early spring swim.

Saturday, Feb 25th is World Wetlands Day. Wetlands support a wide diversity of life including 43% of rare species. They reduce downstream flooding by storing runoff. They filter sediment and pollutants. They recharge groundwater supplies and provide recreational opportunities. And, of course, frogs and toads love them. Arkansas is blessed with these wetlands – ponds, vernal pools, swamps, non-tidal marshes, ditches, and urban wetlands.

 


The Incredible Frogs of Borneo

harlequin flying frog

Harlequin Flying Frog – photo by Brad Josephs

Join Brad Josephs for a visual feast of the beautiful frogs of Borneo.  This article includes recordings of some of the frogs and an excellent Youtube that Brad put together.

If you love these little critters, you’ve got to see this wonderful tour.

See the article at: http://www.alaskabearsandwolves.com/watch-the-incredible-frogs-of-borneo/


Save Land and Save Frogs with the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust

by Sim Barrow

It is just after sunset as I make my way through the dense grass and shallow pools at Wilson Springs Preserve in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The thunderstorms from earlier in the day have subsided, and the horizon glows with the remaining light of the day.  With clipboard and pencil in hand, I stop at the edge of an embankment and wait. After a few minutes, the relative quiet is interrupted by a chorus of leopard frogs, American toads and spring peepers.  These are the sounds that drew me to the site, and are the reason for my evening visit to the Preserve.

Frog and toad activity at Wilson Springs Preserve is no small matter for the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. Protecting wildlife habitat is one of our highest priorities in our work to conserve the natural landscapes of our region.  Whether through conservation easements or by receiving land as a donation, we ensure that those lands will continue to serve as a place for wildlife forever, even as the human population grows.

Of course, seeing the land preserved is just the beginning. With each conserved property we commit to the ongoing stewardship of the land, which includes biomonitoring, or the tracking of native plant and animal species like frogs and toads. The information we gain from biomonitoring is used to inform land management practices like restoration activities and invasive plant removal. It also serves as an indicator of the overall health of the habitat. Because frogs and toads are such great indicator species, it makes sense for the land trust to specifically monitor for them.

For this reason, we are excited to integrate the FrogWatch USA frog monitoring program into our biomonitoring plan.  Citizen-science programs are an excellent way to engage with the community and help people enjoy and appreciate the outdoors. It is also a helpful resource for nonprofits like the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust that have limited staff capacity.  We look forward to recruiting and training new FrogWatch volunteers in 2017 to help us monitor frogs and toads on some of our properties.  It’s also a great opportunity for current volunteers to explore new areas and support local conservation efforts.

Join me and the other NWA Chapter Coordinators this February 25 from 1pm-6pm for the first FrogWatch training workshop of the year. The workshop will be held at the Historic Ozark Mountain Smokehouse (1725 Smokehouse Trail Fayetteville, AR 72701). There will be a special trip to our Wilson Springs Preserve following the workshop, where we will practice the skills taught in the training. We may even hear crawfish frogs making their characteristic “snoring” sound! Contact sbarrow@nwalandtrust.org to register for the training.

With your help, we can all protect habitat for frogs and toads in Northwest Arkansas. Thank you, volunteers, for your commitment to frog and toad conservation!


Northeast Arkansas Frog Watch Update

This just in from the Northeast Arkansas Frog Watch Chapter Coordinator – Ryan Smith, interpreter at Parkin Archeological State Park.

Northeast Arkansas Frog Watch had a successful first year. Two special events were hosted at Parkin Archeological State Park. The first was a volunteer monitoring workshop that was scheduled for January, but was rescheduled for February because of weather. Ten people were in attendance, including a family with a child who got quite proficient in the science of learning frog calls. They were excited and sent an audio recording of a large chorus of Cajun chorus frogs this spring.

Our second event of the year was for Save the Frogs Day. We were able to borrow some live frogs from Dr. Stan Trauth at Arkansas State University. The event was geared toward families with 16 people attending. The children were really excited to see some live frogs up close and sing a “frog chorus.” The event also featured a program on frog adaptations such as “sticky pads” for climbing, jumping ability, and mock frog tongues for catching insects. It is always nice in a program for youth to have something to take home and a “call to action” for them. This was accomplished by making ceramic toad houses they got to paint and set them out to help save frogs themselves.

Ceramic toad houses were also made at an event for preschoolers and at the park’s summer youth craft program Tuesdays at Two. Two other programs were presented on frogs. The first was for a retired teachers group and a senior living center. Older people especially enjoy hearing the songs of the Arkansas outdoors they have heard their entire lives. Both of these events gave Frog Watch USA good publicity.

Park Interpreter Ryan Smith worked closely with Dr. Trauth about documenting Bird-voiced tree frogs in Cross County. They were counted a couple of times in 2015, but unfortunately none were heard in 2016. If any are heard Dr. Trauth is going to send some graduate students to make an official documentation.

The 2017 monitoring season is fast approaching. We are hosting a volunteer monitoring workshop again at Parkin on January 21st. Mississippi River State Park approached us about doing a workshop there this year. One is scheduled for there on February 4th.


Frogs in Winter

Frogs in WinterFrogs in winter can be challenged

Ever wonder where the frogs and toads go in the winter?  They are “ectothermic” or cold-blooded animals that depend on the environment to maintain their body temperature.  So where do they hide to avoid being frozen solid in a place like this?

The answer depends on which species you are talking about.  And before we can address that, we need to describe what’s available in the winter environment.

Three choices for a winter home

There is water.  Water would do frogs absolutely no good if it froze solid, but water has the unusual property that ice floats on the surface.  It is less dense than the water it is floating on.  In fact, water becomes more dense as it cools down to 39.16° F.  Then it become less dense the colder it gets until it freezes at 32°.  That means that the temperature of the water at the bottom of a lake or pond will be 39.16° F because the most dense water will sink to that level.

There is earth.  The earth can become cold and freeze during cold weather, but only on the surface down to the frost line.  You see, the earth is a huge heat sink that is not easily frozen.  Below the frost line, the earth stays at a constant temperature – usually in the high 50° F range.

There is debris.  The forest floor is covered with leaves, rotting logs, rocks and stone.  Although these are not great insulators, they provide some protection from the wind and winter precipitation.

Frogs and toads in Arkansas hibernate in the winter.  Their metabolism is greatly reduced or shuts down completely during hibernation.  They find a place to “sleep” out the winter in a shelter called a “hibernaculum.”  So which frogs and toads select each type of shelter?

Where do individual species go?

American BullfrogAquatic Species – This includes the American Bullfrog, Green (Bronze) Frog, Pickerel Frog, and Southern Leopard Frog.  These four will dive down to the bottom of the pond, lake, or stream and settle in to the mud and silt for the winter.  The water and ice above them are great insulators against the winter.  They stop breathing with their lungs, and blood is increased to the permeable skin where oxygen is obtained directly from the cold water (“cutaneous respiration”).  Their legs are “spread eagle” to keep them in place.  Their second eyelids (nictitating membranes) are pulled up over their eyes which sink deep into their cranial cavities for protection.  They don’t get under the mud because there is not enough dissolved oxygen in it and they would suffocate.  Their hearts continue to pump a small amount of blood, but they don’t eat and spend the winter in a state of torpor.  By the way, Bullfrog and Green frog tadpoles will also over-winter at the bottom and fed on plant material and detritus (waste material).

Dwarf American ToadToads – This includes the Dwarf American, Fowler’s, Western and Eastern Narrow-mouthed toads, and the three Spadefoot species.  Toads will take advantage of the warm earth below the frost line by digging a burrow (or borrowing one from another animal).  Their metabolism cuts way back, but they continue to breathe and pump blood.  The Crawfish Frog also stays in a burrow all winter.  Unlike the aquatic frogs, these toads, spadefoots, and Crawfish Frog do not assume a “spread eagle” position, but keep their limbs close to their bodies.

 

Pseudacris FouquetteiTreefrogs – This includes the Bird-voiced, Cope’s, Gray, Green, Spring Peeper and Squirrel treefrogs, the Boreal, Cajun, Illinois, and Strecker’s chorus frogs, Blanchard’s Cricket Frog, and the Wood Frog (which is not a tree frog).  These frogs find hibernacula on the forest floor.  They pull their limbs in, protect their eyes, and shut down under leaf litter, in rotting logs, in a shallow burrow or in cracks and crevices of rocks.  Their bodies produce a kind of glucose antifreeze that keeps their vital organs from freezing, but in many cases their bodies appear to freeze solid – like frogsicles!  Wood Frogs in particular can exist in this mostly frozen state north of the Arctic Circle!  In the spring, these frogs thaw from the inside out.  Foxes like to scratch through the leaf litter in search of a frozen frog treat.

Don’t forget to obtain your 2015 Arkansas Frogs and Toads Wall Calendar here


Frog Calls on SoundCloud

Now you can listen to frog and toad calls from around the country on SoundCloud

Dwarf American Toad

Click here to go to http://soundcloud.com/frogwatch-usa

 

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAAnd don’t forget to get your 2015 Arkansas Frogs and Toads Wall Calendar for $10 plus tax and shipping.

 

Click here for more calendar information

 


Save the Frogs Day – April 2014

Save the Frogs Day

L-R Kaitlyn Zamzow, Chelsea Korfel, MaryAnne Stansbury, Jeremy Chamberlain, Peggy & Tom Krohn

Save the Frogs Day – Saturday, April 26th

Peg and I spent an enjoyable afternoon at Pinnacle Mountain State Park south of Little Rock on Saturday. Jeremy Chamberlain and Chelsea Korfel brought several frogs and toads including bullfrogs, a chorus frog, green treefrogs, a dwarf American toad, a southern leopard frog, and an eastern narrow-mouthed toad.

Maryanne Stansbury, the park interpreter, was a great host for the event which drew many families.  The kids were shown how to fold a business card into a frog and then race them.

Save the Frogs Day brings public attention to the importance of amphibians, why they are in trouble, and what can be done to help them.  They can be indicators that the environment is in trouble.

Check out the website at www.savethefrogs.com


Frog Call Timing

Frog Calling Phenology (timing)

When do the frogs and toads start to call?  This frog call timing chart will help you practice before you go out to the pond to monitor.

Late Winter/Early Spring: Wood Frogs; Spring Peepers; Southern Leopard Frogs; Chorus Frogs; Pickerel Frog; Crawfish Frog

Spring: American Bullfrog; Dwarf American Toads; Blanchard’s Cricket Frog

Late Spring/Summer: Fowler’s Toad; Green Frog; All the Treefrogs

Anytime after a heavy rain: Narrow-mouthed Toads; Spadefoots


American Bullfrog

American BullfrogThis handsome fellow is Lithobates catesbianus – otherwise known as the American Bullfrog.  He is native to North America and was packaged up and sent to the Swedish biologist, Carl von Linné (1707-1778) by Mark Catesby in colonial times.  Linné established the order of taxonomy that remains in use today.  He named the new frog Rana catesbiana in Catesby’s honor.  The original binomial nomenclature name has recently been updated.

Jump forward a couple hundred years and we find that the American Bullfrog has expanded its original eastern range.  Those large juicy legs have found their way onto many a dinner plate and to meet the demand frog farms were created throughout the country.  Many of the frogs, being the mobile creatures that they are, escaped into the local habitat.  Consequently, the American Bullfrog is now found in the wild throughout America.  This is good news, bad news, but before we get into that, let’s learn a little bit more about this guy.

The American Bullfrog is an amphibian which means it lives two lives – one in water and one on land.  He starts out as an egg in a thin gelatinous egg sheet with hundreds or thousands of sibling eggs.  His mother heard the deep-voiced “Rumm rumm rrrrrumm” of his father near some large pond and answered the call.  Father may have had to wrestle with other American Bullfrogs in order to maintain his good calling spot.  Mother’s ears were tuned to father’s call and she chose the strongest that she heard.  This all happened in spring or early summer.

The eggs that survive predators hatch into tadpoles in four or five days and may spend the next year transforming into a frog through metamorphosis.  As a tadpole (also known as a pollywog) he will use his unique jaws to eat plant matter and detritus (the dead matter that collects at the bottom of the pond).  He breathes with gills and also absorbs oxygen and water through his skin.  He gets around with his tail, like a fish, so he can swim away from predators or hide on the bottom.  Nevertheless, most American Bullfrog tadpoles will never make it to frog-hood.

As an adult, the American Bullfrog is the largest North American frog.  Adults can range from about 3″ to 8″ in length from tailbone to snout.  Frogs are ectothermic animals which means they depend on the environment to maintain their body temperature.  Birds and mammals (like us) use most of their calorie intake to maintain their body heat.  On the other hand, the frog’s calories can go into new growth.  American Bullfrogs continue to grow throughout their lives for up to eight years.

Notice some of the physical characteristics of thisAmerican Bullfrog fine specimen to the right.  He has horizontal pupils that are capable of looking forward, backward, up and down.  His eardrums (tympanums) are located directly behind the eyes.  Tympanums of male frogs are larger than the eyes – females tympanums are about the same size as the eyes.  His green skin is smooth and he has no folds of skin running in parallel lines down his back (dorsolateral folds) like his cousin the green frog.  His legs are long for leaping and his back feet are webbed for swimming.  He is a light color underneath which is typical for frogs and toads.  A bird looking down on the frog in the water would see a dark green shape that blends into the color of the pond bottom.  A fish looking up at the frog would see a light colored shape that blends into the color of the sky.  The two lumps on the back are typical of an older American Bullfrog.  The males make their call with a pair of vocal sacs that extend out on both sides of their throat.

Bullfrog RacesThe good news is that American Bullfrogs play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling insects and providing food along the food chain in its three phases.  Frog legs are enjoyed by many, and are said to taste like chicken.  Kids and adults can get up close and personal with them in activities like the bullfrog races held at the annual Rayne, Louisiana Frog Festival.

The bad news is that American Bullfrogs are voracious eaters and will swallow anything that they can fit into their mouths – including other frogs.  Bullfrogs introduced to a new pond can decimate the local frog population quickly.  In Arkansas, bullfrogs are the only frogs that can be hunted.  You can catch or gig up to 18 of them a day from April to December if you have a fishing license and keep them for personal use only.  No other frogs or toads can be taken from the wild without a capture permit.

Although the American Bullfrog is not on any endangered species list, it is nevertheless susceptible to contaminated water.  Ponds that have been polluted with pesticide and herbicide runoff can do significant damage to frog and toad populations because of their permeable skins.  For example, water concentrations of the herbicide Atrazine that are far below the EPA limit for human drinking water have been shown to create significant problems in frog hormones and breeding.  (Note: Atrazine use has been banned in the European Union for a decade!)

So the American Bullfrog is the Bald Eagle of our frog community.  Learn more about him and his frog and toad cousins at the website dedicated to the little creatures Arkansas Frogs and Toads.  You will also learn to identify all the frogs and toads by their calls and can then contribute to our understanding of them through citizen science.  Become a monitor of frogs and toads through FrogWatch USA.