Monday, October 20, 2014

Surprise! - A Gray Treefrog in the Garden

We've been away in Boston and Vermont for the past 10 days, so a lot has happened in the garden while we've been gone.  The aromatic asters were just beginning to open as we left and I was afraid that I would miss them, but I didn't need to worry.  They are still in full and glorious bloom!

Greg and I did a walkabout yesterday and I took a huge number of photos, most of which still need to be sorted and studied, edited and identified before I can think about sharing any of them - but I have a couple photos showing one surprise visitor that were easy to quickly focus on and that I thought you might enjoy....

After our walkabout, Greg decided to add some old straw to one of the vegetable garden beds for the winter.  As he picked up the decomposing bale to redistribute it, an amphibian jumped out.  Greg's first impulse was that it was a toad, based on location, general size, and general lack of shine to its skin.  It looked different than most of our toads, though, so he called me over to take a look.

The animal was rather small and it wasn't warty enough for a toad, in my mind,  plus the shape was wrong, so I started thinking about the various kinds of frogs that it might be.  Meanwhile, of course, I took as many photos as I could without disturbing the animal or trying to pick it up.  When it hopped, it flashed the most vivid bright yellow on the lining of its hind legs...but that yellow was very hard to see when it was sitting still.  That HAD to be diagnostic.

Over dinner, I opened my copy of Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles in Kansas, by Joseph T. Collins, et al., and turned almost immediately to the page talking about Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) and Eastern Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor).  The two species are apparently only distinguishable from each other based on their chromosome number or the size of their blood cells, so I am simply calling this a Gray Treefrog (Hyla sp.).  Even based on the general natural history given, I'm perplexed - Cope's is said to be more arboreal than the Eastern, but to need less humidity in its environment.  Since we are at the absolute western end of this pair of species' range (and thus in the driest part of their range), but the individual was found under an old hay bale in the garden, I'm still split between the 2 options.

As of the writing of Amphibians, Reptiles, and Turtles in Kansas, which was copyrighted in 2010, the Gray Treefrog species complex was apparently expanding its range westward "along riparian corridors".  The species occurrence map shown in the book does not show any occurrences documented in Sedgwick County, but there are a few in the counties generally south and east of us.  It would seem that our individual may be one of the "pioneer" Gray Treefrogs, expanding their range west. So we may have a new county record!

This is the sort of find that brightens my week and makes me feel that we're on the right track in our land management decisions. 


Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

What a neat surprise. You just keep attracting the neatest creatures. Thanks for sharing.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks, GonSS. This little guy really tickled me, especially with those golden stockings!

sweetbay said...

Interesting! I've seen gray tree frogs a number of times here, but it took me a while to actually *see* them. Once I noticed and IDed the first one I started seeing them everywhere! lol On the porch, looking out of a bird house, lurking inside a watering can. They aren't nearly as common as the green treefrogs here though, so it's always neat to see one. I think their skin is beautiful -- it looks just like lichen.