About Me

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I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Frog Ecosystem

In July a Southern Grey Tree frog fell from the oak tree onto our deck. She was a beautiful frog with a color and pattern similar to the textured of the oak tree she lived on. My husband picked her up gingerly and placed her back onto a limb where her camouflaged skin blended into the bark.
Two days later, we found baby tadpoles in the kids kiddie pool! Usually, once the pool gets full of algae and mosquito larva, I drain it into the garden. On this particular week, I had neglected to drain it. The next week I peeked over the edge of the kiddie pool to see how bad the mosquito problem had become to find tadpoles! Hundreds of them! I was unintentionally starting an aquatic ecosystem in my back yard.
As more of the eggs hatched, I began to see a wide variety of tadpoles. Perhaps from different parents or eggs laid at different times. Every time I looked, there were more, until they clung in a solid ring around the edge of the pool. It was obvious that not all the tadpoles could survive in the kiddie pool. There wasn't enough food or space for some many.
So I posted a "free to a good home" ad on Facebook. The responses were enthusiastic and friends dropped by with buckets to take tadpoles home to their own ponds. My aunt and uncle not only took a bucketful away, but they also brought plants and scummy water thick with green algae so that the little guys who stayed behind would have something to eat.
It certainly occurred to me that transplanting the tree frog might disrupt the delicate balance of nature in someone's backyard. But after researching this little amphibian and learning that they are endangered, I decided it was more likely an asset to any given ecosystem than a hindrance. Amphibians are delicate bio indicators. When their habitat is polluted, they are the first to die off. I dare say that the world could use more southern grey tree frogs.
Other insects, including mosquitos laid eggs in the pool as well. But the tadpoles ate the mosquito larva. By august we had all decide that the frogs were in fact keeping the mosquito population small. These little amphibians and us had created a mutualistic symbiotic relationship.
At first my son was disappointed that he pool was no longer the fun place to splash in. But after I gave him a net and let him carefully catch and release the tadpoles, he decided it would fun to have them around and watch them grow!
Now it is September, and we are seeing lots of changes happening. Some of the tadpoles have grown legs and officially become pollywogs. Some pollywogs have hopped up the side of the blue plastic pool as young frogs. Because my free range chickens are always pecking and scratching around the pool, I scooped up a baby tree frog yesterday and airlifted him to safety on a branch where its camouflage made it obvious that he was home.
Eventually the pool needs to become a kiddie pool again. But I have decided we need a water feature, a small pond for our amphibian friends.