Another sign of spring: Fun facts about the Pacific tree frog

This time of year, chorus frogs can be heard singing for a mate in evenings and mornings.

After having so much fun in last week’s column writing about robins, I thought, let’s explore tree frogs. Turns out there are a lot of interesting facts about these amphibians.

This time of year, as the night temps reach up into the mid-40s and lower 50s, one can hear a cacophony coming from the local watering hole (or even a puddle, for that matter). I noticed this at 5 a.m. on my way to the YMCA. The familiar sounds — which, by the way, Hollywood has immortalized — were coming from our native Pacific tree frog, also more properly referred to as a chorus frog.

In the evenings and early mornings during these early months of spring, the male chorus frog makes his way down from the trees to a wet area, such as a pond, and starts his mating call to attract a suitable mate. This call also attracts other male chorus frogs as well, and it isn’t long before there is a whole army (yes, this is the proper name for a bunch of frogs) belting out their love songs, in hopes of an evening tryst with some lovely lady frog.

The females prefer the larger frogs, presumably due to their more resonate sounding croaks, but in the end I suspect even the little guys find love.

Once the marriage vows have been recited, so to speak, instead of the male carrying his bride over the threshold, he climbs onto her back. She then carries him into the pond, where she deposits her eggs on some aquatic vegetation and he releases his sperm onto the egg mass. One female can lay up to 1,250 eggs in a year.

Those eggs hatch in a couple of weeks and become tadpoles with gills and fins. After several more weeks, the juveniles emerge from the water with lungs and legs. During this time they are preyed upon by mammals, birds, insects and snakes, just to name just a few. Obviously, enough of them survive to keep the race going.

Chorus frogs can be recognized by the cute mask that runs beneath their eyes much like a raccoon. They are usually green or brown, but they can change their colors quickly — a process that is related to temperature and moisture in the air rather than the background, like with reptiles.

They keep their skin moist by secreting a waxy coating, which helps them survive during dry periods. Toe pads on their front and hind toes enable them to climb in search of insects.

The Pacific chorus frog has a habitat range all the way from Canada down to Mexico, and from sea level to 11,000 feet. They can even be found on the east side of the mountains. We find them ocassionally our gardens under rocks or leaves, but also up in our shrubs and trees. If you are lucky enough to find one, please respect it by not applying pesticides and keeping some moisture around.

Attracting frogs to the garden is a benefit to both them and you. They get a nice habitat in your yard, while you get some pest control — they eat insects that can be harmful to your plants.

Along with being beneficial creatures, these tree frogs are part of that experiencing nature and are a gardener’s friend. So cheers to you, tree frogs, for enhancing our gardens.

And remember, once this mating season is over, the noise will settle down just like those darn robins.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Spring lawn care

Attend a free class on how to get your lawn ready for spring 10 a.m. March 24 or 11 a.m. March 25 at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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