Most people do not have an opportunity to commune with frogs and their allies, but leave it to children to find and play with them. I would guess if frogs didn’t hop, revealing their presence, most children would never find them. But they do hop, their primary method to escape both playful children and serious predators, such as raccoons, fox, weasels, mink, otters, and owls. Frogs are designed for an aquatic environment; they are strong swimmers with muscular back legs and webbed feet, impervious skin, and their body’s ability to change chemically when ambient temperature falls below freezing.
The largest of our residents are bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana, and I would also guess almost everyone at some time has heard the loud basso profundo mating call of the male sounding from a quiet pond at dusk. The males are easily distinguished from females by their exceptionally large tympanic membrane covering their ears. Bullfrogs are ferocious feeders, are cannibalistic, and may eat small mammals, birds, snakes, turtles, fish, field mice, frogs of competing species, and even smaller bullfrogs.
Of all frog species, I am attracted to the green frog, Rana clamitans, because of its vocalization, similar to a banjo “twang” or “plunk.” Green frogs are commonly found in wet grass or shallow ponds.
The Northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens, has green to brown skin identified by large dark circular spots bordered by a light ring.
The mink frog, Rana septentrionalis, is generally greenish-brown with bright green lips. Its call reminds me of a hammer repeatedly striking wood.
The wood frog, Rana sylvatica, is always not far from water and is recognized by its mask. It’s the first frog to breed in spring and its call reminds me of ducks quacking.
The Northern pickerel frog, Rana palustris, has smooth tan skin, a distinguishing yellow belly, and yellow inside its legs; it is also distinguished by parallel rows of roundish spots down its back.
The gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor, has the ability to change color with its background and may be colored from brown to green. I had one crawl up my pant leg onto my chest and return to a flower box on my deck.
The American toad, Bufo americanus, is a garden favorite for eating insects, especially bean beetles, slugs, etc.
(Reader observations or comments are welcome. Write: Nature Notes, 35 Schooner St. #103, Damariscotta, ME 04543. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 563-3578.)