Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's at the Pond?

My kids love the cemetery. Weird, right? It's actually a beautiful green place with two ponds loaded with life. We're there sometimes two days a week checking for exciting new developments both in the water and on land. It's a great place to bird watch. Our bird list includes Baltimore orioles, red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks, mergansers, mallards, geese and king birds.

For the past two months, the ponds at West Parish Cemetery have been coming to life. When we stopped by in March hoping to glimpse egg masses, we were disappointed. Thick slabs of ice still floated on the surface, hiding any signs of life underneath. April and May, however, brought an explosion of pond creatures.

The green frogs, in particular, have been busy. This is green frog spawn, found in large sheets in the shallow water near the edges of the pond. Each tiny black dot hatches within 3-4 days, releasing a tadpole into a watery world. The egg mass can contain 1,000+ eggs.

My children and I took a few eggs home and watched the comma-shaped embryos grow and wriggle within the round globs of jelly. This picture was taken within the first days after the tadpoles emerged.

Here you can see the frilly gills on either side of their heads.

This two week old tadpole is using its raspy mouth to scrape bits of algae from the edge of the container. The tadpoles may metamorphose this season or overwinter in the pond and become adults next year. Here's one well on its way with back legs already developing. These larger tadpoles look very funny "standing" in the shallows on their fully developed hind legs.

Green frogs (Rana clamitans melanota) are common in the Northeast. The cemetery pond is a perfect breeding ground - a still, constant water source. The frogs breed from March through August, with the males arriving first to claim the best spots and entice females with their calls. Hear the male green frog's "come hither" call by clicking on this link: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/topics/frogCalls.html
Male green frogs can be identified by a large ear drum or tympanum which is bigger than their eye. Adult males also have a pale yellow throat. This guy has found himself a nice raft.

These green frogs feast on a multitude of insects and often bask on the side of the pond. Some actually refuse to move from their warm spots and don't seem to mind being gently stroked on the back.

No comments:

Post a Comment