Posts Tagged Copes Gray Tree Frog
About now most late summers I am moaning about the dog days. Anyone who has lived in my region for long knows exactly what I’m talking about. High temperatures, higher humidities, stagnant air so thick you need scuba gear to get from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car. But not this year. At least not in my part of North Carolina.
We’ve had a few hot spells — afternoons when only the jewel-colored dragonflies move with alacrity. But as soon as we are well hunkered down to endure the swelters, a Canadian air mass comes swooshing down, bringing us unusually low high temperatures and several days in a row of steady, off-and-on rain. As I squish around my yard during non-rainy moments, I wonder if this is what it’s like to live in the Pacific Northwest.
Of course, this interlude from our typical late summer weather has a price — fungus. I don’t begrudge the toadstools sprouting everywhere. They usually wait until late September/October to appear, but this is their kind of weather.
The fungus I’m not so fond of afflicts my vegetable garden. The zucchinis have all surrendered to a combination of fungus and squash vine borer attacks. The tomatoes are losing their lower branches to fungus. Fruits are growing ugly black spots. Unless we get a dry heat wave, they won’t hang on much longer. The biggest surprise are the beans. Both Fortex (pole) and Jade (bush) are still astonishingly productive. The cosmos flowers are on the verge of surrender. But the Berry Basket zinnias party on.
Plants and animals proceed with their life cycles as best they can, obeying the calendar more than the weather. Seed production is in full evidence.
Our two months of unusually dry weather reduced seed cone production among my deciduous magnolias, but they still sport some reddening cones.
Late-summer wildflowers are starting to show off in earnest. Early goldenrods brighten the edges of woodlands, and Monkey Flowers adorn the floodplain.
Some flowers are fruiting and flowering together, like my native coral honeysuckle variety, ‘Major Wheeler.’ The berries are actually brighter red than the flowers.
The tadpoles metamorphosing in our little front water feature decided last weekend’s prolonged damp, cool weather was ideal for emergence to full-time air-breathing status. Monday morning, we spotted about a dozen froglets nestled on plants adjacent to the water, most sporting bits of tadpole tail not yet fully resorbed.
The Copes Gray Tree Frogs laid their eggs in late spring. But the ensuing dry spell deprived us of their nightly serenades — a lullaby I enjoy most summers. But with the return of rain, they are back, at least on warmer nights. Perhaps the crop of newly hatched tadpoles helped to encourage the large ones to leave their birth pond.
Plants and animals seem to be using these interludes to gather themselves toward the push to autumn. The froglets meditated on their leafy perches for about two days before disappearing deeper into the vegetation when the sun returned.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds used the rainy interludes to chug down as much sugar water from my feeder as they could.
The flowers they prefer to dine on were mostly closed for business during the cool rains. All the newly fledged birds from this year and their parents crowd the feeder from dawn to full darkness. I count six to eight birds jockeying for feeding slots all day long.
Male birds are especially intent on fattening up. They’ll be the first to head south to their tropical winter nesting sites, so they can claim the best territories before the females return. I usually notice they are gone by mid-September. The last stragglers generally stop visiting my feeder in early October.
All the natives — hummingbirds, froglets, praying mantises, writing spiders, magnolias, milkweeds, dogwoods — feel the summer slipping ever more quickly past. Whether we see more rainy interludes or swelter through late summer, they know time grows short.
Now is the time to hunker down and finish summer projects, plan fall gardens, and anticipate winter seed catalog dreaming sessions nestled by a crackling fire with a hot cup of cocoa.
Like the natural world surrounding me, I am using these unusual rainy, cool interludes to rest and recharge, knowing that every time the sun returns, weed explosions will add to my nearly infinite gardening to-do list.
It’s the last full day of Spring, if you measure that season’s departure by the arrival of the Summer Solstice. Of course, it hasn’t felt like Spring for a month now. My area is on track for another record high number of 90+ degree days, and the moderate drought is visibly taking its toll on the vegetation, tall and small.
All Spring, we’ve been watching the cottontail rabbits grow. Here’s one of the teenager bunnies. I call her Betty, but she may be a he, in which case I’ll call him Benny.
The bunnies are fenced out of the vegetable garden. They are free to hop about the yard dining on clover and plantains, which seem to be their favorite food groups. They follow me to the vegetable garden in the morning, watching with what I imagine to be longing as I slam the gate tight behind me, their noses wiggling at the smell of well-watered vegetables. I have no sympathy. They seem to be growing quite fat on the greens I have ceded to them. Why the hawks and owls haven’t found them, I cannot say. These bold bunnies dine openly on the hillside, often accompanied by the calls of Red-Shouldered Hawks.
My neighbor’s pond has yielded a bumper crop of newly emerged toads — both American Toads and Fowlers Toads. For two days, you couldn’t walk in parts of our yard without nearly stepping on a frantically hopping tiny toad. For reasons known only to toad minds, they loitered in our driveway. To avoid a squished toad disaster, I spent a morning scooping them into a bucket and carting them into the vegetable garden. I moved over two dozen, and I think most of them are enjoying their new digs. I spot them resting under squash leaves and beneath basil when I conduct my daily vegetable inspections.
Our little ornamental pond up front is also yielding newly metamorphosed amphibians. The Copes Gray Tree Frogs have been emerging in small groups every few days. Early this final Spring morning I spotted this newly emerged amphibian getting its bearings atop one of our daylilies — Brocaded Gown.
And here’s another froglet — apologies for the fuzzy picture — that shows it still has a bit of its tadpole tail. That’s not unusual on these newly emerged frogs; about a third of them often sport at least a bit of tail when they first leave their birth ponds.
The new life that surrounds me — be it bunnies, amphibians, or acorns — salutes Spring’s boundless enthusiasms. As searing Summer settles upon us, that enthusiasm will become endurance — if we’re lucky. If Summer’s dry grip is too tight, death counts will rise, and we will all be left panting in the dust, begging clouds for raindrops.