Invisible Ducks

Did you know? Wood Frogs sound like ducks.

Years ago I was camping in the Adirondacks in mid-April. I had just started birding, so I was thrilled to hear large groups of ducks quacking away in the woods. So off I went, in pursuit of the ducks. I found the ponds . . . I found the quacking . . . but not a duck to be seen. There were, however, quite a few small frogs, quacking their little hearts out to attract mates. Just click on the photo to hear the quacking.

singing frogsI’m not sure if those particular frogs found mates, but they certainly caught my interest. Wood Frogs are common in the northeastern and northern mid-western areas of the US and Canada and are found further west and south in smaller numbers. In fact, these hardy little frogs are the only frogs found north of the Arctic Circle. Wood Frogs spend the winter buried in leaf litter; they stop breathing, their hearts stop beating, and ice forms in the intercellular spaces. The frogs are kept from freezing completely because they produce a kind of antifreeze which keeps their cells from freezing. In early spring they start thawing out and start quacking, eating, mating, and laying their eggs in the vernal pools. Just click on the photo to see a video with more information on this amazing behavior.

frogWood Frogs aren’t as big as the noise they make — they are typically about 2″ long. One of their most distinguishing features is the “robber’s mask” over their eyes. The toes on the Wood Frogs’ front legs aren’t fully webbed because they spend more time on land than other frog species do. After they mate, the frogs lay their eggs in dense mats on the pond and in 7 weeks the tadpoles hatch out and develop into small frogs. Click on the below photo of the frog eggs to learn more.

Wood Frog EggsThis time of year is a treat for the ears the quacking of the Wood Frogs and the higher notes of the Spring Peepers and the sweet singing of birds calling for mates. This magic doesn’t last long so enjoy it while it’s here, and don’t be afraid to pull on your mud boots for a tromp in the spring woods!

Happy Spring!

Heidi Babb

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