Updates to this journal
may be sparse for a time.
Please dip into the 140+
existing posts and pages.

Timing is everything

Small pond above a larger:

1231 DSCF2173fp

Permanent rather than vernal, but amphibians don’t know that. –Nor that, as a human artifact with no direct connection to any natural pool or stream, it is free of egg-devouring fish. (Tadpoles, snakes, salamanders, dragonfly nymphs and other predators… Well, it’s tough world, even submerged.)

204 DSCF2747fp

Through the winter, melted and refrozen repeatedly, most years with the roof open often and long enough to sustain respiration by torpid residents, especially with a leaf net to reduce biological oxygen demand.

DSCF4361fp

Frogs here typically migrate up from Farrar Pond on the first late-winter or early-spring night that meets three conditions: open water at the edges of source and destination, damp ground and a largely snow-free path between, and air temperature above about 40ºF. (Bright moon and rain are apparently helpful but not necessary.)

This was an exceptionally warm late winter and early spring—enough so to trick many trees and shrubs into early flowering, leading to destructions of a year’s bloom and seed when late frosts snickered at hopeful gardeners. This spring, there was also a shortage of rain at the appropriate time. So even with water and ground clear, travel was apparently too parching for skin-breathers until a week or so later than normal. By March 17th, however, wood frogs were noisily engaged and married, then in the still consummation of amplexus both afloat as usual

S0296056fp

and (less commonly) ashore nearby:

317 DSCF3017fp

317 DSCF3019fp

Both techniques proved productive, quickly delivering a considerable number of embryonic offspring:

317 DSCF3012fp

Afternoon of the 18th brought a gloomy front,

318 DSCF3021fp

and then sharp cold. By the morning of the 20th, the top inch or so of each high-laid egg mass was frozen solid

320 DSCF3041fp

while parents rested safely beneath the blurry crust:

320 DSCF3044fp

The next day it warmed on snowed—insult to injury, where snow or heavy rain earlier might have left the precious deposits safely insulated.

321 DSCF3064fp

The mushy thawed eggs provided welcome early food for a hundred or so over-wintering bullfrog tadpoles, and probably other creatures as well. But half a myriad is still thousands, and when warmth returned, hatching seemed to occur all the more quickly, carrying forward the next cycle of life:

S0623076fp2

606 S0294657fp