Sights of Spring

Canada Geese mate for life, and they are devoted. Watching our resident pair of Canadas here in our Wetland it’s obvious that they watch out for one another. The male is always on the lookout for danger as his mate feeds, bathes and preens, and rests. We know these geese well, they’re here every year at this time. The female stands out among Canada Geese, she has noticeable eye rings around her eyes.

The male carefully watches me as the female feeds, her head below the water making her vulnerable to potential danger.
The male keeps a vigil as the birds take a bath and preen.
Even while snoozing on the path in Explore the Wild, the female can feel secure in knowing that the male is ever watchful.

Canada geese are not only devoted to one another but are excellent parents. The groups of geese that you see flying around our area throughout the year are made up of family members.

Frogs don’t mate for life, they mate for the moment. In my experience watching frogs and toads, any female that approaches a male will be targeted for mating. In fact, during the peak of the breeding season, I’ve seen males so overcome with excitement that they attempted to mount other males who wandered too close.

Frogs and toads are not devoted to one another in any way, nor are they devoted to, or participate in, the upbringing of their offspring. For these amphibians it’s call for a mate, deposit and fertilize the eggs, and head for the hills. If the tadpoles that hatch from the eggs were ever to encounter their parents they would surely not know them.

With a gular pouch full of air this Upland Chorus Frog calls out its intentions to others of its kind.

To show scale, to give you an idea of the size of the frog in the above image, that’s a mosquito on the frog’s side. It’s no wonder why they are difficult to locate, even when calling just a few feet in front of you. The size and coloration can make for much frustration when looking for one of these frogs calling in a wet, grassy meadow.

The eggs of a chorus frog.

If you find a singing chorus frog, chances are there’ll be eggs nearby. They too are very small, but look for a gelatinous mass attached to a stem or stalk of vegetation in the water. The frog and eggs pictured were in the U-shaped pond next to the Bungee Jump in Catch the Wind. Stop by and see if you can spot one of these tiny herps.

Pickerel Frogs, Spring Peepers, and Upland Chorus Frogs are calling at this time. You can listen to recordings of these frogs online all year long, but if you want to hear them in person, this is the only time of year to do so, so get out there and do it.

American Sycamore trees don’t mate. And, as far as I’m aware they are incapable of devotion, although I don’t know that for sure. They are plants and reproduce through the swapping of pollen from male flower parts to female flower parts. Some trees have flowers of only one sex per tree. Sycamores have both male and female flowers on the same plant, a more typical arrangement.

We have sycamores here at the Museum. They like to grow near water and you can see them as you descend the boardwalk into Explore the Wild. They’re the large whitish tree with the peeling bark. Although they don’t mate, you can see the fruits of their pollination efforts all winter long. The pollination takes place in the spring and summer months but the fruit usually hang on the tree the entire winter. The fruit, what I call sycamore balls, are made up of thousands of seeds. Approximately 8-9 months after pollination the balls soften and open casting the seeds to the wind. The seeds are now ready to spread out accross the countryside to hopefully plant new sycamores along rivers, ponds, and lakes.

A sycamore ball bursting open to spread its seeds to the wind.

Don’t confuse the sycamore balls with the hard, spiky seed balls of the sweetgum tree. Step on a sweetgum ball while barefoot and you’ll remember it forever. The sycamore seed balls are much more forgiving to barefoot travelers.

Sweetgum seed balls are not barefoot friendly.

There will be more sights of spring to come, very soon.

4 responses to Sights of Spring

  1. Wendy says:

    Was that mosquito biting the frog, and do amphibians suffer from diseases carried by mosquitos?

    • Greg Dodge says:

      It’s difficult to see if the mosquito is actually engaged with the frog. It may have just emerged from the water as an adult and the water tension drew it into the frog. But, there’s no reason it couldn’t be taking a blood sample from the little frog.
      Off the top of my head I wasn’t aware of any diseases spread to frogs from mosquitos, but it seems reasonable that there would be. See this quote from a paper intitled, Mosquitoes Feeding on Ectothermic Vertebrates: A Review and New Data “…Gilett (1971) in a review of mosquito biology lists lizards, snakes and frogs as hosts of filarial parasites transmitted by Anopheles quadrimaculatus and Aedes taeniarhynchus [both mosquitos], mentions a trematode lung fluke of frogs which is transmitted from snails via larvae of Anopheles maculipennis [another rmosquito species] to frogs (mosquito perhaps eaten by frog), and indicates that lizards and frogs are known to have non-human Plasmodium malarias which are presumably transmitted by mosquitoes. He also mentions that Culex tarsalis [mosquito] feeds on snakes and cites his personal observations of Coquillettidia fuscopennata feeding on a variety of vertebrates including frogs and toads. Some species of Culex feed exclusively on ectotherms (Woke, 1937a).”
      Good questions.

  2. Rhonda says:

    Good to know about the female eye rings of the Canada Goose. Otherwise they appear to be the same.

    The spring peepers have been singing their melodies here in SC. Such a musical start to spring

    • Greg Dodge says:

      To be clear, the eye ring is peculiar to this female goose, it is not a characteristic of female Canada geese in general. I’ve seen photos of other Canadas with white feathers on various parts of their bodies, including around the eye, all aberrations. In this particular case, I can tell our female from the male by her “abnormal” whitish eye ring.

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