hey, mr. (or mrs.) bigstuff: a wood frog stops by

wood-frog-faceWHILE 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.

(To see a wood-frog pair in the mating embrace of amplexus, click here. Fascinating. More about the wood frog’s like history, the only frog hardy north of the Arctic Circle.)

Categoriesfrogboys woo woo
  1. maggiemay2day says:

    The frog is very handsome ;), and wherever Eagle soars, the native People have recognized this splendid bird as a symbol of strength and courage. That must have been awesome! Myself, I feel honored the few times I’ve had an Eagle fly over our property. I photographed an Eagle recently and put one of my Mothers poems with the picture, I’d like to share the poem:

    If I were an Eagle
    I’d soar through the sky,
    And look down on people
    much lesser than I

    SO…God made me a sparrow
    With wings small and trim,
    And now I fly low
    And look up to him.

    Geneva Thompson McDonald

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, maggiemay2day, and thank you for the poem from your mother. I have never photographed the eagle successfully…I had the closer-in lens on for my other friend’s portrait session. Maybe next time. See you again soon.

  2. Belatedly saw your post on wood frogs. That explains the color of a new frog in my back yard near a small fish pool. I heard a new frog call, and just managed to deter the cat from making a meal of the new guy! You might enjoy a visit to the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay just up the road in Austerlitz. Was there last week for a tour of the house and grounds. They are working on the gardens and hope to restore her swimming pool which is currently home to thousands of tadpoles!

  3. Jane in CT says:

    I met my first wood frog on a walk to Stump Pond in Stephentown, NY, around 30 years ago, on a bright, sunny afternoon in spring or fall. As I sauntered the half mile along the abandoned road through, appropriately enough, the woods, taupe tan leaves began to hop on the shoulder. The uncharacteristic movement had me stop and investigate. I knew bullfrogs, leopard and pickerel frogs; this was not those. Not a bumpy Fowler’s toad, either, tho’ the colors were similar. A fast jumper, he (she?) was not easy to catch, and after a few attempts, I had him. Also about 2 1/2 inches long, the fellow was the most elegant frog I’d seen, slick and lean and streamlined, his black eye makeup, shades of cool tans, all the perfect complement to the dry leaves he had been blending with until he hopped. I returned him to his camouflage and looked up his identity when I got back to the house. I’ve only seen a few since, none as large as he was.

  4. Zoe says:

    I’ve just thoroughly enjoyed catching up on your froggy posts of the past, and am very inspired to create a water-trough oasis at my next home. Thanks for some high quality blog entertainment on a rainy afternoon in from the garden.

  5. Mike says:

    I’m quite sure this is a female wood frog. I don’t think males ever get quite that large, and females do tend to have the reddish color more often. The University of Michigan Zoology website which you reference is a great one, but I think you misinterpreted the page – it states that males are more vividly colored on the VENTRAL side of the legs! Also, this frog’s girth might be indicating a gravid female?

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