Backyardsafari's Blog

Environmental Inspiration in Your Own Backyard

Sing for Spring May 1, 2011

Although the weather is still waffling between cold rains and sunny days, it is safe to say that Spring has officially arrived. The trees are green, birds are singing, and thunderstorms rumble across the sky.  Signs of changing seasons are different depending on where you live, of course–for people close to a water source, one of the signs is surely the resounding chorus of frogs and toads.

A wonderful Backyard Safari reader recently sent in this video of an American toad (Bufo americanus) singing for a mate in his backyard.  You can hear another toad singing nearby in the background.  I love watching the way this toad’s throat fills with air with each trill.

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In many species of frogs and toads, the individuals you hear singing are the males. They sing to attract mates.  They make the sound by taking a breath and then pushing the air through the voice box and into a sac in the throat.

This website is specific for Michigan amphibian species, but it is one of the few sites I found that lets you listen to samples of different frog and toad songs. I’ve also heard that if you play the songs outside at night some frogs and toads will answer back if you are present. Sounds like a fun experiment to try!

Have you heard any amphibians calling in your backyard? What other signs of spring do you always count on? What tells you that warm weather is officially here to stay?

As always, if you have any pictures, videos, or stories you’d like to share, please send them in to askbackyardsafari@gmail.com.  I would love to hear from you!

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Amphibian Friends June 17, 2010

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Amphibians!

Evolution, replayed right before our eyes–a life begun in a jelly egg floating in the murk, a childhood wriggling through the wet, an adolescence growing limbs and losing a tail, and finally an adulthood spent as an ambassador between the worlds of land and water.

I have talked about or posted pictures of amphibians many times before on this blog, which you can see here, here, here, here, here, and here. Frogs, toads, and salamanders are wonderful for people of all ages, but kids especially seem to love them!  One of the great things about amphibians is that their habitat is so much fun to be in. Searching under logs or wet leaves for salamanders and toads, and in ponds and mud for frogs are great experiences for kids! Amphibians are also nice to investigate because they (at least in my personal experience) don’t usually bite! I try to be careful about recommending holding wild animals to anyone, which is something I discussed in the ‘David Attenborough Laments‘ post, but I also want kids to have the same kind of hand-on experiences that I was lucky enough to get as a child. One of the ways I try to balance the experience of catching amphibians with also protecting their delicate skin is by letting the kids find them but then immediately putting them in a tupperware container with some leaves in it.  The kids can then take their time examining the critter without any sunscreen or bug spray from their hands absorbing into the amphibian’s skin. It also gives a great opportunity to talk to kids about why they should try to put these animals back where they found them!

Here are some more beautiful pictures of amphibians, sent to me by my father. He took these while working outside around the house, which as I’ve mentioned before now has a small pond in the backyard.

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This amazing little guy is a grey treefrog.  Great camouflage, don’t you think?  I don’t remember finding these around the house when I was growing up, and I am curious to know if the addition of the pond is what brought them here.

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My dad first found him in a potted plant, and returned him to it after taking pictures.

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Here is a picture I took of the same type of frog stuck to the window (high up, I should add!) overlooking the pond. Check out the sticky toe pads!

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Finally, here is a picture of the pond, with two frogs eyeing each other up. It’s amazing the amount of different wildlife this pond brought to our yard in such a short time!

If you have a child, I hope these pictures inspire you to take them outside to see what kind of amphibian wildlife is around you! If you are an adult, I hope these pictures make you ask, “Why do kids get to have all the fun?” and go looking for some as well! You are never to old to scramble through the mud after all things jumping and squirming.  If you see anything fun, feel free to take a quick picture and send it in! I would love to share more of your experiences with our readers.

As always, I’ll see you out there!