Nature: When wood frogs call, nicer days are coming

A male American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) shows off its summer yellow and gold. GETTY PHOTOS IMAGE

Each spring day brings new spring birds to the scene. Flickers fly up from the sides of the road and show the white patch at the base of the tail. Goldfinches are changing into their summer feathers. Male and female goldfinches look much the same during the winter. Now the males will be a handsome yellow and black. They are mainly vegetarians consuming seeds, and sometimes these birds get killed by a plant they go to for food. I found a goldfinch caught on the strong hooks of ripened burdock once. Another time I found a hummingbird dead in burdock heads. You’ve probably had burdocks attached to your clothes when out on island walks.

Nicknames for goldfinches are thistle bird and wild canary. These birds love thistle seeds and their canary yellow color speaks for itself. The male’s voice strongly suggests that of a canary. Besides thistles, goldfinches love to eat sunflower seeds, birch and many other plants.

Watch now for myrtle warbler, also called yellow-rumped warbler. They are early-returning birds that have a prominent yellow rump. Besides its yellow rump, the bird has yellow or dull orange side patches, which make it easy to recognize. This warbler likes to eat bayberries and poison ivy berries during cold weather when insects are not around very much.

When tree swallows arrive this month, they provide excellent insect control. If these swallows happen to pick your garage or barn and their droppings bother you, just suspend a large sheet or tarp from the four corners to catch them. Also put out nest boxes for them. They are good neighbors!

Watch for rusty blackbirds now. Grackles and blackbirds may be noisy, but they are fun to see and hear. They are full of funny antics.

During the winter, frogs have been biding time beneath a stone or log. As spring awakens them, they head for the nearest small pond or other spot there is shallow water. The frog’s call can be heard even in the daytime. It sounds a bit like a croaking or quacking of a duck and carries only a short distance, unlike the far-reaching call of the spring peeper.

A baby wood frog sitting on a floating plant in a pond.

Female wood frogs lay thousands of eggs in a round, gelatinous mass from 2-4 inches in diameter attached to a stick or other vegetation underwater. Of course, not all these eggs will hatch. Some are frozen by a sudden cold snap, or the pool may be too small and dry up, or they get eaten by predators. Without these complications and if the water stays about 50 degrees, the eggs will hatch in less than two weeks. The adults leave the pond and the eggs are left to develop on their own.

Wood frogs are pretty amphibians with a coloring varying from dark brown to reddish brown to a coppery brown in some cases. A dark facial mask is always characteristic. When I hear them, I feel winter is over and nicer days are coming.

Arbutus is budding and coming into flower. Its sweet perfume is well worth getting on your hands and knees to experience. The plant is very close to the ground. Never pick the flower! Take a photograph and just remember the sweet perfume of the blossom. Enjoy SPRING.


Send any questions or observations to [email protected]


Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

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