Green Frogs

– Posted in: Habitat gardening

Green FrogHmm, what’s your name? If you were thinking Kermit you wouldn’t be far wrong.

Winter seems to still be with me. The nights are consistently in the low 20s and snow remnants remain on the ground. Mostly on the north sides of hills and buildings, and hiding behind large trees and objects, the white has not completely gone away. Large swaths of lawn and fields are now visible and the remaining strands and patches of snow can look like washing laid out for drying or ice fields in miniature or ocean foam left behind by the surf. I didn’t think I would feel nostalgic for it but I do and will miss it after it’s gone in a week or two.

But the landscape is coming awake and one of the first groups of animals to become active after a winter’s hibernation are the amphibians. I’ve seen tiger salamanders coming out of the woods by a roadside, heading towards shallow waters and ponds, eager to reacquaint themselves with the world and get on with their lives. I like them, as with all of the native wildlife, but my favorites are Rana clamitans (rana=”frog” clamitans=”loud calling”), commonly known as Green Frogs.

Named for their coloring, they are the first of the frogs to start calling, their loud gulps sound like school kids trying to impress their cronies. Even before the sweet chiming of the Spring Peepers, Greens are gulping themselves for attention, seeking to impress and woo mates. Even with these chilly nights, if the days are warm enough, I can hear them.

Beth and I met a group of Greens last year while hiking on nearby State land. The destination was a large beaver pond, unexpectedly carved into a hillside. Two groups of frogs were vocalizing, calling from opposing ends of the pond (very Sharks/Jets, Yankees/Red Sox, or insert your favorite rivalry).

The Peepers were heard but not seen so we headed for the other end. Filled with Greens, they had spaced themselves evenly across the surface, floating with legs extended, so ridiculously open that even I could spot them. They silenced themselves as we approached but the drive to reproduce was too intense and the outlying ones were soon calling, quickly joined by the rest. Those moments added to one of our best hikes ever.

An aquatic-loving frog, Greens are never far from water and noisily splash and dive for cover when alarmed, consistently giving themselves away. It’s a puzzling behavior because if they remained still I would probably overlook them. Large bodies of water aren’t necessary and any shallow waters will do nicely. I reliably find them in a roadside ditch that is amply fed by rains and a seeping spring. A wetlands on a small scale, its only a foot wide, the ditch is also a home for cattails, sedges, and damselflies.

Frogs and other amphibians are not having an easy go of it, trying to survive in an increasingly manmade world. Along with the ongoing destruction and drainage of wetland habitats, climate change and a fatal fungus are devastating their populations. An essential element of spring would be lost without the frogs’ sounds.

About the Author

I started in 1977 growing plants at wholesale nurseries and a wholesale seed company in California. In 1992 I started volunteering (in the nursery, of course!) at Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco where I met my wife. My wife is originally from upstate and we moved here in 2002. It took at least two years of living here for me to fully understand our property and to take advantage and work with our microclimate. Although growing zone maps show us to be in 5, we are realistically a 4b. I am inordinately proud, in a smarmy kind of way, of how many of the plants we brought with us have thrived. Coming from a zone 9 has been quite an adjustment for all of us. But we are thriving and enjoy the beauty and what the land gives us everyday. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4b/5a Location: rural; Central Leatherstocking near Cooperstown, New York Geographic type: riverine valley Soil type: Chenango alluvial – shallow clay and highly stony Experience level: 28 years professionally wholesale and retail, no longer in the business Particular interests: native plants and ecosystems, flowering and berry producing shrubs, home-grown foods, maples, birches, willows, ornamental grasses, filipendulas, iris, ligularias, persicarias, asclepias, artemisia, asters, arisaemas, hardy geraniums, euphorbias, eupatoriums, origanums, lysimachias, eryngiums, lilies, and visiting nurseries

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

Randy April 15, 2007, 8:09 pm

I have two ponds that have fish and frogs. I noticed this spring there were 5 dead frogs in our pond. Weren’t they supposed to be hibernating through the winter? I can’t figure out what happened? Our pond fish are fine. Infact , I’ve noticed baby fish and tadpoles in the pond. Please help me understand what happend to the frogs. I know the winter weather was odd and unpredictable but I thought frogs were hardy.

Apple April 1, 2007, 11:37 am

We don’t have any standing water on our property so no frogs. We do get lots of toads and I’ve often wondered where they come from. The nearest pond is at least a 1/4 mi away. I’m hoping wherever they spent the winter that they’ll be back on the job this summer.

Kathy Purdy April 1, 2007, 9:39 am

I am looking forward to the sound of the first spring peepers, but I don’t know if I have ever heard the gulping of a Green Frog. I wonder if I just didn’t recognize it or if we don’t have them around here.