Tag Archives: spring peepers

Frogs and Pollywogs in NYS Parks

It’s time – hop in the car or on your bike and head to a State Park near you! While you’re there, be sure your ears are open and your eyes are peeled for some awesome amphibian friends! It’s a good opportunity to find out which of the 11 frog species found in New York State are living in our State Parks.

Frogs are amphibians, meaning they live on both land and under water. When females lay eggs, it typically occurs in a nearby pond. The jelly-like egg masses hatch into tadpoles (pollywogs) with round bodies and long finlike tails. Tadpoles develop gills so they can breathe underwater just like fish do! Through a lifecycle process known as metamorphosis, the tadpole begins to develop legs, bulging eyes and air-breathing lungs. All the while the long slender tail starts to shrink and eventually disappears. This frog can now survive on land, breathing in the fresh summer air!

FrogLifeCycle
Frog life cycle, accessed from https://pixabay.com/en/frog-tadpole-%C5%BEabka-758072/.

Frogs spend most of their time underground, hanging out in trees, or in the water. On warm summer nights they will emerge from hiding and head to nearby ponds, lakeshores and wetlands. When trying to identify frog species remember to consider the following: coloration, patterns, skin texture (moist or dry), presence or absence of webbing between the toes, and more. If you can’t see your amphibian friends, but you can hear them, take this time to record its unique call and try to identify it when you get home!

Here are just a few of the frog species found in our State Parks:

Northern Spring Peeper (Pseudacris c. crucifer)

Peeper
Spring peeper, accessed from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spring_Peeper_-_Pseudacris_crucifer,_Waterways_Farm,_Lovettsville,_Virginia.jpg.

The tiny spring peeper can range from a rusty brown to a greenish-gray with a distinct dark X or cross on its back. Its skin is smooth and the belly is cream-colored. This species is also known for hanging out in trees, with its unwebbed toes and sticky pads. Spring Peepers breed earlier in the season than other frog species. If you’ve ever spent an evening camping or sitting by the water, you’ve probably heard their infamous “PEEP” or call.

American Bull Frog (Rana catesbeiana)

BullFrog
American Bull Frog, accessed from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:American_Bullfrog_(Rana_catesbeiana)_(8741684912).jpg.

The bull frog is the largest frog in North America, reaching lengths of 6 to 8 inches. It’s a brownish-green color with dark colored bands or blotches on its hind legs. Unlike the treefrogs, the bull frog has webbed hind feet. They’re often found near permanent waters with lots of vegetation. This species size and carnivorous diet allows it to munch on creatures such as snakes, bats, ducklings and other frogs! Behind the bull frog’s eyes are eardrums known as tympanic membranes. The size of these membranes can be used to determine if the frog is a male (it’s larger than the eye) or a female (the membrane is the same size as the eye). Look for this species between mid-March and mid-July. They may startle you with their really load “croak”.

Green Frog (Rana clamitans)

SeeGreenFrog
Do you see the Green Frog? Photo by NYNHP.

This is one of the most common frogs across NY State. It is similar to but smaller than a bullfrog. Like the bullfrog, the green frog is brownish-green with bright green on its face and spends most of its time in and near ponds and wetlands. The adults are 3-4 inches long and breed from May to August. Their regular call goes “boing” like the sound of a plucked rubber band or banjo sting. They also have an alarm call, a loud squeak, that you will hear if you scare them into the water. Move slowly towards the edge of the pond to look for these critters and be ready when they squeak and leap into the water!

Green_frog_Rana_clamitans_MatthewScheslingerNYNHP
The green frog’s face is smaller and not as wide and rounded as the Bullfrog. Photo by NYNHP.

Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans)

Cricket
A rare northern cricket frog, photo accessed from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Northern_Cricket_Frog_-_Acris_crepitans,_Meadowwood_Farm_SRMA,_Mason_Neck,_Virginia.jpg.

The northern cricket frog is the smallest and most rare frog species in NY. It is listed as endangered in the State of NY. Adults reach about 1 inch in length, but despite their size, can jump about 5 to 6 feet. Eastern cricket frogs are brown to dull green in coloration with a triangular marking between the eyes. These frogs love shallow ponds with lots of floating vegetation. It has an unusual call, described as two pebbles being clicked together repeatedly. View the northern cricket frog conservation guide created by the New York Natural Heritage Program.

Other awesome frog species found in New York:

Gray Treefrog

Western Chorus Frog

Mink Frog

Wood Frog

Northern Leopard Frog

Southern Leopard Frog

Pickerel Frog

More links with frog/toad calls

NatureBits.org

Calls of Frogs and Toads of the Northeast

Post By Falon Neske- SCA and State Parks

Resources

Bullfrogs

Frogs and Toads of New York State

Featured image, gray tree frog, State Parks

Amphibians on the Move!

As temperatures rise, spring rains roll in, and the ground thaws, the amphibians of New York are preparing themselves for a great migration. On the 10th of March, a group of about 30 volunteers congregated near Hop Field at Thacher State Park armed with flashlights and buckets. With great excitement they looked along the road edges for salamanders and frogs, hoping to help them cross the road as the amphibians migrated to woodland pools. Throughout most of the year, mole salamanders and woodland frogs spend their time burrowed under rocks and leaves on the forest floor, but each spring salamanders and frogs can migrate up to a quarter mile to woodland pools to breed. The mass migrations to the vernal pools occur during spring rainstorms with temperatures above 40 degrees.

The rain was intermittent that night, and although spring peepers and leopard frogs were escorted across the road, no salamanders were found. The migrations typically happen in late March and early April, so there is still hope! On nights when the conditions are right, many nature enthusiasts can be seen on roadways close to wetlands helping the amphibians safely cross the road. If you are interested in getting involved in preventing vehicle related deaths during these mass migrations, contact your local State Park or local DEC office. These organizations sometimes coordinate volunteers to come together on rainy nights to help salamanders cross busy roads. The more volunteers there are to help, the more amphibians will successfully breed! Before you help the amphibians, be sure to brush up on your identification! Here is a sampling of the native amphibians that you could see in New York.

Mole Salamanders:

Blue Spotted
Blue spotted Salamander, By Greg Schechter [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The blue spotted salamander is black with pale blue flecks all over its body. It can grow from 3.5 to 5.5 inches long. They are frequently seen in woodlands.

The spotted salamander is black and has yellow spots. It can grow up to 8 inches long. It is one of the most common salamanders in the area, and if you go out on a migration night there is a good chance that you will see it!

Jefferson salamander
Jefferson Salamander, By Unspecified (Vermont Biology Technical Note 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Jefferson salamander is dark brown and has pale blue spots on its limbs and lower sides. The blue speckling is best seen on younger salamanders. It can crossbreed with the blue spotted salamander and usually grows to 4.5 to 7 inches long.

Red eft
Red Eft, By Jason Quinn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
This red eft/ red spotted newt can secrete poisonous toxins. When it is on land in its juvenile stage, it is orange. However, in its aquatic adult stage it is an olive brown color and has a wide paddle like tail.

Frogs:

Wood Frog
Wood Frog, By USFWS Mountain-Prairie (Wood Frog) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The wood frog has an extremely high freeze tolerance and can live in a variety of habitats including forests, tundra, and bogs. It has the nickname “Lone Ranger” because the coloration on its face resembles a mask. Last year a bill was proposed by a class of 3rd graders to declare the wood frog the State Amphibian of New York. To see the bill’s progress check out this website.

Peeper
Spring Peeper, By Justin Meissen [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The spring peeper has large vocal sacs that it uses to create high pitched tones during the spring mating season. It typically grows to about one inch long and has a dark X marking on its back. Listen to the call of a male spring peeper.

Leopard frog
Leopard Frog, By Douglas Wilhelm Harder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
The leopard frog gets its name from the irregularly shaped dark patches on its legs and back and can grow to be 3 to 5 inches long. They were once the most abundant frog species in North America, but they suffered large population declines in the 1970s.

Recommended Links:

Salamander Migration Extraordinaire” Check out this naturalist’s blog post  that has videos of spotted salamanders and Jefferson salamanders migrating to a vernal pool. There is amazing underwater footage of the salamanders at the breeding site!

Check out this video of Ranger Eric Powers from Your Connection to Nature to learn more information about vernal ponds and the animals that rely on them!

Post written by: Emily Crampe, SCA Member, Thacher State Park

Sources for text:

http://www.vernalpool.org/inf_mol.htm

http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/82722.html

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/northern-leopard-frog/

https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12201-32988–,00.html

 

Saratoga Spring

No, I didn’t forget an s.  After months of cold, brown surroundings, the spring season is beginning to breathe new life into our little town.  I’m not talking sundresses and flip-flops just yet.  No, the subtle signs of spring are what you and your kids are after.  Tiny harbingers that chip away at the dirty parking lot snow and melt your wintery heart drip by drip.  This time of year, if you’re watching closely, they seem to appear daily.  There are many family-friendly places for you to visit and experience early spring in the capital region, and we can tell you where to start!

Have you ever driven past a pond on a warm evening in April or May?  The next time you do, roll your windows down.  The chilly breeze will carry a chorus of peepers into your car and surround you with spring.  The tiny animal that makes this huge noise is called a Spring Peeper.  It is a frog the size of a postage stamp!  In Saratoga Spa State Park, the sound of peepers is the first true sign that spring is around the corner.  For a special glimpse of this frog, join Spa Park’s FrogWatch.  On the last Thursday evening of April, a Park Naturalist will guide visitors through a special wetland where they get a chance to hear and see the little frog with a huge voice!

A spring peeper at Wellesley Island State Park. Photo by Julie Lundgren, NYNHP.
A spring peeper at Wellesley Island State Park. Photo by Julie Lundgren, NYNHP.

Another of Saratoga’s spring sounds comes from a sharply dressed male bird called the Red Wing Blackbird.  These birds fly south to escape the snow and ice, but they are one of the first to arrive back from their winter vacation.  Smaller than a crow but just as loud, the blackbirds congregate in tall grasses and proclaim their territory with a raucous “okalacheeee!”.  To hear them yourself, visit Moreau Lake State Park on a sunny day and bring your binoculars to see their wings flash red!

redwingedbb
Photo courtesty of Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/texaseagle/14121019609.

After all of this peeping and proclaiming, perhaps your family would enjoy a quiet walk to enjoy a silent sign of spring.  Visit Saratoga Spa State Park’s Hemlock Trail for a short, flat walk to see the first spring plant, the Skunk Cabbage.  This magenta and green flower unfurls from the swampy sections of Saratoga.  It gets its name from the acrid odor it releases when it is crushed.  Later in the spring, the strange looking flower will be replaced by large, showy green leaves.  To see and smell this plant for yourself, go to the Hemlock Trail entrance on Crescent Avenue in Saratoga Springs.  You’ll find the plants about half way around the mile-long loop.

We hope you enjoy your outings in our state parks, and everywhere spring is sprouting.  Each day of this special season provides a new opportunity for you and your family to explore the outside world!

For more information regarding outings at Saratoga Spa State Park, please call the Environmental Educator at (518) 584-2000 Ext. 116.

Check out these additional spring-themed events that are happening across the state:

Vernal Pool Exploration for Families @ Minnewaska State Park Preserve, April 25

Family Adventure: Night of the Frogs @ Connetquot River State Park Preserve, May 30

Family Fun: Tadpole Expedition @ Caleb Smith State Park Preserve, May 31

Pre-registration is required for most programs.

Post by Alli Schweizer, Saratoga Spa State Park.