Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Treefrog Tadpole Rescue

This has been a year of flood and drought at Blue Jay Barrens.  There have been several heavy rain events that dropped inches of water in a short amount of time.  Each rain was then followed by several weeks of dry weather.  Temporary pools have been appearing and disappearing all summer.  A two inch rain in mid-August produced an eight inch deep pool in the dry pond bottom.  Gray Treefrogs took advantage of this event to fill the pool with eggs.  

This week, a small puddle was all that remained of that pool.  During the last few days, hundreds of young treefrogs managed to reach the four legged stage and migrate from the pool to the surrounding vegetation.  This photo shows the puddle with just one day of life left.  The following day, the area went dry.

Because the original breeding event spanned more than a week, the young from the later eggs were not developed enough to leave the water.  Without intervention, they would all perish.

By the time I arrived with net and bucket, the mass of tadpole bodies seemed greater than the water they were in.  I like to make the classic rescue just as the clock ticks down to its final second.  When the shrinking pool crowds the tadpoles together nose-to-tail, it’s easy to herd them all into a waiting net.

The first of many nets full make it into the bucket.  A few aquatic insects and snails managed to sneak in with the tadpoles.

An expanding sediment cloud marks the release of a bucket full of tadpoles into the water garden.  Further releases were made into any tub I had that contained enough water to sustain tadpole life.

Many of the tadpoles were at the four leg stage and needed only a few more days of aquatic life.

Two days following the rescue, I found many young frogs making the transition to a terrestrial life style.  Most still displayed a remnant of their tail.

It has been many years since the Gray Treefrogs have had such a successful breeding season.  During the past six weeks, I have encountered one or two young frogs every day.  I’m glad I was able to assist in adding several hundred more frogs to this year’s output.


  1. Wow, great job saving those little frogs! I wonder how much more of this kind of human intervention we're going to see necessitated by climate change :(

    1. Hi, Green Gal. Since my pond is a manmade creation, I feel a responsibility towards animals that try to make a life there. I do what I can to help the resident animals survive.

      It's hard telling what activities we will be involved in while dealing with changes in weather patterns and climate. During the past two years, Blue Jay Barrens has hosted soil and air temperature monitors installed by researchers from the Missouri Botanical Garden. The idea is to gather data on growing conditions at locations where southern plant species are at the northern limit of their range. As climate conditions change, researchers will be able to monitor changes in these plant populations to see if there are any predictable patterns that emerge. We'll just have to wait to see what happens.

  2. Nice pics. We have one or two tree frogs from time to time waiting for an insect below our light in the evenings.

    1. Thanks, Cindy. The treefrogs do the same thing here. They also crawl around on the windows catching insects attracted by the light inside. Watching them on the windows, I'm reminded of the old "Outer Limits" episode where thousands of frogs attack the young couple in the farmhouse.