Feeling like ‘a frog is a frog’?
Just a little curiosity is all you need to take the leap and discover their amazing song, life cycle, and contribution to our woods. So I’m going to challenge you to go to the ponds, watch, listen and discover a frog.
I really know nothing about frogs or toads. So why am I writing an article about them? Because they are cooler than you think – than I thought. Because just a few bits of knowledge are the starting point – whether you begin your own research or head out to observe.
Amphibians have been called ‘indicator species’ – their decline is tied to and illuminates wider problems of environmental toxins, changes in climate, fragmentation of habitat, and invasive species or disease transfer. Everywhere, amphibians are in steep, frightening decline. They are both predators and prey – and they affect many food cycles in their native ranges.
Altona Forest has a number of wetlands, but they were amended, drained, segmented, and changed for human purposes. This drastically affected the distribution of frogs and the viability of the area for the life-cycle from egg to tadpole to frog.
I have seen 4 of Altona Forest’s frog species. I believe that those who monitor and know local amphibians agree that there are 6 currently present in the forest. You can observe frogs in a number of places – Lacey’s Pond (an area in transition because there was not enough open water in the pond for frogs until last summer), the Amphibian Pond on the north boardwalk, the edges of Petticoat Creek as it passes by Altona Forest’s main entrance, and the rainwater collection ponds in the south ‘panhandle’.
Since I am no expert, each title below is a link to more information about the species – including their calls so you can listen for them. I’ll begin with the species I haven’t seen:
For a frog to be named for the sound it makes is a sure sign that it has a distinctive call. The spring peeper is a tiny brown frog often found on trees. It is one of the earliest frogs to emerge after winter and can call while there is still snow on the ground. I can only say I’ve heard it – since you can hear them from a distance.
Grey Tree Frog:
The name is perfect – yes this very small frog can be found climbing trees. But look very carefully since it has the ability to change colour to blend into its surroundings. Last year on a guided forest walk, a grey tree frog was spotted in a tree beside the amphibian pond in Altona Forest north. Though I stare at trees a lot, I haven’t seen one. Meanwhile, forest-adjacent residents say that they’ve found them in their gardens. I’m not so lucky – but I’m still looking!
The leopard frog is named for it’s spots. It has a pointier nose, ridges running along its sides, and a brighter green colour (though they can also be brown). This mid-size frog was in the shallow edge of Petticoat Creek – but I have spotted them at the rainwater ponds in the south as well.
Wood frogs are found (big shock) in the woods. You can find them in damp areas and I’ve spotted them in the muddy areas beside vernal streams. While they are shy, small frogs, once a year they gather at the ponds to mate and then seem oblivious to people and the click of the camera. This pair was at the north amphibian pond.
Green frogs are not always green – they can be any number of deeper shades of green and tan brown. They also are found in every size but have large discs (ears) beside their eyes that make them easier to distinguish. Their call sounds like rubber bands. They are reliably spotted at the amphibian pond – where I photographed this one last week.
American toads are the only toads in this area. Unlike frogs, they are able to wander farther from ponds and into forest or neighbourhoods. While I’ve seen toads in Altona Forest (around the amphibian pond and in the forest adjacent to it), this one hopped from the forest into my garden – where he’s welcome to stay and rid me of all sorts of garden pests!
Wetlands are forests, ponds, marshes and many other spaces – places that invite biodiversity. Amphibians play a central role in these ecosystems… and now you know to look not only in the water, but in the trees and in the shaded forest for these adaptable but shy inhabitants.
Amphibians Beyond the Ponds ~ © 2018 Natasha G