FROGS AND BACKYARD WATER GARDEN PONDS
Let’s jump into the subject of frogs in the backyard water garden pond. Many pond owners will find themselves hosting a frog or more that has somehow found its way into your pond. Even in areas that seem to be void of anything froggy, if you build a pond, they will come; …invited or not!
The presence of frogs adds another dimension to the pond keeping lifestyle. They add some personality too. Sometimes pond keepers introduce frogs or tadpoles, but frogs always seem to find our ponds on their own too. How do they find our ponds anyway? Frogs are more than just a pretty face and voice that our backyard ponds feature; frogs add to the diversity of species that our ponds support along with our fish, plants, insects, and other wildlife. They help create a more complete eco-system. So what can we expect from these visitor-cum-resident of our ponds? For some the frog is a welcome presence, for others not so much. It seems that it has always been this way.
Frogs have an ancient history and struggle with mankind, even to the point of plaguing the ancient Egyptians. Frogs have been with us since our most ancient histories, stories, fairy tales, myths, and superstitions. These days frogs conjure up the contemporary image of sitting on a lily pad sounding off with intermittent peeping, croaking, and groaning; lazing the days away. We don’t worry too much about magical frog potions these days, its alot more fun for us to laugh at them in Budweiser commercials while sitting on our couches. But there is much more to these formidable backyard pond inhabitants, so get off the couch and step up to the pond.
Frogs come in many shapes, sizes, and colors across a broad spectrum of habitats around the globe. All frogs start their life in the water but frog habitats go well beyond the pond, being found above and below ground, above and below water, in trees, grasses, jungles, cities, numerous other combinations of habitats, and even invading our homes; but always near water. The frogs’ struggle continues to this day with global populations of frogs declining at an alarming rate, from factors like habitat loss, pesticide use, and sometimes losses without explanation. The backyard pond could play a role in the conservation of frog populations. The reality that frogs have been around 190 million years and are disappearing before our eyes is a heartbreaking statistic. Let’s keep frogs with us a while longer…
Frogs are amphibious, should be the first clue that frogs are not lazy little critters hanging ’round the pond, but amazingly resilient. Frogs easily transition from skillful swimmers submerged below water to fully adept land rovers negotiating land, rocks, plants, and trees with great ease and leaping great distances with great speed. Many frogs have the ability to change color on demand. Frogs use these natural born skills for the purpose of hunting. Yes, frogs are voracious carnivorous predators and a long muscular tongue to help capture prey. Like a true predator frogs have amazing almost 360 degree eyesight. Their excellent hearing comes not only from the huge eardrums mounted on the side of their heads, but they hear through their skin too! Frogs are mostly nose in their body make up, and have a piercing sense of smell. Because frogs have no teeth, they swallow their prey whole. Adult frogs will hunt and eat insects, worms, snails, dragonflies, mosquitoes, and grasshoppers. Larger frogs will also go after small animals like mice, snakes, birds, other frogs, small turtles, and even small fish from our ponds if they can fit in their mouths. Fish caught by frogs will generally be sick or weakened fish. Healthy backyard pond fish like koi, goldfish, and orfe don’t have too many worries from frog predation and the mixing of these species is generally compatible; with some interesting interactions from time to time, like frogs “riding” on the back of large koi! There’s no promise of Sea World in your backyard, but, with some time, effort, and lots of patience, frogs will even adapt to hand feedings being lured in with nice juicy nightcrawlers (watch those fingers!).
Frogs have plenty to worry about too; bigger frogs want to eat them! I doesn’t matter that their skin is toxic and they taste horrible. Herons, raccoons, snakes, turtles, fox, big fish, possum, French restaurants, and others want to EAT them! Dogs and cats just want to play with them, …to death! So let’s not make this all out to be a pleasure cruise, it ain’t easy being green (I apologize for my need to use that most obvious phrase…).
Frogs are mostly solitary, only congregating during breeding season. Males become territorial during this time and are vocal about it. Lots and lots of frog calls are happening at this time, and it can get loud. The larger the pond the more territory frogs will have to share, the more frogs to enjoy! Once frogs are established they may reproduce in the pond and sustain the population year after year. Fish and even other frogs love to eat the egg sacks. Egg sacks of frogs can be recognized by their round clusters and jelly like appearance, toad eggs are laid in long strands. It is not unusual to find the inside of a skimmer box covered with eggs at this time. Ten days or so after the eggs are laid the tadpoles will begin hatching. Tadpole hatching is again a good time to be checking the skimmer.
To keep your pond frog friendly be sure to add plants in the pond and around the pond, especially grasses. Provide areas with slow water flow, frogs like quiet water. Provide some shelter within the pond like a simple clay pot. If you want to keep it real frog friendly don’t keep your pond “too clean”, and try adding a 6″ deep tray of compacted soil covered with gravel mulch as a place to dig in for the winter months. Dedicated frog ponds, without fish, can be easily constructed with minimal investment. Some of the more common species you can expect in North America would be pickerel frogs, leopard frogs, green frogs, bull frogs, and peepers; but other species shouldn’t surprise you. It is recommended to allow the frogs to find you, and only keep species native to your immediate area. If you build it, the frogs will come.
During Spring months the cheerful peeping of frogs is one of the early indicators that the warmer weather has arrived and the pond is waking up from its winter slumber. Summer months are prime season for frog watching! The antics never stop. Autumn time be sure to check pond netting for the occasional frog stuck on top of the net instead of in the pond! During winter months resident frogs will often climb into pond skimmers to enjoy the warmer pocket of air inside the skimmer box. Remove pond skimmer lids slowly during colder temperatures so as to not startle the frogs. Startled frogs can lead to clogged pumps, and messy situations! Some frogs can actually go into a state of freezing during winter months and thaw as temperatures allow, which is a rare survival skill in nature.
Keeping frogs in your backyard pond can be greatly rewarding on many levels, and at the most basic level it is great fun for children and adults of all ages to see that frog croaking away on a lily pad. It is one of the quintessential pond experiences for any pond keeper going back eons. Given our long shared history, of frog and man, let’s all give a hand in keeping our friends around just a bit longer by creating habitat for them in our backyard ponds and welcoming them. We can help the frogs even if its just a little bit. And if all goes well, maybe that frog will turn into a prince for you!
The LOVEYOURPOND Blog is written by Mike Gannon of Full Service Aquatics located in Summit, NJ. Mike is an award winning pond, water garden, and water feature builder. Always “In The Pursuit Of All Things Aquatic” Mike has been a lifelong hobbyist and providing professional services since 1995. Mike is the creator of The Pond Hunter video series seen on Youtube and has made several television appearances on Networks such as HGTV and the DIY Network. He also hosts the Pond Hunter Radio Broadcast. You can see what else Mike is up to at the following sites:
All copy rights to this material is solely owned by Mike Gannon.
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