The Call of Springtime- Utah’s frogs and toads

The Call of Springtime- Utah’s frogs and toads: Click to view larger image of , Photo Courtesy US FWS, Katherine Whittemore, Photographer
Single Chorus Frog
Photo Courtesy US FWS
Katherine Whittemore, Photographer

Click to view larger image of Columbia Spotted Frog, Photo Courtesy US FWS
Columbia Spotted Frog
Photo Courtesy US FWS

Click to view larger image of Woodhouse’s toad, Photo Courtesy US FWS, Gary M. Stolz, Photographer
Woodhouse’s toad
Photo Courtesy US FWS
Gary M. Stolz, Photographer

Hi, this is Mark Larese-Casanova from the Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.

For me, nothing rings in the arrival of spring like a chorus of frogs and toads at the nearby wetlands. Male frogs and toads emerge from hibernation in spring to establish territories along the edges of wetlands, and the females return to find mates and lay eggs.

The most common native frog that can be heard in spring is the western, or boreal, chorus frog. It’s our western equivalent of the spring peeper in the east. The call of this tiny frog is unmistakable- just run your fingernail along the teeth of a comb.

[boreal chorus frog call]Courtesy Western Soundscape Library Copyright 2009 Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections

The introduction of the American bullfrog west of the Rocky Mountains has contributed to declines in native amphibian populations. Adult bullfrogs are voracious eaters, consuming nearly anything that will fit in their mouths. Other tadpoles, smaller frogs, insects, and even mice make a tasty meal for a bullfrog. Their great ability to outcompete native frogs has contributed to their abundance among Utah’s wetlands statewide. Their low, humming call seems to fill the air in springtime.

[bullfrog call]Courtesy Western Soundscape Library Copyright 2006 Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections

Northern leopard frogs were once quite common in Utah, but it’s thought that they are in decline. As one of the largest native frogs, it has perhaps suffered the most from competition with bullfrogs. Still, leopard frogs can be found throughout Utah. Keep an ear out for their low tapping call.

[northern leopard frog call]Courtesy Western Soundscape Library Copyright 2005 Gary Nafis

The two most common toads in Utah are Woodhouse’s toad and the Great Basin spadefoot toad. Since toads are usually more terrestrial than frogs, they can often be found further away from water. The call of Woodhouse’s toad is enough to put anyone on edge in the middle of the night!

[Woodhouse’s toad call] Courtesy Western Soundscape Library Copyright 2005 Gary Nafis

Spadefoot toads are very common at lower elevations in Utah’s deserts. But, they spend most of their time buried in the soil, emerging to breed only during spring and summer rainstorms.

[spadefoot toad call] Courtesy Western Soundscape Library Copyright 2005 Gary Nafis

Less-common species include the boreal toad and Columbia spotted frog among wetlands in the mountains, and southern Utah is home to the canyon treefrog and red-spotted toad.

The best time to listen for frogs and toads is just after sunset in an area close to water. To learn more about Utah’s frogs and toads, and to join a volunteer frog monitoring program, get connected with Utah’s Chapter FrogWatch USA on Facebook, or visit wildaboututah.org.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Mark Larese-Casanova.
Credits:

Images: Courtesy US FWS images.fws.gov

Text:     Mark Larese-Casanova, Utah Master Naturalist Program at Utah State University Extension.
Additional Reading:

Utah Conservation Data Center http://dwrcdc.nr.utah.gov/ucdc/

FrogWatch USA. Field Guide for Northern Utah. Utah’s Chapter FrogWatch USA. Suzanne Zgraggen (szgraggen [at] hoglezoo.org)

http://www.aza.org/frogwatch/

http://www.aza.org/frogs-in-utah/

 

USA National Phenology Network

Courtesy USA National Phenology Network

The study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events is phenology. It is the calendar of nature. This includes when plants flower, when birds migrate and when crops mature. Phenology is relevant to interactions between organisms, seasonal timing and large-scale cycles of water and carbon. Phenology is important to us for many reasons. Farmers need to know when to plant and harvest crops and when to expect pests to emerge. Resource managers use it to monitor and predict drought and assess fire risk. Vacationers want to know when the best fall colors will be or when the wildflower blooms will peak. Timing varies but we can discern patterns.

The USA National Phenology Network monitors the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals and landscapes. They encourage people to observe phenological events such as flowering, migrations and egg laying. The Phenology Network provides a place to enter, store and share these observations, which are then compiled and analyzed nationwide. Participants range from individual observers in their own backyards to professional scientists monitoring long-term plots. My husband and I monitor leafing and flowering of lilacs, a key species in the program.

These observations support a wide range of decisions made routinely by citizens, managers, scientists and others. This includes decisions related to allergies, wildfires, pest control, and water management.

I urge you to participate. The National Phenology Network has many public, private and citizen partners. It is a great way to become involved in a nation-wide effort to better understand our environment. All this information and much more is available at the National Phenology website, to which there is a link from our Wild About Utah website.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Text: Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading:

USA National Phenology Network, http://www.usanpn.org/

North American Bird Phenology Program, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bpp/BecomeAParticipant.cfm

The Mysterious Salamander

The Mysterious Salamander: Tiger salamander egg mass, Copyright 2009 Jason Jones, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Tiger salamander egg mass
Copyright 2009 Jason Jones
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Salamanders have long been a source of mystery for humans and their name reflects some of this mystique. The word salamander has its roots in an Arab-Persian word meaning ‘lives in fire’, reflecting an early belief that salamanders could walk through fire unscathed. Mentioned by Aristotle, Aesop, and Shakespeare, this myth likely arose from salamanders that fled the fireplace once their cozy home in the woodpile was disturbedThe Mysterious Salamander

Utah is home to only one of the world’s more than 500 salamander species. Our tiger salamanders can live in a multitude of different habitats, so long as there is access to fresh water. Because of their need to stay moist, salamanders live a life often hidden from view – spending much of their time underneath rocks, leaves, and other debris. But in early spring, these unique creatures become more active and leave their homes in search of a mate.

Long-toed salamander larvae
in an egg
Copyright 2007 Jason JonesUtah Division of Wildlife Resources

The salamander lifecycle is similar to that of a frog. Eggs are laid in a pond or other source of still water, and hatch into larvae called efts, which look quite like their frog counterpart, the tadpole. After spending a few weeks in the larval stage, individuals metamorphose into an adult.

While modern science has debunked a lot of salamander myths one big mystery still remains. Not all salamanders undergo metamorphosis to become what we recognize as an adult salamander. Some remain in the larval form their entire life, and are even able to reproduce as larvae. This phenomenon, called paedomorphism, has been documented in a number of salamander species, and scientists don’t really understand why or how it happens. Some speculate that the ability to morph or not helps salamanders overcome environmental challenges, such as competition for resources, lack of water, or increased predation.

Tiger salamander eft
Copyright 2007 Jason Jones
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Unfortunately, this amazing adaptation has not helped salamanders overcome recent decreases in population that baffled scientists for many years. At one time mysterious, scientists now understand that salamanders are some of the first species to show the effects of pollution in their environment. Now that this particular salamander mystery has been solved, these animals are playing an increasingly important role in determining ecosystem health which may help save many other species.

For more information and photographs of tiger salamanders, please visit our website at www.wildaboututah.org. Thank you to the Rocky Mountain Power Foundation for supporting the research and development of this Wild About Utah topic.

Adult tiger salamander
Copyright 2002 Richard Fridell
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

For the Stokes Nature Center and Wild About Utah, this is Andrea Liberatore.

Credits:

Photos:

Courtesy & Copyright Jason Jones, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Courtesy & Copyright Richard Fridell, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Courtesy & Copyright Krissy Wilson, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Text: Andrea Liberatore, Stokes Nature Center

Adult tiger salamander,
Copyright 2002 Krissy Wilson
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Additional Reading:

Donel, M., Joly, P., Whiteman, H.H. 2005. Evolutionary Ecology of Facultative Paedomorphosis in Newts and Salamanders. Biological Review 80 663-671,

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1017
/S1464793105006858/abstract

Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Second Edition. 2003. Volume 6: Amphibians. Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale, http://www.amazon.com/Grzimeks-Animal-Life-Encyclopedia-Amphibians/dp/0787657824

Stebbins, Robert C. 2003. Peterson Field Guides: Western Reptiles and Amphibians, Third Edition. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company., http://www.amazon.com/Field-Western-Reptiles-Amphibians-Peterson/dp/0395982723

Whiteman, Howard H. 1994. Evolution of Facultative Paedomorphosis in Salamanders. The Quarterly Review of Biology 69(2) 205-220, http://www.jstor.org/pss/3037717

USA National Phenology Network

Audio:  mp3 Listen to WildAboutUtah

Courtesy USA National Phenology Network

The study of recurring plant and animal life cycle events is phenology. It is the calendar of nature. This includes when plants flower, when birds migrate and when crops mature. Phenology is relevant to interactions between organisms, seasonal timing and large-scale cycles of water and carbon. Phenology is important to us for many reasons. Farmers need to know when to plant and harvest crops and when to expect pests to emerge. Resource managers use it to monitor and predict drought and assess fire risk. Vacationers want to know when the best fall colors will be or when the wildflower blooms will peak. Timing varies but we can discern patterns.

The USA National Phenology Network monitors the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals and landscapes. They encourage people to observe phenological events such as flowering, migrations and egg laying. The Phenology Network provides a place to enter, store and share these observations, which are then compiled and analyzed nationwide. Participants range from individual observers in their own backyards to professional scientists monitoring long-term plots. My husband and I monitor leafing and flowering of lilacs, a key species in the program.

These observations support a wide range of decisions made routinely by citizens, managers, scientists and others. This includes decisions related to allergies, wildfires, pest control, and water management.

I urge you to participate. The National Phenology Network has many public, private and citizen partners. It is a great way to become involved in a nation-wide effort to better understand our environment. All this information and much more is available at the National Phenology website, to which there is a link from our Wild About Utah website.

This is Linda Kervin for Bridgerland Audubon Society.

Credits:

Text: Linda Kervin, Bridgerland Audubon Society
Additional Reading:

USA National Phenology Network, http://www.usanpn.org/

North American Bird Phenology Program, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bpp/BecomeAParticipant.cfm