Monday, March 21, 2011

Roadside vernal puddle

The last two Saturdays have been absolutely gorgeous in terms of weather, with sunny skies and temperatures reaching to almost 70 degrees. Such conditions brought me to my first true outdoor wanderings of the year, the kind where I just walk around seeing what I can see. I did have a destination in mind, but I knew I would get caught up in various things along the way, so I grabbed my binoculars and camera and went exploring! I never know what I'm going to happen upon when I go on walkabout in the neighborhood, and this journey was no exception.

I had already spooked off a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks and was looking for signs of botanical life (having already found flowering Coltsfoot and newly sprouting leaves of wild daylillies and daffodils that had somehow escaped from someone's yard) when a sporadic croaking sound caught my attention and drew me forward. While my frog identification skills are lacking, I felt confident that what I was hearing was one or several Wood Frogs. Soon I happened upon this:

Not much to look at, right? Just a flooded ditch, right? No friends, I'm here to tell you it's much more elegant than that.

Closer inspection brought much joy to my heart. Big balls of gelatinous goo with little black dots in the middle could only mean one thing.

Frog eggs!

And not just any frog eggs, but the very first frog eggs I've ever laid my own eyes upon. What an exciting find. I was so excited that I texted Dave a short message to the effect of "OMG, just found frog eggs!"

I would like to think that I would have seen these on my own anyway, but the telltale singing of the frogs nearby was really what led me to these eggs. Are they Wood Frog eggs? Probably, but I can't be sure.

As excited as I was about my discovery, I soon began to fret for these fragile creatures. Recent heavy rains had created this "pool," but I worry if this ditch will stay wet enough long enough to sustain them for as long as they need the water. Also, the setting is not exactly ideal. If even a fraction of the eggs survive to actually grow to adulthood, how many of them will end up hopping across the road and getting hit? This past Saturday I found 3 smooshed frogs along the road. I know it's all part of the life cycle, but it's still just a little bit bothersome.

I will be keeping an eye on this precious roadside puddle, checking the progress of the little ones. All the photos above were taken just over a week ago. When I went back this past Saturday to visit, the little black dots had turned into something a little more recognizable as a tadpole. If I go back in another week, I imagine things will look very different, with most of the eggs gone and tadpoles swimming around.

Tadpoles developing

Developing tadpoles with new egg spawn to the right.

Thank you to the singing frogs who alerted me to this. I drive past this spot every day, and I never would have known these eggs were here if I hadn't taken the time to explore this stretch of road. I urge you all to get out there and do the same - you never know WHAT you'll find!


Jain said...

Magical close-ups, Heather. Thanks for getting your knees wet for us!

nina said...

Yep--it looks like you've found wood frog eggs. The only other possibility (a look-alike) that I know of would be leopard frogs' eggs.
Given the timing, though, and what looks to be a wooded surrounding habitat, my money's on the wood frog.
Wood frogs have a pretty fast metamorphosis, so hopefully they'll hop out of there before the puddle dries.
So cool, Heather!
Way to go--walking, looking at shallow pools of spring water!

Steve Willson said...

Wood Frog eggs are always impressive. As a kid, I used to wonder how all of those eggs could come from one little frog. I supposed it was magic.

Heather said...

Jain - My pleasure!

Nina - Thanks for weighing in. If anyone could identify these eggs, it would be you. We just had some crazy rain last night, with more predicted throughout the week, so I think (!) the puddle will sustain them.

Steve - Nice to hear from you! Even though we're all grown up and know where these eggs come from, there's still a little something magical about them, don't you think?

Jen said...

How cool! I don't think I've ever seen frog eggs either... I will have to keep my eyes open!

Monika said...

Very cool! Thanks for sharing your awesome find. It's a great message you're spreading, too, and one that I've really come to appreciate over the last two years - every trip outside, even in your own backyard or neighborhood, is an exploration and you never know what you'll find!

Heather said...

Jen - I was really happy to find these... one of those things that I've been waiting to stumble upon.

Monika - Thanks for your comment. Spreading the message of exploration of the places that we pass through every day is something that I am very passionate about, and I'm glad to hear that it's something that has come to resonate with you!

RuthieJ said...

That's so cool Heather! I hope that little pond doesn't dry up for a while so those little tadpoles can grow into frogs.

KaHolly said...

Oh, how very exciting!! And, Heather, your pictures are some of the best I've ever seen!!

Patricia Lichen said...

What great photos! I'd stopped by yesterday and saw these, and so took a good look in the little ponds I passed today in a long ramble through the woods. I didn't see any frog eggs today, but will keep looking. I grew up in Ohio, but now make my home in the Pacific Northwest.

If you get a chance, come visit my blog at www.patriciaklichen. com

I'll be back!