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Posts Tagged ‘frog ponds’

Those of you that have been following along here at the blog know that I have been photographing frogs and toads in vernal ponds found in an abandoned cattle pasture behind my home for a number of years. Vernal ponds are temporary pools of water that are critical habitat relied upon by frogs and toads as breeding sites every spring. Each and every spring chorusing frogs and toads would filled the air with song. Late last fall, the land which was zoned for agriculture was sold to an industrious farmer who promptly cleared every tree that lined the plots of land and then plowed the land. By plowing the land the farmer wiped out much of the frog and toad population in the immediate vicinity of my rural home.

As the temperatures began to warm this spring I would listen intently from my back deck listening for the songs of chorus frogs, which are always the first frogs to emerge from hibernation. A couple of weeks ago I heard the calls of one or two individuals. As the temperatures warmed further, the calls of the chorus frogs should have been incredibly loud, but not so. One or two individuals was all I ever heard. Last week the final nail in the coffin was delivered to this field as a farm drainage company arrived and tiled the field to drain the land, making it suitable for the planting of crops.

No longer will I hear or photograph the seven species of frogs that would breed in these ponds, or the snapping turtle that would come to gorge on the frog’s eggs. No longer will I see the chimney crayfish that would rise from beneath the ground on wet nights, or the bizarre insect larvae that depend on such habitats, and the fairy shrimps will no longer dance through their watery world.

This field had been laying fallow since 1975, but was always zoned for agriculture. I honestly feel that all agricultural lands that are left unattended to for such lengthy periods of time should undergo environmental assessments prior to turning the soil for agricultural purposes again.

Amphibians are the most threatened species on Earth, mostly due to habitat destruction, global warming, and the deadly chytrid fungus. We are responsible for each and every one of these that affect the world’s amphibian population.

Below you will see a selection of photos showing the tile drainage being buried. The field is so wet and soggy that a backhoe was need to pull the tile plow through the muck and frequently it looked as though the backhoe would flip into the soft muck of the field. In the first image below you will see the before and after versions of my favorite pond. The before image was photographed in the spring of 2012 and the after image was taken last night. In both images if you look on the left side you will see the abandoned barn. In the before image the barn is hidden slightly by the tree-line.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

Before and After Frog Pond

Before and After

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Backhoe tipping into pond while pulling tile plow through

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Tractor driving through pond with weeping tile spool

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View of the pond from the road after tiling – the level has dropped significantly

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Draining Away

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Goodbye

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While they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, Six-spotted Fishing Spiders are often found in frog ponds and they are very easy, and they are usually rather co-operative photographic subjects. While out in the ponds it is hard to pass up such interesting and cool looking critters that are easily photographed. In fact, last year several of the spider images I captured while photographing frogs and toads were featured in a children’s nature magazine, and one of the images was used as a double-page spread. Such ‘b-roll’ images also help to tell the story of life in the frog pond. A simple set-up of camera, macro lens, and a small flash on a user friendly flash bracket such as the Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket to hold the flash out over the lens will do the trick every time. To read more about this set-up please refer to my earlier blog post regarding this set-up here.

Most often Six-spotted Fishing Spiders will rest on the water’s surface with their back legs hanging onto a cattail leaf or other vegetation on the surface of the pond. If my approach is to quick they will usually follow a cattail stem down to the bottom of the pond and rise to the surface again once they think the danger has passed. These very interesting spiders will frequently prey upon tadpoles and aquatic insect larvae. The first image below you will notice a small tadpole clinging to the cattail leaf beside one of the spider’s legs. In the above image note how the spider was positioned within the frame, so that the front legs are extending out into the two lower corners of the image to help create some symmetrical balance for the spider’s body being centered within the composition. Below you will see three additional images of Six-spotted Spiders including one carrying an egg sac.

Please click on each image to view a much larger version of these very interesting arachnids.

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After a wild wind and rain storm yesterday the skies cleared and the temperature stayed relatively warm throughout the night. Perfect conditions for resuming my frog pond adventures. Every year when I venture out in to the vernal ponds ( created by melting snow and rainfall) in the 40 acre, abandoned cattle pasture behind my home I wonder if I will see the turtle again. The turtle is a snapping turtle, one of the largest I have ever seen. Last night we crossed paths while I was stalking the chorusing frogs. Since I was wearing my chest waders I sat down beside the turtle and waited for it to come up for air. When it did I captured the above image. I was rather glad to be wearing my chest waders as there were numerous bloodsuckers on the turtle, as can be seen in the photo, and many swimming among the grasses. I have absolutely no idea where this turtle goes once it leaves these ponds, it will leave in about a month or two, but every year it returns to hibernate here and for the last 14 years we cross paths in the ponds. I sat with this old friend for about half an hour and also had the opportunity to photograph a Giant Water Bug that was no doubt feasting on the bloodsuckers. I was also able to find a few cooperative frogs. The toads have just begun to arrive at the ponds, so they should commence chorusing in the coming days.

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Giant Water Bug

Green Frog

Spring Peeper with vocal sac inflated

Wood Frog with vocal sacs inflated

Common Toad

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