As a child growing up in the shadow of Mount Washington, finding frog eggs was a springtime ritual! The days would get longer and the daylight would linger after dinner. I remember exploring in a ditch, freezing cold fingers, filling a pail full of frog eggs, toting them home and setting up a wood frog habitat right in my bedroom! My mom was a great sport. We toted home all sorts of things that she let run their course. My brother once brought home baby bunnies that had lost their mother due to a lawn mower. He kept those in his bedroom too! Keeping frog eggs is a lesson in errors. As a child I quickly learned that you can't simply change your tadpole’s water with water from the tap. Within seconds of doing that, my plump little tadpoles were all belly side up. That was the end of the tadpoles for that season, but still a lesson learned.
Fast forward to the present and spring usually signifies its arrival with my backyard a chorus of frogs. It is really comical, the racket that these little spring critters make. So this year as I waited for just the right time to go in pursuit of frog eggs for our classroom....I waited for this springtime chorus to begin and lull us to sleep each night. . . well we are still waiting! I am coming to the realization that there is a great absence of frogs this year. I have two theories about the absence of these vocal amphibians. . . One, it incredibly dry this spring - perhaps the backyard that we constantly complain about being too wet, is actually too dry to support frog eggs this spring. Second, the lot behind us was clear-cut last year. Did this alter their habitat? Now that the sun can get in back there, has it dried up? I have a suspicion that it is a combination of the two, but regardless of why, I am realizing that there will be no peepers this year.
Waking up in the middle of the night I realized that in waiting to hear the peepers I may have missed my window to find frog eggs for school. After hastily eating dinner Monday, Elle and I set off for the Dam to search for frog eggs. They have great mountain bike trails over there that meander through the woods by many vernal pools. I knew too that there was a frog pond in there. With my little helper behind me, adding commentary, we hiked in. "Mom, you are crazy." She said from behind. "Yes, probably," I replied! The first vernal pool we came to looked promising, but after close inspection, we decided that there wasn't anything there, at least not anything we could get from the bank with our net.
We hiked a bit further, and then we heard that beautiful sound. . . The sound of spring peepers! It certainly wasn't the echoing chorus that we usually hear in the backyard, but it was a peep here and a peep there! We got closer and right away saw some eggs. Considering it was already past someone's bedtime, we quickly gathered up the eggs in a Mason jar and headed for home. As that certain someone trailed behind, holding the Mason jar, there were no more comments about mom's apparent mental state . . . Just musings about the eggs in her possession. "When do you think these were laid?" "Do you think that their mom and dad are going to miss them?" "Maybe we should have just tried to catch a frog. . .That way the moms wouldn't miss their babies" By the time we reached the car, someone was totally enthralled with the eggs and their possibilities.
I am not a naturalist - and in the North Country, I don't ever remember seeing a salamander as a kid - I could be completely wrong, but at least in my little 2 square mile habitat along the Israel River - I never saw a salamander and so there was no worry of toting home salamander eggs. . . When we awoke Tuesday morning some of the eggs in the Mason jar had hatched, I had a sneaking suspicion then that they were not wood frogs - for they had these little 'wings' at their sides. . . By Wednesday, we were certain that these were not wood frogs... To the web we turned - we are fairly sure that these are actually salamander eggs! Well - hey, I tried! And salamanders do undergo complete metamorphosis. . . So not all is lost! We looked at this website in our research - I probably should have done a little research before I set out the other night!
Here you can see the Mason jar being transitioned to the fish tank. We put just three salamanders 'tadpoles' into the tank - Mrs. Broome who hiked into a vernal pool up in Campton is certain she has gathered some wood frog eggs, she is going to bring some of them in so that the children can compare the eggs and the 'tadpoles'. However this turns out, the children are enthralled with these ever changing and growing amphibians. It gives them a purpose for poking around in the woods and listening for that mystical peeping sound of spring!
You might take a walk over at Paradise Point at the Audubon Refuge on Lake Newfound. There should be vernal pools there. Also the mountain bike trails at the Franklin Falls Dam are a good spot for amphibian watching! Take a net and go poke around! Dress for tics though!!
Click here to read about Mrs. Broome's expedition for frog eggs last year!