Ask the Nature Lady by Marlene A. Condon

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If you want to learn about frogs and toads, you should buy a copy of “A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia” from the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries e-store for $10.00. (3.dgif.virginia.gov/estore)
If you want to learn about frogs and toads, you should buy a copy of “A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia” from the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries e-store for $10.00. (3.dgif.virginia.gov/estore)

New Guide to Frogs and Toads of Virginia

Spring is the time of year when you can readily learn about frogs and toads.  Because these amphibians (animals that spend a part of their lives in water and part of it on land) start to call in spring, you can take advantage of the sounds they make to try to locate them.

Always move slowly in the direction of a calling animal in order to avoid scaring it away.  If you own “butterfly” binoculars (binocs that can focus much nearer than those used for bird watching), you won’t need to get as close to study an animal’s markings.

Once you’ve gotten a good view, you might want to have “A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia” on hand.  This 44-page guide that was just published in 2011 by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is simply wonderful for identification purposes as well as for learning about the lives of these critters.

It’s filled with superb photographs of all 27 species of frogs and toads found in Virginia.  Shaded maps let you know at a glance whether the animal is indeed found where you are looking.

An extra-special addition to the guide is a CD tucked into a plastic pocket on the inside back cover.  If you listen to it in advance of field trips to learn the calls that frogs and toads make, you can identify them by sound even if you don’t get to actually view them.

And to learn as much as possible about frogs and toads, you should take a cue from the last page of the booklet.  Here you can note the date of your observation, the type of habitat you were in (mountainous, fields, swamp, etc.), and record interesting or unusual observations.  You never know when you might see something that is not known to scientists.

  For example, the booklet tells us that Wood Frogs breed from February to April when the temperature is about 50 degrees.  But I’ve been keeping notes about these frogs for well over a decade now and my experience has been that it would be highly unusual for Wood Frogs to mate when it’s that warm.  These are cold-weather animals that typically mate when the temperature is only in the 40s.

I’ve even heard a male Wood Frog calling in my front yard for several minutes when the thermometer measured only 35.3 degrees!  This took place on January 20, 2010, about 10:24 PM when it was raining and quite cold.

This kind of information is absolutely fascinating and provides new insight to the lives of these animals.

Naturalist Marlene A. Condon is the author/photographer of The Nature-friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Plants, Wildlife, and People (Stackpole Books; information at www.marlenecondon.com).  If you have a question about plants or animals, or gardening in a nature-friendly manner, send it to [email protected] and please watch for an answer in this paper.