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What is that noise in my woods? Explosion of amphibious reproduction underway in a vernal pool near you

gray treefrog MJC_3244b (Marty Calabrese).JPG
Posted at 1:17 PM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 13:48:59-04

CLEVELAND — If you have noticed an increase in noise coming from your nearby woods, chances are it's one of Ohio’s 14 frog species, six of which are tree frogs, making their distinctive, purr-like trill. It’s likely the call of the male wood frog. You can think of it as an all-male-frog chorus serenading the female frogs.

You can listen to a frog chorus by clicking on the player below:

Frog chorus

The annual launch for amphibious reproduction is underway at a vernal pool near you. In the simplest definition, vernal pools are nature’s nurseries. These small unassuming pools boast with life. You can find vernal pools in wooded wetland habitats at the Cleveland Metroparks or near the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes.

Spring rainfall and melting snow provide the perfect breeding habitat for frogs.

“These ephemeral ponds collecting rain and snowmelt are not all created equally, though,” said Marty Calabrese, a naturalist at the Cleveland Metroparks, in an email to News 5. "Particularly rich and of high quality, Cleveland Metroparks vernal pools and wetlands drain forests and meadows of high biotic integrity. In other words, they are some of the cleanest habitats in Northeast Ohio.”

Considered one of the smallest hunting vertebrates, salamanders participate in what Calabrese calls nutrient cycling. They can eat microscopic invertebrates (e.g., insects and spiders) that wouldn't otherwise be present in lower quality habitats.

Calabrese said the absence of non-native earthworms allows for thriving populations of prey, like those invertebrates, for salamanders to eat.

Image (4).jpeg
Jefferson salamander taken at Cleveland Metroparks by Naturalist Tyler McClain.

And the food web continues. In turn, robust salamander populations are a great source of nutrients for predators higher in the food chain. These predators dine on salamanders because they can’t detect very small insects that salamanders are equipped to detect.

Salamander migration is also underway. Because of their secretive nature and tunneling underground, salamanders are seldom seen except for in early spring. They migrate in large numbers to vernal pools.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio is home to 25 species of salamanders. Refer to this guide when you are out in nature.

Calabrese said last Friday there was an explosion of amphibian activity, particularly among the wood frog. He suggests listening for their soft, duck-like barking. He said as of last week, many egg masses are now submerged in vernal pools with embryo development underway.

The Cleveland Metroparks is hosting a special family-friend Friday night activity in April when naturalists will take you up close and personal to live amphibians and take you on a hit to a vernal pool in search of wood frogs and spotted salamanders.

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