Tadpole Time

Spring peeper frogs are one of the earliest sounds of spring in the Ozarks. Their calls indicate the beginning of tadpole time.

Frogs definitely disprove the quiet country myth. Spring peepers are only the beginning of the frog chorus that extends into early summer.

As different frogs and toads join the chorus, others drop out. The chorus changes song mostly in pitch.

This year a new voice joined the chorus for a few nights. We debated whether we heard a bird or a frog or ? It was a constant loud trill.

American Toad tadpoles provide tadpole time in a rain barrel
I think this an American Toad tadpole. It’s living in a rain barrel with lots of its siblings. These tadpoles don’t quietly eat or sun around the edges of the barrel. These tadpoles swim around and across the barrel.

Our road crew had seen a need for a shallow pond in the road across from the barn. In the morning I noticed some long strings in this muddy, ephemeral (We hope.) pond. On closer inspection these turned out to be eggs encased in clear slime, a hallmark of frog and toad eggs.

The trilling was from American toads. These are common here, but rarely seen. They like moist, shady places and are nocturnal.

Cars regularly drive by splashing through this pond tossing up fine clay mud which was coating the slime over the eggs. The slime protects the eggs and must let oxygen through. Mud defeats both purposes. I moved the eggs to some rain barrels.

Most of the eggs didn’t survive the mud. One barrel now hosts toad tadpoles. They are lively things speeding around and across the barrel.

grey treefrog tadpole
Grey treefrogs love some of the rain barrels around the house. They sit on the edges calling. A week later small tadpoles appear. By midsummer the tadpoles become tiny treefrogs and hop away.

Tree frogs now make up the chorus around the house. They like the rain barrels. Every year one or more discovers sitting in the end of the drain pipe amplifies their sound.

Tadpole time now includes three rain barrels full of tree frog tadpoles. This complicates mosquito control. I go by with an aquarium fish net and sweep mosquito larvae up. Dumped on the ground the larvae dry up and die. It doesn’t make much of a dent in mosquito populations in a wet year like this one, but I have to try. I don’t want to sweep up the tadpoles.

The tree frogs are selective about the barrels. There are nine scattered around the house. They choose three or four evidently based on temperature. They avoid those shaded most of the time or standing in the sun most of the time.

tadpole time includes bullfrogs in the creek
A jumble of rocks, cement and broken cement blocks give these bullfrog tadpoles good places to hide or sit out sunning. These hatched last year and are getting big, four to six inches long. They may become bullfrogs this year.

Down by the creek bridge I found evidence of more tadpole time. We hear the bullfrogs and the green frogs down along the creek. This year I came across some bullfrog tadpoles. They were from last year judging by their size.

Frog calling time becomes tadpole time. This summer tadpole time will become baby frog time. There will be plenty of mosquitoes for them to eat this year.

Frog and toad tadpoles aren’t the only ones in the ponds. Meet the spotted salamander tadpoles in Exploring the Ozark Hills.