Postscript: Build It and They Will Spawn

I braved the over-friendly mosquitos to get some photos. You can also make out some of the many pond snails who hitchhiked in on the aquarium plants.

In my last post, I wrote about my utter failure to build a successful frog pond. This was based on considerable research, and no experience whatsoever. What all those people giving advice forgot to say is that you have to go away somewhere for a couple of weeks (preferably the Galapagos – more about that next time) and don’t think about it at all. Then when you come back, as if by magic, your pond will be filled with hundreds, many hundreds, of tadpoles.

The deer will have also eaten your water hyacinth, making the whole thing look a little post-apocalyptic, but never mind. Realizing there’s not a lot in the pond to keep tadpoles going, you’ll then rush to the pet shop and buy whatever aquarium plants look tasty. You’ll then find out that tadpoles don’t much care for the ones that sell for $2.49 a for a big bunch. Not them. They prefer the tiny ones that go for $10.99, which they eat down to nothing on the first day. Fortunately, though, it’s possible to supplement with some boiled kale, broccoli or other vegetables you turned your nose up as a kid. I haven’t done that yet, though, because I was a kid once and there’s definitely no kale or broccoli here.

What are the little buggers?

So, now that I’m a proud parent, it’s been my mission is to figure out what the little guys are. It seems like there should be a few species in there, but I’d like to know without subjecting myself to the rigors of a taxonomic key from University of Mississippi (too hard) using an antique dissecting scope (in a box somewhere). So, I threw myself on the mercy of an expert friend (in fact, I bought him lunch). The pictures of the tadpoles below are of American toads. They look exactly like that to me. But they aren’t (says Alvin). The eyes of my tadpoles are more bulgy. How we can tell that from my blurry photo will always impress me.

American toad tadpoles – not my tadpoles. Image: Brian Gratwicke 2008.

Mine, in fact are the tadpoles of Cope’s gray tree frogs. Here are links to the calls of Eastern American toads and Cope’s gray tree frogs online from the Virginia Herpetological Society. There’s also a nice introduction to identifying tadpoles from a cool blog called Infinite Spider. And, finally, here’s a post showing Cope’s gray treefrog babies. I have to say, they all look pretty small and blobby, so good luck if you want to make tadpole spotting your new summer pastime.

And now for the final indignity. After all the blood, sweat, and tears (okay, two out of three of those), it turns out the frogs aren’t all that picky where they spawn. They often go for really unsuitable places, including directly on the ground (where chances of survival are zero). So, while it has definitely been worth having a nice(ish) garden pond that at least my close friends pretend looks great, I really didn’t have to worry.

Whatever the case, making our small section of the planet a little bit better for native wildlife has always been the goal. It gives a deep sense of satisfaction in a world that is fast running out of options for local species.

For information on setting up a pond that’s both beautiful and practical, I suggest you search elsewhere.


3 thoughts on “Postscript: Build It and They Will Spawn

  1. YAAAASSSSSSS!!!! Good job o Man who, by a fluke, didn’t taketh away

    Fun fun fun (remember sea horse eggs?) but … the bazooka

    There’s nice irises & sedges u can grow eg in a submerged pot

    Thanks for cheering up my interminable wait at Toronto airpot for a hotel shuttle !!!

    See you soon! N nicgaf@gmail.com

    >

    1. Awesome! So glad it made it to you all the way in Toronto! I did try irises and it was another disaster – it all floated away. The bits the cat didn’t eat (see my last post). Looking forward to catching up soon!

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