Category Archives: wood frogs
The cold snap that hit in the first week of April was apparently hard on frogs throughout our area. At our local Audubon chapter’s annual spring banquet, several people told me that the wood frogs had been interrupted in their mating by the cold, and some were heard calling again late in the month, with the return of warmer temperatures. Somewhat more ominous was a report from Center County that I read on a listserve: folks on a wildflower walk along Spring Creek found a pond with many dead bullfrogs, which they thought might have all been killed by the cold.
I’ve already mentioned our own angst about our declining wood frog population here in Plummer’s Hollow over the past decade. On the other hand, however, we have more spring peepers calling this year than we’ve heard in at least twenty years. Back in the 70s, I remember hearing quite a lot of them — my bedroom window faced toward the boggy corner of the field where they tend to congregate. But then in the 80s the population crashed for some reason, and for a bunch of years we didn’t hear any. Then we started hearing one, lone peeper. The next year, two. Now we seem to be up to at least half a dozen, and it sounds like a regular chorus again.
The first trailing arbutus was in bloom today — just one clump up on Laurel Ridge Trail. This is not quite the first native wildflower: the nondescript Pennsylvania bittercress was in bloom a couple days ago. The unseasonable warmth is bringing out the daffodils at an alarming rate, but a cold snap forecast for later in the week should hold them.
On the wood frog front, two, maybe three wood frogs have been calling in the “pond” in the corner of the field, but we haven’t seen any eggs there yet — possibly just because the surface is covered with duckweed. Up at the vernal ponds, by contrast, we have heard no calling, but Mom discovered one wood frog egg mass on March 29th. Perhaps they only call at night, she says. Also, the depth and murkiness of the water there may be preventing us from spotting additional egg masses. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed that a late-spring drought doesn’t dry those ponds up again this year.
After a week-long return to winter-like snow and cold, spring is back on track. Warm weather on Sunday brought out the first coltsfoots (coltsfeet?) and crucuses (croci?) as the last patch of snow dwindled on the north side of the spruce grove. Both flowers are non-native; the crocus planted, and the coltsfoot presumably self-seeded. The coltsfoot is thus the first wildflower to bloom here, and has been so every year since we began keeping records in 1972. The other interesting thing about it is that it has never spread any farther than the 100-foot-long stretch of our gravel driveway and the adjacent ditch down below the old corrall. Not all alien plants are invasive in their habits!
There’s no sign of wood frogs yet, which is extremely odd. Their numbers have declined sharply over the last ten years, and this year there may be no more. Last year we found a number of egg masses in the vernal ponds up at the top of the watershed, but the tadpoles all perished when the ponds dried up in early June. The tiny “pond” in the lower corner of the field, meanwhile, seems to have been occupied by red-spotted newts, which are presumably the main reason why wood frog numbers have plummeted there (the venal ponds never were reliable). If so, it’s our own fault for deepening that “pond” several times over the years so that it wouldn’t dry up in late summer. Year-round water means habitat for things that eat wood frog eggs, such as newts. In other words, wood frogs need pools that are ephemeral, but not too ephemeral.
UPDATE (March 28): One wood frog is calling down in the corner of the field this morning.