Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Toad Haul

It starts with the sharp shrill call of the male American Toad (Bufo americanus) partially submerged in water.  Ideally it should be the water of a fish-less vernal pool providing a safe haven for the fertilized eggs of the attracted female.

In order to fertilize the female toad's eggs the much smaller male climbs on the back of the female and grasps her tightly with his front legs in what is called "amplexus'. As the female releases her eggs into the water the male fertilizes the eggs as they come out of her body.  The eggs look like a single or double string of black beads held together by clear jelly. This male and female toad are partially submerged in a vernal pool on the berm of Fox Island Park lake road.  The egg string is laying across the left rear leg of the female.

This single string of eggs was about 6 feet long.  The eggs will hatch in 3-12 days depending on the temperature of the water.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Northern Water Snake

Along with the emergence of the frogs, tadpoles and fish from the ooze and slime of our ponds and lakes come the predators that feed on those delicacies.
The coloration of this melanistic Northern Water Snake is nearly black but many have an obvious banding and splotchy pattern.
One of these is the Northern Water Snake (N.erodia sipedon). These non-venomous snakes are often confused with the venomous Cottonmouth Water Moccasins but the shape of their body markings are very distinctive.While the N. Water Snake is found throughout Indiana the Cottonmouth is found only in the southern tip of Indiana. These snakes are live-bearers and mate from April thru June and give birth from July thru September.
These snakes are typically aggressive and will strike freely if approached.  Even young Northern Water Snakes are not hesitant to bite if not handled properly.  I can speak from personal experience on that point.
Thanks to Dr. Bruce Kingsbury, IPFW Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dir. of the Environmental Resources Center for his help with identifying this snake.

Photos: Fox Island Co. Park Nature Center Wetlands, 4-11-2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"My Log!!"

"Jeez, yesterday it was the water snake, today it's YOU!!"

"Whoa, you're kinda cute close up!!"
This male midland Painted Turtle is very protective of his favorite basking log, then realizes the potential of sharing his log with a female.  Male painted turtles have much longer front claws than the female, the top of the male's shell is flatter and the female is generally larger.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Midland Chorus Frog

The midland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) is one of the first frogs to begin calling in the spring in Northern Indiana.  The call sounds like someone running their thumb along the teeth of a plastic comb.  This small frog (1.50" long) is nearly impossible to see as it calls for a mate in the ponds and wetlands where they live.  It took me about 30 minutes to find this particular frog even though I  knew I was within 6' of him and knew the exact area he was in.  I finally spotted the frog by watching for the rippled water as he called.  I was only able to get so close because the frog was facing away from me and I walked very softly as I searched the pond edge. Note the inflated throat and rippled water around this frog.