Surprise Visitor

Frogs are strange creatures. One would describe them as peculiarly wary and timid, another as equally bold and imperturbable. All that is required in studying them is patience.

~Henry David Thoreau

My plans to post on moths during National Moth Week have been easily waylaid – it appears as though I am easily distracted whenever I go outside. And so it was yesterday afternoon. I was taking a few images of a couple of moths clinging to the screen porch when I noticed a flower blooming on the Jewelweed near the porch. I had thrown a few seeds out two years ago in a small patch of ground out back that normally stays damp due to runoff from the slope above. I had also planted a few Netted Chain Ferns and called it my backyard wetland. In actuality it is only about 5 feet across and tends to wither during times of dry weather, but it has produced a few interesting insects and an occasional hummingbird visitor. When I walked over to check out the flower, I was surprised to see an unusual visitor perched high on a Jewelweed stem – a Green Treefrog, Hyla cinerea.

Green Treefrog underside

Green Treefrog clinging to a Jewelweed stem (click photos to enlarge)

By day, they often perch on vegetation in a very sedate pose, their legs folded tight against their body. They can sit like this for hours and seem to blend into their chosen plant perch.

Green Treefrog side view

They often look like a swelling on a plant stem, until you give them a closer look

The unmistakable bright green color and the white “racing stripe” down the sides are distinctive for this species.

Green Treefrog back view

Green Treefrogs often have gold flecks on their backs

They frequently have small golden splotches on their dorsum, which may serve some camouflage function in a sun-dappled environment.

Green Treefrog head

The eyes of frogs and toads are incredibly beautiful up close

This is the first Green Treefrog I have seen at the house. And it comes as a bit of a surprise, since there are no wetlands up here on the hill. The closest suitable habitat is about a half mile down the power line, but I have never heard their distinctive “queenk” call anywhere out here. About a decade ago, I reported this species near a water garden at the place I used to live in Chatham County. That proved to be a new county record for this species, which is much more common in our Coastal Plain than in the Piedmont, although they seem to be expanding westward.

Green Treefrog closeup

The frog was calm as I photographed it from several angles and even got up close and personal to appreciate the details of its skin

This little guy was very calm, or, as HDT might say, imperturbable. I photographed it from several angles and it remained peaceful, thinking its froggy thoughts, or perhaps just pretending to be part of a plant. A close look revealed intricate details in the patterns of its eye and the folds of its moist skin.

Green Treefrog dark

This morning, my rare visitor had vanished

After about an hour, it started raining, so I reluctantly went back inside. This morning when I checked, my visitor had vanished. Whatever the reason, I am glad it paid a visit to my “wetland” and made me stop and appreciate its beauty. Now, about those moths…

8 thoughts on “Surprise Visitor

  1. When we first moved to the coastal plain 11 years ago, we had many green tree frogs around our home. At night several would perch on the glass on our front door. We could easily observe their breathing and body structure without bothering them. It was so easy to find them everywhere around our home – even hiding in our outdoor grill! Now they are a fairly rare sight, which makes me sadly wonder what has happened?

    • Not sure what to tell you, Mary Kay. Amphibians are generally sensitive to environmental changes, so perhaps there have been some habitat losses or degradation in your area that has caused a local population decline. Creating a mini-wetlands at the edge of your property might encourage frogs and other species to hang around.

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