On this gorgeous Saturday evening, a stream of excitement flowed into the Preserve. Apart from the smiles, laughter, and crackling weekend fires, however, were the sounds of a different party taking place in the marsh. Seven of us joined DNR herpetologist and UW Madison PhD student Rori Paloski to learn about these boisterous spring gatherings and the amazing audible amphibians behind them.
Both gray and Cope's gray tree frogs were calling in the marsh by Lot 60 when we arrived, giving us the opportunity to hear them side-by-side and practice our call discernment skills. One tree frog even hopped right over to us on the path, allowing us to marvel at the bright yellow patches on its underside. While this individual is currently green, these tree frogs can change the color of their skin to best camouflage with their surroundings. Whether this particular frog was a Cope's gray or a gray tree frog we will never know!
At the Picnic Point marsh we heard more tree frogs, and discovered the results of the recently-finished American toad mating period. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of little American toad tadpoles wriggled in the minnow trap Will had placed the day before. Unlike green frog tadpoles, American toad tadpoles metamorphose into tiny adult toads the same season they hatch. Soon the Preserve will be hopping in multitudes of these extremely small "penny toads". Once the tree frogs finish with their mating period, their tadpoles too will join the other toad and frog tadpoles in the Preserve's wetlands.
Frogs and toads are abundant and integral members of our native Wisconsin ecosystems. They are also very susceptible to human impacts on the landscape including water quality degradation, chemical pollution, invasive pathogens and urban infrastructure. The more we can learn about our amphibian neighbors the better we can learn to live alongside them. If listening for adult frogs and toads, and searching for tadpoles like we did in this field trip sounds fun to you, take a look at our Citizen Science page to see how you can help with our ongoing "Friends of Amphibians" project!
Report by Will Vuyk. Photos by Glenda Denniston and Signe Holtz.