Thursday, August 15, 2013

Coolest. Frog. Ever.

Sitting on damp dirt and leaves, he's dark.
This little fellow showed up on the door of my office building a couple of days ago. He’s been visiting for a short bit to ham it up for the cameras. This is, of course, the Gray Treefrog, Hyla versicolor, the coolest frog ever. Well, at least the coolest frog native to the northeastern US. In my humble opinion, anyway. Coolness is, after all, subjective.

After 20 minutes sitting on white paper, not so much.
Gray treefrogs are a sort of meaty frog, getting close to two inches long when they’re full grown. They have suction cup toes, so they can spiderman their way up trees, the side of a building, glass, your hand, whatever. A few years back, a gray treefrog was found hiding under a roof shingle next to a dormer on the third floor of our office building. Not “natural” habitat, but apparently it can make for happy frogs.

Gray treefrogs are masters of disguise, changing color to more or less match their background. Their color range includes dark chocolate to nearly ash-white, and a beautiful emerald green. The two photos here were taken about 20 minutes apart, so the transition is relatively quick.

Breeding for this species is typically in late April or early May, though that’s variable and can happen later in the spring/early summer as they develop very quickly. Here’s a link to a clip of their beautiful, bird-like call: At this time of year, tadpoles have metamorphosed or are very close, and young-of-the-year are decked out in a brilliant emerald color, and are about the size of a full-grown spring peeper, or three-quarters of an inch. I've most often found them hanging out on the leaves of buttonbush and other shrubs in the vernal pools they (presumably) grew up in. I hear adults calling from the trees on the oak and pine hill up behind my office every now and again, which will continue through the summer. Just reminding us that, even though we can't see them right now, the coolest frog ever is close by, I guess.

It’s easy to forget that there’s a lot of interesting life happening in vernal pools in late summer and early fall, but that’s when a lot of animals that started off in the Big Night rush of March and April “graduate” and start kick off the next generation. ~MR Burne

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