Singing in the rain…

Lured by insects flying around the light outside my office at night, my once evening-only visitor now lives on the window 24 hours a day. It’s been a wet fall and this bright green amphibian, the American Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), need not seek moist crevices during the drying sunlight because we’ve not seen the sun of late. Monsoon-like rains, local flooding, and storms seem to be the daily forecast for us in Tidewater.

Click for closeup of the American Green Tree Frog

It’s been a banner year for these frogs in the garden as well.  Green tree frogs of all sizes rest contentedly during the day on dew laden leaves and vegetation while I carefully work around them. These frogs are one of the most common amphibians of the southeast and most of us are familiar with them, if not visually, we surely know them by their nightly calls during mating season. For such a tiny fellow, 1.25 to 2.25 inches, their loud ‘queenk or quonk’ can feel deafening on a humid Tidewater evening. Their diet consists of insects… crickets, flies, worms, beetles, mosquitoes, and those fat juicy moths that flutter around the outdoor lamp at night.

I have enjoyed the antics of the visitor to my office window. He’s quite accustomed to my presence.  And while slowly climbing toward hapless moths around the evening light, he is tolerant of me following inches behind with a rather large camera.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

Where Have All My Frogs Gone…?

The answer, my friend, suns himself on the edge of the pond.  It’s no longer a fish and frog pond. It is a snake pond.  This is a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon).  He’s big, he’s not afraid of me and he’s eaten every single frog in the pond.

Click for a closeup look

Our army of frogs began to dwindle about 3 weeks ago. I suspected something sinister, maybe a raccoon or a great blue heron.  I continued to putter around the pond, wading knee deep into the crocosmia and cotoneaster to pull a errant honeysuckle vine or walnut tree sprout.  On my last venture into the thicket, I stepped close to the pond and something big shot from beneath my foot and disappeared quickly, branches moving along its route. “Ah-ha,” I thought. “We have one big bullfrog left.”

It was a couple of days later when the Northern Water Snake first showed himself, fat and content, slithering in and out of the water and dashing to hide beneath the cotoneaster. It was he in the thicket, not a bullfrog that I disturbed. All of my frogs he wore on his waistline. He has eaten every last one.

A quick count of my fish tells me they are his latest victims. This week the snake no longer attempts to hide himself. Each day I stand at the pond staring at him as he curls up on the warm rocks basking and regarding me, tongue flitting, sensing his environment. His look tells me that this is his pond now.  But he does not know me at all.  I am already planning my strategy.

This is not a snake I’d want to share the water with.  Often mistaken for a cottonmouth, the Northern Water Snake is not venomous but, like all water snakes, it can be cranky. It may charge and it does bite. It dines on amphibians and fish day and night, routinely eating fish as they sleep at night. Grrrrr!

The snake is beneficial to the environment but not to my pond. I will not harm him but my game plans involve a minnow trap and/or a butterfly net. I know a beautiful lagoon about 6 miles from here that awaits this fella’s arrival.  I hope I trap him soon or all I’ll have left is mosquito larvae living in the water!

Annie Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester