Water Closet for July 17, 1015

[pullquote]”Gray Treefrogs seem to be expanding their range, and I have never found out why this is.”[/pullquote]Tiny Gray Treefrogs have huge voices in a sound to size ratio. We in the Water Closet after reading naturalist Fred Gralenski’s piece below about humans and Gray Treefrogs wondered again about the lack of basic education in our schools. Certainly all young folks should know about some of the common animals and plants, small and large, in their neighborhoods. Perhaps if they did they wouldn’t grow up to be so willing to get “rid” of them. Maybe just hour-a-day walking field trips away from their high-tech low-nature classrooms would do. It would be relatively easy for students in our suburban-rural schools to leave the glowing screens and speakers and go forth to view the clouds, plants, and animals in season. Naturalist Fred grew up in a small town near the Connecticut River. As an old man with a still open young mind, he continues and expands upon his boyhood observations in a small town in way Down East Maine. Here is his latest biweekly Quoddy Nature Note. Thanks Fred for letting us use it here. Middleton Stream Team
GRAY TREEFROGS by Fred Gralenski
We received an Email from a relative in Massachusetts. They asked, “What is this bird in the attached audiofile?” We replied, “That’s not a bird. That’s a Gray Treefrog. He’s got romance on his mind, and he’s singing his heart out to attract a lady treefrog.”

Gray Treefrogs are musicians like other male frogs.  Despite loud voices, they tiny and well camouflaged are not easy to find.  – Fred Gralenski photograph

Gray Treefrogs are musicians like other male frogs. Despite loud voices, they tiny and well camouflaged are not easy to find. – Fred Gralenski photograph

The next response was disheartening. “What can we do to get rid of them?” They asked. Now I like the calls of Gray Treefrogs. I thought everyone did. Are my likes and dislikes so out of date or away from the mainstream of humanity? I don’t care. I told them if they wanted relative silence they would have to live in the Sahara desert or maybe the North Pole if the elves didn’t sing too loudly. But Gray Treefrogs do sing rather loudly. A good chorus of our frogs is as loud or louder than any chorus of other frogs noted in North America. The male frog invests a lot of energy in his calling, and although a frog may be in good physical condition at the onset of the season, he rapidly loses weight and capability as the season progresses. His success at spawning is greatly dependent on the decibels that he can produce, so the females are responsible for this quirk of evolution. The quality of the call, at least as judged by people, seems to be of lesser importance, but I rate musical quality of the call of the Gray Treefrog second only to the American toad.
Gray Treefrogs seem to be expanding their range, and I have never found out why this is. One reference stated that there is an ‘isolated’ population in Southern New Brunswick, Canada, but even the 1999 issue of ‘Maine Amphibians and Reptiles’ indicates a continuous extension of the population from the US east of the Mississippi River into Southern New Brunswick. I can remember as a youngster growing up in Western Massachusetts and there were no Gray Treefrogs. I can remember when members of the local chapter of the Audubon society first heard Gray Treefrogs in Pembroke, and that was about a dozen or so years ago, and their colonizing of the peninsulas around Cobscook Bay is still progressing.
The Gray Treefrog is a very capable animal, compared to our other frogs. It is pretty tolerant of the cold winters, but not as rugged as its cousin the Wood frog. Last winter seemed to result in a later breeding season for Gray Treefrogs, but the surviving and current breeding numbers seem to be very good. Like Wood frogs and Spring Peepers, Gray Treefrogs are terrestrial after spawning. They can tolerate higher temperatures and desiccation almost as good as the American toad, but Gray Treefrogs forage and essentially live in trees, so their access to these insects is better than their relatives. The camouflage of Gray Treefrogs is better and they can change color pretty well from green to gray to brown to compensate for the type of tree that they are on. After studying these critters for quite a bit, I am pretty satisfied that Gray Treefrogs, as adults, are exploiting an ecological niche not used by any other frog in our area. Are they affecting any other types of insect eating animals, like birds or something? What about as tadpoles? The numbers of Gray Treefrogs do seem to decline in clearcut areas, and they prefer deciduous trees over conifers, so I’m pretty sure they will be affected positively by climate change. While recovering from a Fourth of July celebration, I like to ponder these questions, watch the fireflies and listen to the Gray Treefrogs boast of their prowess.
_______________________________________________________________________________WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION

Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
2015 Central Watershed Actual 2.38 0.94 5.87 1.6 as of 7/14**

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For July 14, 2015  Normal . . . 8 CFS     Current Rate . . . 20 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for July.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584