WHILE A BALD EAGLE CIRCLED OVERHEAD one sunny March day in recent years, 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 amphibian species to be out and hopping about, in my Northern garden 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’d 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. I was thrown off or distracted by the coppery color; 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.
Before long, I heard a distinctive quacking from the water garden out back, and since I don’t have ducks, I knew: There was a male not far away.