Posts Tagged ‘spring chorus’

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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Last year for whatever reason the toads that live around my home never arrived at the ponds to breed. It was sad not hearing the toads singing through the night. A void existed in the spring chorus. I am pleased to report that the toads have returned to the ponds this year and I have been busy capturing fresh images of them. With the cool wet weather we have been having the last few days there is little singing going on right now, but warmer weather is on the way in a day or two.

When shooting the frogs and toads in the shallow, vernal ponds behind my home, at night, I always wear my chest waders, an old sweater and use a headlamp as well as a small clip on flashlight. The chest waders keep me dry and relatively warm in the cold water. The old sweater also helps to keep me warm and often I am holding the camera right at the surface of the water, with my elbows deep in the water, so the sweater will keep the leeches and biting water bugs off me. The headlamp is used to search for the frogs and toads while the small clip-on flashlight goes on my home-made flash bracket and helps me focus on these critters.

Toads are my favorite amphibians to photograph. I love there expressions! Chorusing toads are probably the easiest to photograph as the vocal sac is inflated for several seconds at a time. These guys really do have one track minds at this time of year and are very tolerant of my presence in the pond. The last time I was out in the ponds, I lifted a toad in my hand and he sat there and began singing in the palm of my hand until he mistakenly thought my hand was a female toad. Yikes!

Here are a few images from my last couple of outings. Hope you like them.

In the images below, I came across several Green Frogs in the ponds.The one photographed below was busy feasting on Bloodsuckers (leeches)

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