Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Tiny Frog

At least three times each day I walk around the yard, a jar partly filled with soapy water in hand. I pause at the beaked hazelnut, the wild raspberries, the comfry -- all the plants visited and favored by Japanese beetles. I push, cajole, or drop the beetles into the container. So far, I've collected a couple hundred beetles. I prefer this manual treatment for a pesky invader to the use of chemicals. It is direct, safe, and effective.

When I walk about with the jar in hand my search image is focused on these shiny green and rust colored beetles. This afternoon I was on my usual saunter through the backyard flicking a few beetles into the jar from a raspberry bush, when I noticed a small tan blur out of the corner of my eye. At first it looked like a piece of dead leaf. Fortunately I was carrying my reading glasses, which are essential if I want to identify anything small. Otherwise it really is a blur.

To my great surprise and delight it was a spring peeper. Less than an inch in length, this tiny frog was barely bigger than my thumb nail.  I rushed back inside for the camera. The peeper sat patiently while I snapped pictures.

I returned about an hour later and the peeper was still there, although it had shifted positions; perhaps an insect or other potential meal wandered by. It was not until I downloaded the pictures that I noticed the "daddy longlegs" nearby; look to the left and behind the peeper in the photo below. This looks like a harvestman  -- an arachnid but not a true spider. Spiders make up nearly 50 percent of a spring peeper's diet and harvestmen are also a food item. I hoped the little frog was also eyeing the Japanese beetles, but maybe those are not on the peeper's menu.

For such a tiny amphibian, the springer peeper emits a very loud peep. They are loud in spring, but quiet down during the summer. The spring peeper has relatively smooth skin compared to its close relative the gray treefrog. The skin color varies from brown to gray and the peeper can rapidly change colors depending on the background. I must say that this peeper resting on the raspberry leaf was a beautiful light tan with a silvery sheen. The X pattern on its back -- a key identifying feature -- was subtle.

The spring peeper is a "treefrog" and has large toe pads to help in climbing.

By the time Srini arrived home at 6:30 pm the tiny peeper had moved on. Surely it could not have gone far on those little legs.

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