joy in mudville: big frog in a small pond

THE HECK WITH THE GARDEN, all anybody wanted to see Saturday during Copake Falls Day tours was my other green passion: the frogboys (and girls). And no wonder, because look at what posers these guys are. (And also what fakers: pretending to all be pals when we know that frogs can be violent.) A tale of why it’s better to be a big frog in a little pool sometimes in life:

As I told all the visitors, frogs have a pretty straight-forward system of social order, especially in mating season. Come the hot weather, the males dress up in their courting outfits (turning yellow underneath) and also start talking incessantly, trying to call in a female. But only one male in a particular bit of turf (er, surf?) can win the hearts of the ladies, and a dominant male is soon established.

Turns out the winning Mr. Bigstuff can’t keep up with all the girls sometimes, though, so a so-called “satellite male” (a.k.a. Lucky Number 2) gets the excess. Meaning the also-ran in this race is still a winner–but none of the other boys succeed with the chicks. Unlucky Number 3 and those even less vocally appealing are losers, at least this season.

The big handsome guy in the photo up top lost out in early summer at my bigger of two inground pools, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer…so he got resourceful. He hopped about 30 feet away into the pair of clay troughs, the larger about 3 feet long, that I keep filled with water and duckweed by my door. And he started yelling.

That was how I first noticed, around July, what was up: A voice was coming in the wrong window, from the east, suddenly, instead of the usual south or west of where I sit inside. Who’s that?

Sure enough, an adult female (poking out of the water at the left, above) showed up and has spent the last month and a half with him. So have two first-year frogs (not the offspring of this pair, but tadpoles-turned-adults, bottom of the page, who probably just didn’t like the rougher waves across the yard where the big boys play).

This particular sexy beast (the large adult) lets me hold him, by the way, as I demonstrated over and over to guests the other day, one more surprised than the next. But we just have that kind of relationship. Truth be told, I think he relocated from the big pool in order to be closer to me.

  1. Jayne says:

    I am so jealous of your frogs! The frogs in our pond, which is a natural pond and part of a series of ponds eventually emptying in the Long Island SOund, are audible, but never visible. I can see them leap into the pond as I approach!

  2. Deborah says:

    Our pond is a 1/4 mile from the house, so most of the frog activity happens far away. I do see frogs in the gardens around the house occasionally. (Are they toads if they’re not near water, or just traveling frogboys?) Sadly, on Sunday I saw a frog being devoured by a small garden snake in the corner near our driveway. Just the rear legs were sticking out, so I suspected it was far too late to come to the rescue. I like to fantasize that our many garden snakes are doing their part to keep slugs, snails and mice (and chipmunk babies) in check, but I’m not noticing a smaller slug population. Perhaps they’re too busy hunting my frogs?!

  3. I think he wants you be his girlfriend. Boy, if I had frogs at my house I would never leave. I would watch them all day and never tire of those buggy eyes, those wet bulbous toes and their amphibious antics.

  4. Madeline says:

    So glad to see you talking about your frogs. We have a water feature and for the 3rd year frogs have showed up…we have 3 I think but we have so little knowledge about their habits I’m not sure what is going on. There is a large frog, a medium frog and a teeny one all inhabiting our pond. One croaks almost constantly – morning, noon and night. Whatever….we’re glad they are here.

  5. Connie says:

    Love your newsletters and your gardens and of course your other green things. lol. THE FROG LOG. lol. Thanks for all the information. Connie

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Connie — and thank you for all the kind words. Glad to share!

      Welcome, Ann. Yes, I had no idea the first time I saw it what they were up to, either — some kind of dance? No, WAR. :)

      See you both soon again I hope.

  6. virginia morningstar says:

    Cute post! Now that we’ve had the woo-woo about the frogs, would love some more info (how-to) on creating a mini-container pond. What a great idea!

  7. Ann says:

    Awesome Photo.
    Thats the one thing I love about my pond are my frogs (toads not so much in thee spring)
    This was the fist time I saw 2 of my frogs Fight Silly me was thinking they were mating I’m stood clapping say were going to have babies next day DH disposed of the evidence….
    Who Knew!!!!
    Dont know If anyone else dose this but I feed them worms it’s funny to watch…..
    Love your blog. Ann

  8. terryk says:

    Our peepers have to be content with the pool. Spring brings the ducks and then early summer the peepers. None as big as your boys!

    I like Virginia’s idea of a how to create a pond in a trough, that is if you have not done it before. If that is the case can you give us the link-I searched under containers but did not trip over it.

  9. jonquil says:

    Ever since I read your frog-truth – ‘if there is water they will come’ – I have taken it to heart, and come the little froggers have. Two are living in the small basin I sunk into my vegetable garden on top of the hill, three young’uns are living in the saucer under my big pot of white calla lilies, and the other day I saw a little froggie face looking up at me from the bucket of cattail starts I have next to my turtle trough. It’s like spontaneous generation! The nearest pond is several hundred yards away down the road. I only wish I had a proper pond to house all my little frog-friends. Maybe next year.

  10. Lisa says:

    Cute! I love your frogs. I’ve thought about hatching tadpoles to introduce frogs into my garden for pest control. My favorite college memories were listening to the spring peepers (we had a large pond nearby) every spring.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Lisa. Here, all you have to do to get frogs (and tadpoles) is provide some water that doesn’t freeze solid all winter (I float a cattle-tank heater in the pools to let the sleeping frogs “breathe”). Within one summer (when I built the pools 15+ years ago) I had every species of frog, toad and salamander in the local guide books! Volunteer frog force. :)

  11. Hazel says:

    I have a little fountain on the lanai of our home in Tampa. I am on my fifth set of new tadpoles. They are very partial to swiss chard, beet greens and arugula preferring that to romaine and spinach. Hence mine are active little gourmets who delight me daily as they grow and thrive. Once they shed their tails, they hop onto the rim and gear up their courage to enter the brave world of the garden. I love them dearly and am envious of your Prince Charming who permits you to be that close. Lovely story especially for those who are frog afficionados.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Hazel. They are my dear friends, and from them I have learned so many lessons (especially the one you allude to, about transformation!). Nice to “meet” you and hear your charming story.

  12. Lacey says:

    Hi Margaret

    I’ve got a lot of frogs, too! What a privilege to have their company. If I leave a pot of water for more than a day or two, a frog makes it home and I don’t have the heart to disturb him -so I have a lot of randomly placed pots in my garden.

    How do you winterize the frogs who live in your smaller “ponds” -like the trough? I’ve asked some local pond companies and the guy looked at me like I’m nuts. I called the local university amphibian department but no one returned my call (imagine that!). Should I dump the pots come late fall and move the frogs to the bigger pond? Leave it alone? Heap wood chips around the pots? Do the frogs instinctively know what to do – if the pot is too small for a winter habitat?

    I’m in zone 7b, so it isn’t too cold here. But it does freeze. I’d be sick if my green friends died over the winter.

    Any advice?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Lacey. I am in Zone 5B, and cannot leave the troughs (which would crack) out all winter, and I have two inground pools as well for them to select. Usually they will select a proper overwintering spot themselves. I am careful in case there are eggs or tadpoles to empty the trough water into my other pools, by the way. Here is my overwintering plan in detail, which requires keeping a hole in the ice all winter to the slumbering water creatures don’t suffocate.

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