Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update and Release of Tree Frog Tadpoles

by Donna L. Watkins

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Tadpoles Eating Algae on Sides of Bucket
Each Circular Green Leaf (Duckweed) is the Size of a Pin Head
As promised here's an update on the tadpoles I've been blessed to be able to enjoy and learn from.

The beginning of the story begins here: Eastern Gray Tree Frog Tapoles in Birdbath

It seems the little sweeties aren't growing fast enough to mature before hibernation time.  My sweet researching husband found some information that says for every two tadpoles you need a liter of water because they excrete a chemical that will cause them to stay in the tadpole stage if it gets concentrated in the water.

That would definitely be the case since my 5-gallon bucket is not adequate.  So I've been faced with the decision of what to do and have decided it best to keep a few and release the rest into the pond.  Now that I "know" them I sure had a hard time thinking of them being lunch for our green frogs ... but then I love our green frogs also, and that's the cycle of life for now on this earth.

So, on Saturday, September 11, we made the short walk to the pond.  I kept 14 of the bigger ones and blessed the rest into the "big pond" which is only 5x10 feet, but it must seem like the ocean to them.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Gray Tree Frog
When I emptied a capsule of Spirulina into the bucket for their last meal before release, I watched all those little mouths rise to the top to gobble it up.  I'm grateful to be able to raise the ones still in the bucket, but am still hoping there is time for them to grow into frogs and be released.

As I pondered the events while on the deck, I noticed that Papa Tree Frog was watching from one of his favorite daytime places ... in the eave of the deck roof in a corner.  It's amazing how he changes color to match his surroundings.

It's really nice to know he's still around to watch over his offspring.  I certainly wish I could ask advice now and then, but his croaking makes no sense to me at all, so I don't ask questions.

I'm sure we'll turn out with more tree frogs than would normally survive since very few do, which is why they lay hundreds of eggs.  I know I did the right thing but I'm sure looking forward to the earth when Jesus reigns so it can work the way it was supposed to.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins
First Tree Frog Tadpole with Back Legs
Not long after I provided more water for the remaining frogs in the bucket, they began sprouting legs.  It was quite amazing to see it happen so fast since it was only six days later, on September 17, that I saw first evidence of the legs on one of the tadpoles.  That was very encouraging.

By September 22, there were quite a few of the tadpoles showing legs and that seemed to be growing a bit wider.  I was able to get a video at this stage of the process, so you can view the movie of them giving me bubble kisses.

It also seemed as though the frog's body was growing within a covering of some sort.  I noticed when they completed the metamorphosis later, that they did indeed leave a "shell" behind.  It was split and laid on the bottom of the container in almost a square shape.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Tadpole with Front Legs
Front legs are supposed to appear about two weeks after the rear legs, so we're watching the calendar and their bellies for sprouts.  When they have front legs they climb out of the pond pretty quickly.  Tree frogs are the only ones who can literally climb out since their toe pads are built for it.  Tree frogs don't live in ponds ... they only lay eggs there and develop from tadpole to frog, so they can't survive without oxygen once they make the metamorphosis.

Other frogs need to be able to get out of the water to breathe, but need some kind of support to do so if the sides are slick.  We've had floating water lettuce in for shade and a place to hide among the roots.  I believe they eat some of the roots also.

On September 24, we had a tadpole with well-developed front legs.  I had decided to get another container with a lid to move the ones with front legs into as Stage Two in the process since they move so quickly from front legs to climb-out frogs.  So I used a plastic container that organic greens came in.  Since they are so sensitive to chemicals with their thin skin (babies and adults), I would not use one from non-organic produce without cleaning it with a non-chemical soap.  Again I used water from our pond heating it up on the deck with the daytime solar heat of the sun.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - First Tadpole to Morph Into a Tiny Tree Frog
As you see from the previous photo, that tadpole had a long tail at 3 PM when the photo was taken.  By evening, he was on the side of the container ready for release with only a stub of a tail.  Amazing!  He was so tiny but ready to face the big world.  I taped a ruler on the end of the container where he had climbed up and noticed he was only about a 1/2 inch square.  They grow 1-1/2 to 2 inches long.

So tiny yet so well developed.  Like a baby with all those miniature toes and nails.  Absolutely wonderful the gifts of God to us and the natural world around us.

You could see him breathing and his belly was so transparent that you could see a resemblance to body organs.  His toe pads were like dots from a pencil point.  It was a little wonder of the world right in our living room.  So brave, so ready for life outside of the water, with enough courage to forge his own path somewhere outside our doors.

Would he/she stay in the area?  Would she/he know me when I spoke or when he saw me bend over a pot he might be taking his daytime nap in?

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Gray Tree Frog Ready For Release
After all bees can recognize faces, which really isn't surprising since they seem to know which flowers they've been to and maybe where the ones are with the best nectar.

So ... will "my" tree frogs return to the deck they enjoyed getting warmed on? They thrive in a temperature range of 68-75 degrees. The Papa that has returned year after year.  Eastern Gray Tree Frogs are supposed to live 7 to 9 years.

CAUTIONS:  Use extreme caution when holding frogs. It is best to grasp their shoulder blades (or scapulae) with your thumb and forefinger. Be careful not to squeeze their abdominal area. Touch frogs only with wet hands that have been cleaned of all sunscreens or insect repellants, which can kill frogs, tadpoles, or eggs.


On September 25, I released this first frog into a pot of heritage petunias on the deck.  It had plenty of bugs in it and it was a shaded place for the tree frog to spend the day.  They are nocturnal feeders.  Again, we never use chemicals on our plants, so consider that if you release a frog.  Place it in an area that will not have chemicals.  Amphibians are an indicator species for pollution since they will not survive it, so the populations get totally wiped out of a toxic area.

© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - First Tree Frog Release Into Heritage Petunias
If you have chemicals in all areas of your yard, please consider releasing the tree frog in a forested area.  You always need to keep in mind the habitat that the animal will need.  Tree frogs need trees and woods to find insects to eat.  They live on bugs and worms, not aquatic things like pond-dwelling frogs.

Their scientific name is Hyla versicolor because they blend in with their surroundings, as was seen with the Papa frog above. The coloring can be anything from a mottled grayish green or solid green to a gray or creamy white color. The inner thighs on the hind legs of all gray tree frogs are yellow or bright orange.

The process took almost eight weeks for the first frog. I had 13 more frogs to go. At least I was now confident that they were progressing normally and they would be able to be released before it was too cold. Some gray treefrogs spend the winter in a partially frozen state under leaf litter, rocks and logs. I will be wondering where all my tree frogs are wintering over.

One thing that will shorten their lives are predators.  In the midst of all I was doing with the tree frogs, I came out of the garage door the same day as the release to find a young snake wrapped around an Eastern Gray Tree Frog.  I was mortified!  I instantly thought of it as being the Papa and how awful to release an offspring on the same day as his death.  


© 2010 Donna L. Watkins - Eastern Gray Tree Frog After Snake Attack
I had not seen that kind of baby snake before, so I stepped inside to grab my camera so I could get a photo and identify it from a book. When I came back out seconds later, the snake was gone and I saw that the frog was still breathing. Since I knew the snake was not poisonous, there was hope for the frog. I also realized then that it was a female since they are larger than the males. It could've been the tadpoles mama.

I picked it up and it had enough energy to struggle so I cupped her in my hand and ran to bang on the door so my husband could get a container for it. I put her in the clear container already with thoughts of how I was going to feed it and what I could do to help the bites on the back heal. After seeing how much energy she had, my still level-headed hubby thought it best to let her heal and feed herself, so I placed her in a pot on the deck.

When I checked a bit later, she had crawled under some leaves. She had an eye showing to watch what was going on, so that made me feel good about her prognosis. She hadn't just crawled under leaves for a peaceful place to die. When I checked after dark with a little flashlight, she was gone ... hunting for dinner I assumed ... or would it be breakfast for her? All's well that ends well.

By this morning, September 28, I have released 7 of the 14 frogs.  I will continue to transition them from the bucket to release into habitat and as I get the last ones into the habitat they were created for.  But then we'll be empty nesters .... again.

Each time I take them to different areas of the property.  I thought how tiny they were even compared to the leaf they hoped to and it made me think about how tiny we must seem to God in this big world.  Yet He sent His Son to die for us because He created us for fellowship with Him.  I'm so glad I had fellowship with these tadpoles ... but more than that, I'm so glad that a Living and Loving God has offered relationship to me through His Son, Jesus.  How wonderful is that!?

On October 9, froggie number 14 released itself.  I had put the container (a large clear plastic one that had salad greens) outside on the deck rail for the day to soak up the sun figuring it was time for him to climb to sit on top of some water lettuce indicating it was time to leave.  When I went out in the evening with a friend to show her the last one, we found another small baby beside the container.  It seemed one of those released had come back to .... you can make up your own story as to why.

My story is that it was nice of him to bring reassurance to the last one that all was well out there in the big world.  This last tadpole took much longer than the rest of them and was always a bit shy, so it made us both feel better to know he had a friend for the journey.  God makes sure we do also.  Remember Jesus sent His disciples out two by two.  Nobody was meant to be alone in this world.  So now, Randal and I are empty nesters, but we are still visited by the tweenfroggers when dusk settles in.  What a warm feeling to know that I had a small part in it all.  Thanks for enjoying the journey with me!
View entire photo album.
Read entire story: The Tadpoles: From Eggs to Frogs.

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The photo(s) and article are copyrighted. You may use either of them if you include the following credit and active link back to this website: © 2010 Donna L. Watkins - This article was reprinted with permission from TheNatureInUs.com. The link to use is: www.TheNatureInUs.com.

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