Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gray Tree Frog

This little green frog hiding on the cornstalk is a Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)....I know......I sounds like a misnomer, since he is obviously green and not gray. Truly the name is correct, and so is the color. They are color change artists, and will adapt their color to blend in with their environment. They cannot change color as rapidly as a chameleon but they get the job done nonetheless.

The ones I find near the house are usually gray, and the ones I see out in the grassy areas are green.  Those found near unnatural objects or if found dead they will most likely be gray in color. They have a bright yellow patch on their hind legs. These frogs should not be confused with another native frog called the "green tree frog (Hyla cinerea)". It is also green in color, but this frog is medium-sized, up to 6 cm (2.5 in) long. Their bodies are usually green in shades ranging from bright yellowish olive to lime green. The darkness of the color can change depending on lighting or temperature. There may be small patches of gold or white on the skin, and they may also have a white, pale yellow, or cream-colored line running from the jaw or upper lip  to the groin. They have smooth skin and large toe pads. The abdomen is pale yellow to white. Males have wrinkled throats (indicating the vocal sac) and are slightly smaller than females.

This arboreal species is native to almost all of the Eastern, and Northeastern United States and part of Southeastern Canada. Males begin singing for mates in May and continue calling for several weeks. I began hearing them call about 2 weeks ago. The calling is still somewhat sporadic and hasn't reached its crescendo as of yet. It could be because of the erratic weather we've been having. Daytime temps in the 90's, then in the 50's. Overnight lows from 70 down to around 38. Crazy Missouri me if you don't like the weather wait a day, it WILL change.I'm sure all this fluctuation has them confused....Do we wake up? Do we sleep? Do we mate? Do we sing? Do we sleep? Eventually our weather will straighten out and then the super hot humid weather of summer will be here. It is at this time I see the tree frogs everywhere. They are most commonly active in the evening and at night. I find them in birdhouses, under the shutter of my home, in the gutters and clinging to the side of the house.

In Missouri the gray tree frog is found statewide and are the most commonly encountered tree frog throughout its range. They will be active all spring, summer and fall. When the night temperatures begin falling they will burrow into the soil and become dormant all winter, in a type of hibernation. Gray tree frogs do not have to burying themselves below the frost line as their "blood" is made up of a type of antifreeze called plasma glycerol. This substance prevents damage to tissues. Frogs are extremely sensitive to pollution and as such are considered indicator species. Areas with high pollution will have no frogs or very few frogs. Oxygen is breathed through their skin therefore any pollutants in the water or air will also be breathed in at alarming rates. We've all heard stories of frogs with more than two eyes, or numerous spare body parts. These mutant frogs have been heavily exposed to some kind of pollutant.

Frogs benefit humans in many ways, one of which is by being the indicator species they are. This gives us humans a "heads-up" as to what is going on in the environment, and hopefully gives us time to rectify any problems that are occurring. They also eat numerous insects, especially pesky mosquitoes and night flying moths.

I remember my husband always telling me to not handle these frogs because they are poisonous. He would insist it was true as that is what his grandpa told him, and if grandpa said it, it MUST BE TRUE! I would assure him the only way the frog was poisonous is if I suddenly decided to eat it, which of course I had no intention of doing. I also told him the frog is in more danger of being damaged by the oils or secretions on my hand, than I am in being poisoned by handling it. It never ceases to amaze me though, how rumors, myths and old wives tales run rampant in these parts.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Robin nest

Joey came and found me last week to tell me that a bird had built a nest on his 8 foot step ladder. He did not see the bird so he did not know who created it. I went to investigate and noticed a Robin sitting on the nest. She flew away when she spotted me, so I climbed the later and discovered four beautiful blue eggs. It only took her a week and a half to build the nest and lay her eggs.

I went back several days later to check on them and discovered that three of the eggs had hatched. Momma robin was sitting on the nest, while daddy robin was sitting in a tree keeping watch outside the shed.  

Fuzzy little babies waiting for mom. One little blue egg remains to hatch.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Forest is coming ALIVE

The Mayapples are beginning to bloom. At the office where I work there are two varieties, one blooms white and other pink. Until this year I did not know they smelled so heavenly, but they sure do, just like perfume!

The Jack-in-the-pulpits are nearly ready to open

The Spring Beauties have been blooming for several weeks now, they are such delicate little flowers.

The Hickory Trees are opening up

A beautiful "fishing spider" disturbed from his winter hiding spot

Galls formed on an oak leaf, some tiny little wasp laid her eggs on the leaf, and the leaf protects itself by forming a cyst over the egg. When the egg hatches, the larvae feed and grow, causing the cyst to also grow. 

Unknown peach-colored mushrooms

Wild Phlox growing beside a log. The spring flower is blooming all over the woodlands right now.

Morel--the treasure of the woods!

Wild plum is one of the first trees to bloom in the spring, which gives nectar to hungry bees just waking up from their winters sleep.

I believe these purple violets are Birdsfoot violets. They sure make the forest

Anywhere there are paw-paws growing in the forest, you are sure to find this gorgeous Zebra Swallowtail.

Snakes, like this little garter snake hide out on cooler days in the spring. This one was hidden behind the bark of a rotting tree.

You may find other unexpected surprises like a five-lined skink. These little guys hide out under logs and under the bark of trees. This one was living with the garter snake pictured above.

An empty snail shell, left behind.

An Eastern Comma Butterfly looking a little worse-for-wear after a long winter. 

Exploring the woodlands in the spring is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. Everything is waking up after a long winters nap. Wildflowers are beginning to blooms, trees are leafing out and the creatures who live there are becoming active. Don't miss out....get outside and EXPLORE!