04/27/16

The Bully of All Toads

Currently in Madagascar there is a bully. But, this is not your typical bully. This bully is the Asian toad, also known as Duttaphrynus melanostictus. The toads are threatening rare wildlife and frightening locals.

Madagascar provides a niche-like haven for these primarily lowland dwelling toads. Photo © Arthur Chapman Courtesy of Amphibians.org - Amphibian Survival Alliance.

Madagascar provides a niche-like haven for these primarily lowland dwelling toads. Photo © Arthur Chapman Courtesy of Amphibians.org – Amphibian Survival Alliance.

The theory on how they got to Madagascar is that they hitched a ride in some shipping containers from Asia between 2007 -2010. While Madagascar doesn’t have native toads, people who saw these bullies roaming knew something was wrong. And still no one knows why they have decided to make Madagascar their new home.

These toads are endangering locals, harming snakes, lemurs and exotic animals that are unique to the island. If they feed off these toads they will be poisoned, since these toads are known to be very poisonous. Smaller animals can shrink in size and as species, become extinct.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone.

Scientists are still trying to come up with ideas on how to get rid of these toads and such measures wouldn’t be horribly expensive. It would cost about $2 million to $10 million (the effort would need only a wealthy backer from the West) — but that’s really just a guess. No one knows exactly where the toads are or precisely how many are in Madagascar. There’s no easy way to find them, and there’s no quick method of dispatching them, at least not in the numbers necessary for eradication.

And then there’s the fact that no one has tried to remove invasive toads on such a scale before. There have been three successful removal projects, but they were all in much smaller areas.

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone, close up

Asian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) in Madagascar by Franco Andreone, close up.

So it looks like eradication won’t be possible, the scientists conclude, at least without a lot more research that would let managers and the government overcome many hurdles. And by that time, the toads will probably have become so numerous that, like in Australia, any such efforts would be impossible.

 
Leight-Ann BradyGuest post by Leigh-Ann Brady, who resides in NJ with her 8 year son. She is an artist and writer who is also concerned about the environment.

03/19/16

The Perfect Pond for You and the Environment

Garden’s say a lot about their owners. You can see a reflection of the owner’s personality in how their garden is presented. If you see a garden that is frequently maintained and full of life and colour it’s more likely that the owner is a keen gardener, or maybe just has the time to dedicate towards the garden’s maintenance. If you see a garden that is lost and overgrown, then a sense of organisation may spring to mind. The overall look of a garden can also determine the way people look at a house as a whole. The garden is a key element in the overall image and it’s vital to make sure your garden gives viewers the message you wish them to receive. There are so many ways in which you can make your garden stand out amongst the rest, and a perfect way is to add features that are different and exciting. Ponds are a traditional feature that have been around for years. Many people look at ponds and instantly say no to the idea simply because they think that they are more trouble than they’re worth. What people don’t realise is that ponds are actually very useful for pest management, wildlife sanctuaries and also just look great in your garden. They’re easy to maintain and cost efficient, too. There are many different types of ponds you can choose from to ensure you get the perfect pond for your garden.

garden pond lush green and beautiful

When deciding on the type of pond you wish to go for, think about whether you want your pond to be in ground, above ground or partly in ground. Your decision should depend entirely on your garden and what will suit it best. If you have children you may also wish to consider an above ground pond, as this eliminates the risk of anybody falling in or going for a quick swim with the fish. Having an above ground pond also enables you to create your own display, you can use coloured tiles to surround the pond bed and grow plants around the area. Alternatively, if you wanted to go for an in ground or partly in ground pond you can consider the way in which you wish to display this, consider how you wish to contain, surround and line the pond. You can always make the decision that suits your garden type. There is no specific choice when it comes to the details of your pond design, which is another reason why they are so great.

Once you’ve decided on the type of pond you wish to go for, how you will line and contain it, and determined the size of the area, this will determine the wildlife that appears. Ponds are vital when it comes to wildlife, and you can guarantee that your pond will become the centre of attention for beautiful creatures like dragonflies, house martens, ducklings, frogs and more. You could have a range of beautiful fish living in your pond, to add a little excitement but also to encourage other wildlife to visit. Ensuring you feed them and maintain the water, keeping fish is a perfect way to make the most out of your pond, plus they’re like extra pets that you can keep checking on and watch, as they grow in your own garden.

When it comes to the maintenance of the pond there is little you need to do. You must ensure you keep on top of the weeds and algae; you will find most animals living in the pond will use these for hiding so be extra careful when weeding or cleaning these plants. You can use a net to remove excessive, such as leaves, dirt and dead flies. Removing the dead flies will however be done for you by certain animals living in or around the pond. For example, dragonflies and house martens will spend their time swooping down and removing the flies from the ponds surface, along with frogs and toads that will clear the water surface of any tasty little flies they can get hold of.

By Nikolaj Potanin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Nikolaj Potanin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, you can consider the overall presentation of your pond. The design of a pond is important for both appearance as well as wildlife. Designing your pond to suit your home is key. You can surround your pond with shrubbery and plants to create your own little sanctuary. Growing plants around the pond may also encourage animals to create a new habitat in the plants or water surrounding. Lighting is another great feature to consider, whether you opt for in-water lighting or lights to surround the pond, they will be a huge benefit to both your gardens aesthetic as well as the nature surrounding the pond. When fitting the lights, remember to use a weatherproof junction box to ensure that you have safe fittings and the lights are protected from any weather. Lighting will add a glamorous effect and highlight your new garden feature, making it stand out and look great. Why not add other little items such as gnomes, fairy figures or magical fantasy items. These are a little bit of fun but also add character and excitement to the pond and its surroundings.

Guest blog by Jasmine Smith.

 

Additional posts from Frogs Are Green on Ponds:

https://frogsaregreen.org/keeping-your-pond-alive/

https://frogsaregreen.org/attracting-newts-to-your-pond/

https://frogsaregreen.org/pond-maintenance-tips-for-keeping-wildlife-at-your-pond/

 

 

09/11/14

Bullfrogs, Toads and Grey Tree Frogs in Massachusetts

The story continues with Jack Stearns, a scientist and meteorologist in Massachusetts, who had rescued a Bullfrog (Bartholomew) last Winter, updates us on his progress along with a discovery of Grey Tree Frogs in the area.
 

Bart must be happy back in his pond as my wife hears deep croaking when she walks by the pond at lunch time. It has to be Bart! Also seen has been a big bullfrog near the spot where we let him go and he makes quite a splash when he jumps into the pond.
 
Another story involves a Gray Tree Frog. My wife works as a receptionist and is located in a huge lobby which has a big indoor garden, complete with trees and many plants. A couple of years ago a Gray Tree Frog got in and took up residence and proceeded to serenade the guards at night. It took them months to figure out what the noise was since the chirping resonates in the big lobby. He only hibernated for two months and came out in February to start singing again. It was weird to see snow falling and hearing this frog chirp. In fact, that was his name, Chirp.

He disappeared in the spring and we figure he got out the same way he got in, under the door that is right by the indoor garden.

Grey Tree Frog in Massachusetts by Jack Stearns
 
Well it looks like history is repeating itself. Above is a picture of a very young tree frog who got into the lobby. After this picture was taken he proceeded to scurry up the wall behind him into the indoor garden. Apparently a few others have been seen entering as well, especially at night. No noise yet, but I figure that by early spring there will be another chorus of tree frogs in the solarium. There is plenty for them to eat as they have been observed close to the outdoor window, snagging bugs that land there.
 
The frog population may be declining but not around where my wife works. The underground garage has lots of toads in the summer season who know that bugs are attracted by the lights and the toads come in for a quick meal. Everyone is careful of the toads when walking around the garage and there have been very few fatalities.
 
— Jack Stearns

02/9/14

Enhancing Your Eco-Friendly Garden to Attract Frogs and Toads

Guest post by Jeriann Watkins

There are a few different reasons you might want frogs and toads in your garden. They do a great job of keeping bugs away. They’re fun to watch after rainstorms when they hop in puddles and through wet grass. They serenade you to sleep at night (ok, that may be a bad thing, depending on whether you like croaky serenades).

As much as you may like frogs and want them in your yard, you should never take it on yourself to place them there. Frogs do not do well when removed from their habitats. Also, you want to be sure that your garden is home to native species, not invasive ones that will do more to harm your private ecosystem than help.

The best way to attract any wildlife to your garden is to emulate what the land would do itself. Trees, shrubs, bushes, and vegetation that would normally grow in your area are most likely to attract native insects, which will in turn attract frogs and toads.

To the human eye, frogs are pretty unassuming. Some people don’t like the slimy appearance. Whatever your opinion, you probably don’t see them as vicious. But they are fierce predators with large appetites, so if you have the environment and the bugs, they will come.

Courtesy of New England Nature Notes: Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Courtesy of New England Nature Notes: Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Choose plants that retain moisture and offer shade. Frogs love cool damp environments, mostly out of necessity. Mulch and compost piles are also great for attracting frogs. They’re a).moist b). full of bugs and c).dark.

There are a lot of plants that are poisonous to frogs. If you have a vegetable garden, you’ll want to avoid planting these items near your pond or areas where frogs are likely to congregate:

Eggplant, Rhubarb, Snowpeas, Potatoes

For landscaping and flower gardens, you’ll want to avoid:

Honeysuckle, Azalea, Hydrangea, Daffodils, Hyacinth

For more info, check out this more exhaustive list of plants that are poisonous for amphibians and reptiles.

Frogs and toads are important for the environment, and are great for maintaining healthy eco-systems. While displacing wildlife to improve your garden will always backfire, you can enhance your garden and landscape to attract creatures that do need food sources and shelter. It’s a symbiotic relationship in that you’re helping them so they can help you.

07/4/13

Frogs Crossing the Road in the Rain

Rio Grande Leopard Frog by Sara Viernum

Rio Grande Leopard Frog by Sara Viernum

A frog fan, Brian, emailed about the frogs in his area crossing the road when it rains, and I asked a few experts to advise him. We all agreed to share this content so you can know what to do in your own area.

Brian asks:
To reiterate our conversation, there is an ecosystem in and around the Salt Pond community in Bethany Beach DE, which subsequently is intertwined by a few roads. There is one particular stretch of about two blocks where, like clockwork, when it rains the frogs cover the street. It seems to be two species doing this; the bull frogs and little peepers. I did a rough estimation of about 125 of these frogs are being killed by car traffic every time it rains. That’s roughly 4000 per summer season. What is it about the rain that draws these frogs to the pavement?  And what practical solution can be done to lessen the slaughter?

Best regard, Brian H.

Bullfrog by Sara Viernum

Bullfrog by Sara Viernum

Two responses from the experts:

Hi Susan and Brian,
Happy for others to chirp in as well, but the frogs are not so much attracted to the pavement, but the rains signaling the fact that its time to breed!  So when this happens the frogs migrate from where they live their everyday lives to a suitable breeding site, which hopefully still exists.  I’ve seen cases where the traditional ponds have been turned into carparks or shopping malls and all the frogs turn up and say “WTF?” And inevitably die.  There is another explanation and that depends upon the size of the frogs – if they are adults then the above explanation is probably true, however if they are metamorps or juveniles then its quite likely this is a mass migration AWAY from the breeding site of newly developed froglets to find a good place to live and the only way they can avoid drying out on the hostile pavements is to travel when it rains.

OK – what can be done to save them?

People try many things, during rainy days you can get volunteers to help the frogs across the roads, you can put signs up to warn motorists and tell them to be careful, you can close the roads – all these have differing successes depending on manpower, but the best solution is to advocate for some frogs tunnels and drift fences to be installed.  Essentially you erect a barrier, which for these species would need to be carefully constructed as peepers can climb very well and bullfrogs can jump very well, and these barriers prevent the frogs from crossing the road and direct them to an underpass where they can cross the road safely (obviously the same needs to happen on the other side so that they don’t get squashed coming back).  Having said all this, both the species mentioned are fairly common species and are not under threat (although it would be good to get their ID professionally confirmed) and are not in decline – at the moment, so it would be difficult to motivate city councils or governments to take action for a fairly common species.  But its great that Brian wants to do something an it would be great if Kerry Kriger (Save the Frogs) or I can help.

All the best

Phil Bishop
Associate Professor
Chief Scientist
Amphibian Survival Alliance
asa logo

 

 

Ranid Eggs by Sara Viernum

Ranid Eggs by Sara Viernum

Brian,

Susan with Frogs Are Green forwarded your e-mail to me.  Roadways are a huge problem for herpetofauna as you’ve found out.  The frogs are mostly likely coming out on the roads during rainy nights to move to breeding grounds or in search of food.  Frogs love rainy nights and move around a lot during them.  Some possible solutions to help save the frogs are to petition the city and or your local Fish and Wildlife/Dept of Natural Resources office to install frog crossing signs and get the speed limit lowered and/or to install fencing that diverts the frogs to an under road crossing (if one is nearby).  If this is a little used road you might asked that it be closed during certain seasons like the famous snake road in the Pine Hills in Southern Illinois that is closed twice a year to allow rattlesnakes to migrate.  Another possibility is to start a citizen group that devotes time to cruising the roads on rainy nights saving the frogs.  I’ve heard of a few areas in the US where people do this.

Thanks for being concerned about the frogs.

Cheers!

Sara Viernum, The Wandering Herpetologist

Spring Peepers by Sara Viernum

Spring Peepers by Sara Viernum

05/31/12

Learning about Nature in the Concrete Jungle

Recently we received an email from Kelly Rypkema, a New York area naturalist who is the producer and host of the video series Nature in a New York Minute. Kelly has just released an episode about the Amphibian Crossing Project in New Jersey, a volunteer-based effort to conserve amphibians in the Northeast.

In the Amphibian Crossing episode, we learn about the manmade obstacles that frogs, toads, and salamanders face each spring as they attempt to migrate, obstacles that threaten their very survival. Kelly joins a team of biologists and volunteers who are working to save these animals by taking matters into their own hands – literally.

If you’re a city dweller with an interest in nature around you, please take a look at Kelly’s site. For nature-oriented news and events, you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to her blog.