Photographer: Denise Johnson
Subject: Wood frog tadpoles
Where: Williston, Vermont
Camera: Canon EOS5D with 24-70mm zoom lens
Exposure: 1/125th second @f6.3, focal length 24mm
Wood frogs, those denizens of vernal wetlands whose romantic overtures sound like the quacking of so many demented ducks, aren’t always careful where they deposit their eggs. Places like rainwater-filled furrows in a farm field, for example. So Denise Johnson, an avid photographer, and her husband, Tom, a retired border patrolman, launched a rescue operation when they discovered buoyant frog egg masses in rapidly shrinking puddles behind their northern Vermont home. They collected them in a pail, searched the Internet for tips on feeding tadpoles (boiled lettuce and dried bugs), changed the water regularly, and watched in fascination as the larval amphibians metamorphosed into froglets that the Johnsons released around the area. “I really didn’t expect to become attached to tadpoles,” says Denise, “but it was hard to let go.” She shot this picture looking straight down into their bucket world decorated with bits of aquatic vegetation.
The wood frog (Rana sylvatica) is a true frog like the familiar and much larger bullfrog. But as the species’ common and scientific names suggest, it prefers moist sylvan habitats with shallow, often seasonal pools to the shores of lakes, bigger ponds, and slow-moving streams. Wood frogs are found from the Northeast and Great Lakes states across Canada to Alaska. In fact, they are the only North American amphibian that occurs north of the Arctic Circle. They call in spring even before the ice is off breeding ponds, and since the sexes are identical, the smaller males acquire a mate by embracing other frogs until they find a female plump with as many as 3,000 eggs. Even so, the species has become scarce in some areas because of loss of habitat to suburban development.—Les Line
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