Last early May, the choral voices of the tiny Spring Peepers launched their social callings.
These small frogs have always voiced within or near open wetland and bring their cheery messages of high pitch whistling with hundreds of mini-colleagues to make the loud chorus. The Spring Peeper and the Gray Treefrog are found and heard in large numbers in the Kingdom, startling because the Peepers survive habitats from eastern Canada to the deep south of this continent.
Also, Roger Conant, former Curator at Philadelphia Zoo, said, “The Americans have more kinds of salamanders than all the rest of the world put together.“ Our region’s habitats offer moisture to support salamanders, as well as frogs and toads. The calls of these Anuraes, like birds, offer a wide range of voices, though not the same sounds, yet their reasons are for mating.
When a frog or toad makes its mating call its expanding its air sac beneath its mouth and passing interior air from lungs to air sacs, rather like a child blowing up and inflating a balloon and delating it in releasing its air with vocal vibrations or pinching the mouth of a balloon.
The amphibious voices we most hear in the Kingdom are: Spring Peepers’, Gray Tree Frogs, American Bullfrogs (“chugarum”), American Toads (a persistent common trill), and Green Frogs (a banjo pluck).
When I was a small child trying to catch Green Frogs in shallow ponds, I was instructed not to handle any wild amphibians. Why? Because it may block their access to water as frogs and toads (anuares) absorb water through their skins from soggy soils, shady sites, seasonal vernal ponds, pools and puddles, lake shores, marshes, and swamps.
Almost all living organisms are busy to the comings and goings of water through respiration, evaporation, transpiration, precipitation, migration, gardening, reproduction, consumption, and wasting.
SALAMANDERS (CAUDATAE) *in Vermont
Salamanders of Northern New England make use of bodies of water. Some use ponds, lakes, rivers, streams; and some live in the moisture of the forest floor of leaves, rotting logs, and decayed vegetation; and many of the apparently terrestrial amphibians are certain to enter a body of water. The season of migration of salamanders, frogs, and toads has become very regular, especially when they try to cross the roads. Some salamanders release their thousands of eggs that will develop and produce large clusters of clear and gelatin eggs. These will likely be consumed by fish, birds, and other amphibians. Cold ice and frigid air interrupt these reproductions as they do to the migrations. Here is a glimpse of salamander varieties.
- Hellbenders (flat eel-like giants up to 29 inches!
- Mudpuppies (large with spots and plume-like external gills, up to 20 inches)
- Waterdogs (spotted and up to 11 inches)*
- Dwarf Sirens
- Red Spotted Newt (and Red Eft)*
- Mole Salamanders
- Jefferson Salamanders*
- Blue Spotted Salamanders*
- Spotted Salamanders*
- Dusky Salamanders*
- Spring Salamanders*
- Four-toed Salamanders*
- Red-backed Salamanders*
- Two-lined Salamanders*
- Brook Salamanders
- Blind Salamanders
TOADS and FROGS (ANURAES)
I visit to watch in a near small pond the feeding and breeding of the ponds’ amphibians. Most find their migratory way to move into the adjacent vegetation. There they could meet a mate, and feed upon insect food using a strong and sticky tongue to snag out of the air or from local surfaces. Meeting is readily visible as males mount the backs of females in the water and her released eggs are then fertilized by him. The eggs become masses of tiny dark tadpoles clustered on the margin so that predators, especially fish, can’t feed on them.
Foxes, raccoons, minks, herons, gulls, and mergansers may feed on the active amphibians along the shore. Last summer I was surprised to witness three times a Broad-winged Hawk that plunged down to that shore and caught frogs in daily dining. These fierce raptors prey mostly on Green Frogs, but most of these Anuraes are vulnerable:
- Narrow-Mouthed Toads (plump little toads with a pointing mouth)
- American Toad* (…who may work your garden soil very helpfully)
- Fowler’s Toad*
- Boreal Chorus Frog*
- Gray Treefrog* (occasionally in woodland voice)
- Spring Peeper* (near the pond was a loud, sprawling chorus of estimated over 500 voices)
- True Frogs
- Green Frog* (also seen as Blue Frog)
- Mink Frog*
- Wood Frog*
- Northern Leopard Frogs,* very closely related to…
- …Pickerel Frogs*
- American Bullfrog* ( also heard in the pond: “chugarum”).
I confess that in the 70s in a swank New York restaurant, our hosts recommended “frog legs for dinner”
Very tasty, indeed! I guess the raccoons knew!
Charlie Browne is a naturalist, educator and the director emeritus of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. He has been a popular lecturer on birds and bird behavior and served for several years as guest naturalist on WCAX-TV News. He and his wife, Wynne, live on East Hill in Peacham.