Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. She lives in Cook County and joins us periodically to talk about phenology or what’s going on in the woods right now. Welcome back, Chel.
Anderson: Thanks, Jay.
Earlier we talked about spring frogs. Now, summer is officially here, which frogs will we be seeing and hearing?
Anderson: Let’s start with a couple of frogs that, unlike most of our spring calling frogs, are strictly water-dwelling frogs. These are frogs that live in and stay pretty much in ponds, lakes, streams, and that we’re hearing now. These are both secretive frogs; they’re kind of shy. They’re not often just going to hang around and let you observe them closely. First of all is the Green Frog. This is a frog that gets, maximum, about four inches long, has a really bright yellow lower lips. It’s dark, olive-brown kind of color, so kind of drab in color. So, it blends in really well when it’s sitting at the edge of the lake or pond, and the pale kind of underneath and lower part of the sides. The best way to know if there are Green Frogs around to be looking for at this time of year is to listen for their call, which is quite distinctive. The call sounds like a loose banjo string. So it’s this low, kind of “buung, buung, buung.” As we know, frogs are really good at projecting, and so this is an easy one to listen for and it’s very common throughout the middle part of the summer. If you’re sitting still somewhere, you might hear frogs that are at the edge of a riparian area will often start calling right nearby, in front of you. So, then, you can look more closely and see if you can find it. A similar looking frog, also three and a half inches long as adults, and with the same kind of tapering snout that the green frogs have and very similar color, is the Mink Frog. The Mink Frog is called the Mink Frog because it has a musky odor, but you’re probably not going to pick up on that unless you happen to be handling one. It, too, has a very distinctive call that is easily differentiated from the Green Frog. To my ear, it sounds like someone taking some blocks of wood and smacking them together. It’s a much sharper sound; it happens just a few at a time. It doesn’t go on; three or four calls, and then a pause, and then three or four notes. So, these are both common frog songs that one can be listening for now.
Why are they singing? Is this a mating thing or is that over with?
Anderson: Oh yeah. No, these are mating things. Frogs and toads basically sing as a part of their mating rituals for the most part. Another frog that we can be hearing now but also seeing more is the Gray Tree Frog. These are remarkable frogs, because they have these toes that have these great big adhesive pads on them. Their much smaller, maybe an inch and a half or so, more rounded than elongated, broad heads and blunt noses, and can change into different colors depending upon their background. These frogs can climb pretty much anything. They are either gray with black or green with black, sometimes a brownish-red always with some kind of darker modeling. Once the tree frog young come out onto the land, they are just straight bright green, so they are easily identifiable when they’re young.
Frogs and water lilies go together, it seems like. Do they really sit on pads like they do in the cartoons?
Anderson: Absolutely. I’m sure frogs think that lily pads were made for them. You know, they’re very watchful—they have to be—of predators from above. But, in terms of predators from below, if you’re sitting on a lily pad, hey, you know, you’re invisible to fish. So, that’s a good thing.
Chel Anderson, DNR botanist and plant ecologist. Thanks for helping us understand frogs this time.
Anderson: You’re welcome, Jay.