Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wetland 101

Not all wetlands are created equal; a pond is not a vernal pool.

To better understand the reason not all "ponds" are the same, one must look at the life cycle of a frog.  Sure, why not?  Who knows more about wet places than a frog?

 A recent walk at Byers Woods, an Ashland County Park District property south of Ashland, made the difference abundantly clear. 
This is a pond.  It was silent. 
Fishermen gather here for a little catch-and-release sportsmanship. (You wouldn't really want to eat fish caught at a landfill's drainage pond, would you?)  It is a great place to watch Tree Swallows and dragonflies in the summer time.  But, it is quiet.

 This is a vernal pool; the mid-morning  frog chorus was at a deafening roar.

The very definition of  vernal pool is a "springtime" pool.  It is short lived, or ephemeral.  In other words, it drys up in the summertime and has NO FISH population.  Frogs don't like to lay their eggs where fish live.  Fish eat tadpoles, the larval stage of a frog.  Simple.  Vernal pools are where frogs gather to lay eggs, and tadpoles grow quickly into baby frogs, before the pond drys.

 Northern Spring Peeper is no bigger than the first joint of your thumb.  This tiny denizen of the swamp shrieks a high pitched, "Peep-peep-peep."  You'll know him in a heart beat. If you hear one calling, you'll probably hear many more.

The scientific name is Pseudacris crucifer crucifer.  Think of crucifer, as in "cross".  This tiny frog has a cross on its back.                                    X- marks the spot for Spring Peeper!
Western Chorus Frog, Pseudacris triseriata

Western Chorus frog is known by the stripes running down its back.  The photo (by Warren Uxley)  shows those markings on this regularly occuring Ohio frog.  Chorus Frog's call is commonly described as someone running their thumb against the teeth of a comb.

Get out there and enjoy this warmer spring weather and the call of the spring frogs.  They don't mind if it is rainy, and neither should you!  In fact, warm rainy nights are the best time to visit these vernal pools. 

Special thanks to Warren Uxley for use of the last two frog photos, which portray them in full song.


  1. Our woodlands are full of tiny pools. Last night was deafening with Peepers, Mountain chorus frogs, American toads and a bit of Woodcock chiming in. This was a nice article on the subject.

  2. All the good things I didn't know about frogs. You give a simple lesson on how to identify frogs.

  3. Thanks for your simple, straight-forward explanation, Now I get it!

  4. Glad to be of assistance! These little frogs mature quickly, and can utilize ephemeral ponds.

    Big frogs, like a bullfrog, make take 2 years for a tadpole to become adult. They have to use the year round ponds, and hope they have plenty of places to hide from fish.