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What is That … a Frog or a Toad?

The Millstone,
Carolyn and Bruce Waddell,
April 9 2016

The laughing of the loon, the buzzing of the insects, and the singing of the frogs are all sounds that evoke the cottage. As complex as an orchestra, the sounds of nature serenade us at dawn and in the evening. This includes the croaking, rebitting, and pipping of various frogs and toads. But which frogs? Which toads?

One welcome harbinger of spring is the singing of the spring peeper which is a tree frog found at White Lake. Who does not love the sound of this frog as it heralds spring? Have you heard it yet? Because its weight must be carried by the branches of its home, a tree frog is tiny. The spring peeper we know and love measures only 3.8 centimetres in length and weighs less than 5 grams. Although for years we listened to spring peepers announce the end of winter, neither of us had ever seen one, until late one afternoon last summer as we drove into the cottage lane, and something fell from above … splat … onto the car windshield. It was a strange-looking beast, a small frog with a pointed snout and an X on its back. What is that? Quickly, Bruce grabbed the camera and jumped from the car, while I held up a copy of The Humm to provide background. He snapped a few pictures. The frog was stunned, but apparently not harmed. It was easy to identify as a spring peeper, and we were thrilled … a new animal!

One of our favourite frogs of childhood is the northern leopard frog. We have them in abundance at White Lake. This frog averages five centimetres in length. Just like Great Aunt Carolyn did as a child, Hannah Grace and her cousins love to catch young northern leopard frogs on the cottage lawn. Possibly, the northern leopard frog is the first introduction of our family’s children to wildlife, up close and personal. We teach the children to observe, be gentle, and return the frog to the tall grasses where no one walks.

Now that we photograph every beastie that crosses our paths, we have come to identify and know two additional frogs, the green frog and the wood frog. Weighing up to 85 grams with a top length of 10 centimetres, the green frog is large with distinct eardrums and two prominent folds of skin that run partly down the back. It may be green, bronze, brown, or a combination of colours, but typically is green on the upper lip.

The fourth frog we have learned to identify at White Lake is the wood frog which may be reddish, tan or dark brown, its most distinctive field mark being a dark mask which you will always see under and behind the eyes. Wood frogs average five to seven centimetres in length. All four frogs eat all sorts of insects including flies, crickets, spiders, beetles, and grasshoppers. In turn, the frog is eaten by snakes, turtles and birds.

We have been able to identify and photograph one species of toad at the cottage, the American toad which can grow to be 7.5 centimetres in length and weigh up to 38 grams. It is a squat toad with brown, reddish or olive skin and dark blotches containing one or two spots or “warts” of various colours. People cannot get warts from touching toads. In fact, the bumps on the skin of toads are not warts at all. The “warts” on toads are one of nature’s fascinating approaches to camouflage. We do not have a problem with our great nieces and great nephews catching toads to learn more about the wildlife around them. In this picture Angie is teaching the children to be gentle, respectful and unafraid.

Frogs and toads are closely related amphibians. In general, frogs tend to be moist and smooth, while toads are dry and bumpy. Frogs prefer moist environments while toads prefer dry. Both frogs and toads lay their eggs in water where they spend the tadpole phase of their lives before metamorphosing into adults. The toad’s diet is similar to that of frogs with the exception that frogs are more likely to eat wee fishes. We love listening to the sounds of both frogs and toads. We like the Trent University site which provides sound clips of all the frogs and toads we know to be at White Lake. https://www.trentu.ca/biology/berrill/frog_calls/Frog_calls.htm

For information about frogs and toads we often refer to Ontario Nature’s site:
http://www.ontarionature.org/protect/species/reptiles_and_amphibians/#frogs
We also use: The ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario.

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