Category Archives: seasonal: spring

Frog Hunting In Maryland: The Northern Cricket Frog

It is spring and time to look for frogs. Yesterday, my daughter and I went for a nature walk in the woods around our house. During our adventure, we found this frog. It is a cricket frog, Acris crepitans. Cricket frogs are non-climbing tree frog. I’ll be sure to look for their eggs during their breeding season (May through July).

This cricket frog is on a child’s hand.

Identification:

They vary in color but often have a dark triangle present between the eyes and a Y-shaped stripe on their backs.

Fun With Cattail Spikes

When exploring a wetland with my daughter, we came upon some cattail plants (Typha sp.) When I saw them, I remembered how fun they can be. We had a pleasant time together discovering or re-discovering the amazing qualities of cattail spikes.

You have got to try this! Find a cattail flower spike in winter or early spring when last year’s flowers produced a sausage-like thing that is magic: or something close to it. Try pulling a handful off and hold it tight, then watch when you open your hand. It will explode into a soft landscape full of tiny seeds. Each seed has a bit of fluff attached; the purpose is to allow wind to carry the seed off to new locations.

All I ask is that you don’t play with all the spikes. Leave most of them alone. Did you know that some birds use the fluff to line their nests?

Raising Tree Frog Tadpoles (MD, USA)

If you have kids, raising tadpoles into frogs is a must. With not much effort you can witness the fascinating metamorphosis of a tadpole into a frog. Here is a tree frog we raised in the summer of 2004.

Gray tree frog found on my house (which is green) in southern Maryland 2008.

Green tree frog found outside my house. (Southern Maryland 2008)

Green tree frog outside my kitchen window 2009. It is not uncommon for tree frogs to hang out there eating the moths that are attracted to the light.

Mini Pond -2004

We have a galvanized container that I got at an antique store that doubles as a mini deck pond. When it rains we often hear one or more male tree frogs calling for a mate. They usually get together at night but we’ve seen them on really rainy days. In the morning we see eggs in our pond: lots of them. It doesn’t take long before you have all those little tadpoles swimming around. At this point, we get a few of the tadpoles to raise inside. I find that if the weather is really hot, the tadpoles all die. Hence, for better results, we bring some inside for raising. The tadpoles in our mini deck pond, if conditions are good, will eat mosquito larvae growing in the “pond”. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about creating a mosquito problem. The tadpoles will also eat algae- the green stuff growing on the sides of your pond. Your pond will stay cleaner looking. They will also resort to eating smaller tadpoles. This sounds pretty harsh but in doing so, at least some of the tadpoles will make it to adulthood.

Home for tadpoles

We kept our tadpoles in various large glass containers over the years. I like to limit the number of tadpoles because you don’t want to overcrowd them. The number you raise will depend on the size of the jar or tank you use

Change the water:

Freshen the water by dumping about half out and replacing it with fresh water. I have well water but if you have city water, you probably have chlorine to worry about. The chlorine will kill your tadpoles so set out a pitcher of water for a day or two in preparation to adding it to your jar of tadpoles.

Feed your tadpoles:

Your jar pond should have sunlight so the algae can grow. They love to eat the algae that grow naturally but there will not be enough in your little “pond” so you will need to feed them.

Don’t add so much food that the water gets all dirty looking. Feed as needed. I’ve successfully raised tadpoles on lettuce. I chopped it up then boiled it for a short time. (I’ve since read that boiling it first isn’t necessary.) After that I’d either pour off the water and freeze it or make portions in ice cube trays: the lettuce is frozen in the ice. Either break off bits of your frozen lettuce or drop in an ice cube when necessary. I’ve also feed them leftover fish food that I didn’t need any more. They loved that too.

I recently found the following link. It provides additional information about keeping tadpoles and is definitely worth checking out (no pictures though).

http://frogs.org.au/x/media/cs-lentic.pdf

When they start to grow front legs, you will need to cover your jar with cheese cloth or mesh of some kind so they don’t escape into your house. There needs to be something for the frog to climb onto- out of the water because you don’t want your new frog to drown. Release your tree frog back into the wild after metamorphosis takes place.

The whole process will take a little over two months if you are starting with eggs.

Check out the mouth on this guy!

This tadpole is clearly trying to go unnoticed.

Back legs at last!

Almost done!

How cute is that!

Tree frog we raised in the summer of 2008.

Make A Micro Pond Observatory For Learning And Fun: Damselfly Observation

In this photo is a damselfly larvae (arrow points to it) and to its left is a salamander larvae (more on it in another post).

How interesting to discover the world living in pond water. When I scooped up some pond water and brought it home for observation, I didn’t know that there was a damselfly larvae in it; we just wanted pond water full of tiny aquatic insects to feed our salamander larvae (more on this salamander larvae later). We were delighted when it crawled out of the water and soon emerged as an adult damselfly.

To make your micro pond you need only to find a container, gather some pond water, and add a stick and/or rock. We used a large glass cookie jar. We broke the top sometime back; it is 10.5 inches height and about 9 inches across (see picture). But you can use what you have or can find; think outside the box. Use an extra large pickle jar (ask for one at a sandwich shop; that’s what I did), find a secondhand fish bowl (not hard to find at thrift stores), or use a large glass carafe from a coffee maker (one that the coffee maker itself is broken but not the carafe).

The idea is to keep your micro-pond around long enough to allow things to grow. We plan to keep ours for most of the summer or until our frogs metamorphose. Some frogs like bull frogs and sometimes green frogs hibernate at the bottom of ponds and therefore will not finish metamorphosing until the following summer. Bull frogs will sometimes take 3 years. If tadpoles don’t complete their metamorphosis, we will let them go before the fall (more about keeping tadpoles in another post). To keep the critters in your micro- pond alive you must add new pond water to it every week. Take out some of the old water at this time. Basically, the tiny things swimming around are food for the larger things. 

According to this website: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/bay/cblife/insects/damselflies.html, larvae feed on other insects and small invertebrates while adult damselflies feed on mosquitoes and other flying insects.

The three “tails” at the back are called the caudal lamellae. These are the insect’s gills.

The skin that the insect leaves behind after turning into a winged adult damselfly is called an exuvia.

Here is a snapshot of the adult damselfly. You will want to put a screen across the top of your pond if you suspect a damselfly larvae will be emerging soon. I was unprepared and this guy got away in my house.

More about this soon.

Explore A Stream: You Might Discover Lampreys

In an earlier post I misidentified this lamprey as an American Eel. I’d like to make the correction here.

On a hike along a stream (Maryland USA / March 2010) we found several brook lampreys swimming around. There are three species of lampreys in Maryland: Sea Lamprey, Least Brook Lamprey, and American Brook Lamprey. This one is a Least Brook Lamprey or an American Brook Lamprey. Both or these brook lampreys are non-parasitic. Sea lampreys use their disk shaped mouth to attach themselves to fish and drink their bodily fluids and blood. Brook lampreys do no do this. I believe we came across some lampreys spawning. After they spawn they die soon afterward.

You can find some interesting things out there!