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Posts Tagged ‘vernal ponds’

Spring Peeper Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Flash Bracket

Spring Peeper
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Flash Bracket

 

About one and a half weeks ago the temperatures around my home warmed up enough to lure the first frogs out of hibernation and into the vernal ponds to chorus. As usual I grabbed my chest waders and jumped into the pond. The first frogs to emerge around my home are the Chorus Frogs, Spring Peeper, and Wood Frog. I had great success with each of these species, including an interesting encounter whereby two male Wood Frogs had mistaken a pair of Spring Peepers, in amplexus, as potential mates. I was also able to locate my first ever pair of Chorus Frogs in amplexus. A couple of nights ago the temperatures rose high enough to bring out the Northern Leopard Frogs (I was able to photograph an awesome grayish-brown phase specimen), which filled the night air with their guttural snore-like song. The American Toads have also emerged, but have yet to start singing. With the next several nights destined to be cooler than normal, with the risk of snow flurries, the ponds will go silent again until things warm up again. Here are a few of my newest images from my outings to the vernal ponds this season.

You may notice in some of these images that my ISO was set at 400. This was my bad as my default setting is always ISO 100 for such imagery. This is a reminder to me to remember to double check my camera settings each time I head out to the ponds. The iTTL flash ensured correct flash exposure even though I forgot to reduce the ISO from 400 down to 100.

Chorus Frogs in Amplexus Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec  Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Chorus Frogs in Amplexus
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frogs grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frogs Grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frogs grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micor Lens ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec. Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frogs Grasping onto Spring Peepers in Amplexus (the second Wood Frog and Spring Peeper are beneath the water in this capture)
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 400, f22 @ 1/60 sec.
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Wood Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

Wood Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberley F-2 Macro Bracket

 

Northern Leopard Frog Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

Northern Leopard Frog
Nikon D800, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens
ISO 100, f22 @ 1/60 sec
Nikon SB400 Speedlight on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket

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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

Habitat Destruction_7167

Backhoe tipping into pond while pulling tile plow through

Habitat Destruction_7125

Tractor driving through pond with weeping tile spool

Habitat Destruction_7209

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

Habitat Destruction_7134

Draining Away

Green Frog_9446

Goodbye

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The Breeding Pool


On Sunday afternoon I decided to change my routine at the frog ponds behind my home and take my four year old daughter out to investigate the ponds during daylight hours. The night-time temperatures are dipping just below the freezing mark and the frogs have stopped chorusing until the warmer weather arrives again. Above you will see a photo of the main pond in the abandoned cattle pasture behind my home. I love being able to look out over these empty fields everyday and watch the wild grasses waving in the summer breeze. This pond sure ain’t much to look at, but at night it comes alive with song. This is the pond where I photograph my Chorus Frog and Spring Peeper images and it is roughly two feet deep in the middle. The field where these ponds are located is cut and baled once per year, usually late summer, by a local farmer. In this field there are three significant ponds that are used each year by the resident frog and toad populations as breeding pools. These ponds are known as vernal ponds. Vernal ponds are often favored by many frog and toad species as there tends to be fewer predators due to the fact that vernal ponds dry-out towards the end of summer, however, there are still some predators (water beatles, turtles and snakes) that will feast on the eggs, tadpoles or frogs themselves. As it would turn out while I was wading through the pond while carrying my daughter we came upon a large Snapping Turtle, the same turtle I encounter year-after-year, that was busy eating Wood Frog eggs. This large turtle was already sporting a lovely new coat of algae on its shell. I walked my daughter back to the pond’s edge and walked back out for a couple of quick photos with my 12-24mm lens with a polarizing filter attached.

Snapping Turtle and Wood Frog eggs

 

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