Study Area Amphibians

Amphibians of the Macoun Club Study Area

as we have come to know them

Graph showing that Wood Frog calls are trending to earlier dates

Wood Frogs are start calling just as soon as the ice is melting off the ponds where they breed. People who keep track of the date of first calling for many years* have noticed a trend toward earlier melts and earlier amphibian calling. The above graph traces (in days after Jan. 1st) the 1st-calling dates for Wood Frogs across 35 years in Peterborough County, Ontario. The 1st-calling dates at Rob Lee's home, at the northern tip of Lanark County (blue dots), closely parallel the observed trend.

Photo of William Godsoe with a Bull Frog

Except when snow and ice prevail (typically late November to late March) we routinely encounter amphibians on field trips to our Study Area. Some species practically leap out at us (well, out of our way), but others are very cryptically coloured. Some can be found only by turning the logs or rocks they shelter under by day. In addition, every spring the frogs loudly advertize their presence by calling loudly, often in large, noisy gatherings in their breeding ponds.

Within a year of the Macoun Club first entering the Study Area, high-school-aged member Colin Barnard published a bare-bones checklist of its amphibian species in our annual in-house publication, The Little Bear (No. 29, 1971, p.80). Through nearly 40 subsequent years, we have continued to see pretty much these same seven anuran (tailess) and three salamander species.

During the Middle 1990s, Macouner William Godsoe was, by his own account, obsessed with amphibians and reptiles. "I took notes on everything! Every field trip was just another opportunity to count and measure all the 'herps' I could. I have," he said, "a card catalogue file full of observations." It was his intention to write a complete reference to the amphibians of the Study Area, but unfortunately he found himself heading off to university before realizing this ambition. He explained all this in "A Brief Apology" in the Little Bear, before relating some of his by then encyclopedic knowledge of the subject (No. 52, 1998, pages 86-93).

Now we're trying again, pooling our knowledge and drawing on the field notes made available to us all for at least the last five years through our NatureJournal project. You can learn about the biology of these animals elsewhere. This webpage is about how amphibians use the habitats of our Study Area, and how they behave in our presence. We'll start with just two species.

* Peterborough data drawn from the Ontario Herpetofaunal Summary database by Mike Oldham, and graphed by Brian Day (both posted to the eastern Ontario Naturelist).

Website begun in the Dec. 12th, 2009 Macoun Club meeting; coding revised on July 20, 2013. All pictures by Macoun members and leaders, past and present. Tinkered by Chris Burns Oct. 25, 2012.