hey, mr. bigstuff: a wood frog stops by
WHILE A BALD EAGLE CIRCLED OVERHEAD one sunny day last week, this guy (girl?) let me sit beside him (her?) on the still-cold grass and visit awhile. Say hello to a wood frog, one of the earliest species to be out and hopping about, and dressed in garden-appropriate terra cotta, no less. Sometimes I don’t know how I got from where I was to here, but am I ever thankful. Learn more about the wood frog, Rana sylvatica, and our impromptu chat:
I’ve never actually seen a wood frog of this size (about 2-1/2 inches long) or coloration (they range from tans and browns to rusty like this and apparently also grays and greens), and couldn’t even key it out at first because of his near-coppery colored skin. None of the specimens pictured in my many amphibian books showed this hue. And then I got it: the mask, the black mask. The wood frog is referred to as wearing a robber’s mask, and in fact the vivid black marking extends from the typanum (the stretched membrane the frog hears with) right down and onto the front legs.
I said “he” at first guess because the frog was on the move, not near a watery breeding area, perhaps in pursuit of that special someone as the very cold-tolerant wood frogs are inclined to be even in March. I also said it because he was so brightly colored, but it turns out that females, though typically larger than males, display a reddish hue during breeding season. The paunch should have tipped me off: eggs inside, so a female.
We sat together for a good 15 minutes, during which time the frog was motionless. And then it was me, not the frog, who moved on. Off to plant the peas I went, and my new friend perhaps to look for the one for her.
(To see a wood-frog pair in the mating embrace of amplexus, click here.)