Readers’ wildlife photos

August 29, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have insect photos by regular Mark Sturtevant. Mark’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures from the previous summer. All were photographed near where I live in eastern Michigan, and most come from a single park about a two-0hour drive to the south of me.

In the woods of this park, there were many of these interesting caterpillars on the ground vegetation. I believe they are the larvae of the Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta), which has been a challenging species to photograph. On a return visit, I would like to bring some back to raise since I’ve never been completely satisfied with my pictures of the adults:

The woodland trail followed a lovely river, and periodically the woods would open up into a meadow. At one such riverside meadow was a stand of interesting flowers (maybe wild mint?) being worked over by the large black butterfly shown in the next 2 pictures. This was for me one of the most exciting finds of the whole summer! This, people, is the melanistic form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly (Papillio glaucus). I swear this is the same species as the familiar black and yellow swallowtail! This dark form is always female, identified by the splash of blue on the hind wings. The melanistic Tiger Swallowtail is not recorded where I live, but it becomes more common to the south, via natural selection, because there it starts to overlap with the toxic Pipevine Swallowtail which it resembles. But only females can pull off the mimicry trick for some reason. Anyway, I was pretty much hyperventilating while taking these pictures. From the ventral view you can still see the faint Tiger Swallowtail stripes:

JAC: Species in which females mimic another toxic form but males keep the ancestral pattern are far more common than the reverse. Can you guess why males don’t evolve to change their pattern? I’ll put the answer in the comments later.

Turning up tree leaves hanging over a forest trail will commonly reveal something of interest. One leaf along this riverside trail had this weird Derbid Planthopper (Anotia uhleri). I am sometimes asked about the yellow thingies below the eyes of this insect. Those are the antennae, which tend to be oddly distinct in this group of planthoppers:

Another thing that one can find under leaves are insect eggs or recently hatched insects. Here is a group of Leaf-footed Bug hatchlings (Acanthocephala sp.), staying close together to amplify their colorful advertisement that they are chemically protected. Whenever I find these groups, I have to take a deep breath and just do my best. Step to one side, prepare the camera for an extreme close-up, and do some test shots on a random leaf to figure out the correct exposure. Then lift up the leaf again and frantically fire away as the nymphs scamper off:

Along the river bank of the park were some sandy areas, and on the sand were quite a few of these well camouflaged insects. This is a young Big-eyed Toad Bug (Gelastocoris oculatus), which are aptly named predatory Hemipterans that are entirely invisible until they hop:

Here are a couple more finds. This tiny beetle, about the size of a sesame seed, is the Basswood Leaf MinerBaliosus nervosus:

And the unsavory face in the next picture actually belongs to a rather cute and mild-mannered Two-spotted Tree Cricket, Neoxabea bipunctata:

I’m not always sure which critter in this set was from that distant park that I mentioned. But this one sure was! There, I was delighted to find this large katydid known as the Common True Katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia), which is another insect that does not occur in my area. Despite their large wings, True Katydids are flightless. At dusk, this male will begin its song; with some imagination, it is described as sounding like: “Katy did! Katy did !! She didn’t! She did !!!” Readers who live in its range will know it well, as they can be fairly deafening. Here is one singing. If it doesn’t hurt your ears a little, you aren’t playing it loud enough:

And finally, for the heck of it, here is what I believe is a Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) although there is also the similar species called the Pickerel Frog. The two differ in the form of their spots plus some other details. We see some colorful frogs from far-off places on this website, but this domestic one is still quite lovely, I think:

Wildlife at Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin

August 12, 2023 • 1:50 pm

by Greg Mayer

I’m going to try to post some of my own wildlife photos while Jerry is not in a position to post readers’ wildlife photos. (We can look forward to Jerry’s posts of Galapagos wildlife photos, which we eagerly await!) To start, here are some pictures from a field trip  I took to Vilas County, Wisconsin, last summer with colleagues from the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum in Madison. These pictures are from our visit to Escanaba Lake, where the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has a small field office that conducts careful surveys of the fish in the Lake.

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

We went out with DNR fisheries biologist Greg Sass, who showed us some of the research being carried out by the DNR. Greg got his PhD at Madison, where he is affiliated with the Center for Limnology.

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

Part of the DNR’s research involves fyke net surveys:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

Here are some of the fish found in the Lake. My ichthyological expertise is minimal, so the IDs will be to family only; feel free to volunteer species IDs in the comments. [Added: see species IDs by Mark R in comment #2.] Centrarchidae:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.


Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.


Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

A large Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) tadpole also turned up:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

But the highlight for me was that Northern Water Snakes (Nerodia sipedon) were very common at the boat launch. There were little ones:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

And big ones:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

Measuring the big one– about 44 inches, total length:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

Sometimes, the big and little hung out together:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

The biggest ones were under and around an overturned boat:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

The snakes were so common, I told Greg it would be a great place for someone to do a thesis on their population biology and behavior. Some more water snake photos:

Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.
Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.
Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin, 23 July 2022.

This being Wisconsin and all, we had dinner the night before at a supper club, accompanied, for most of us, by brandy old fashioneds:

Brandy old fashioneds (mostly) at Marty’s Place North, now sadly closed.

The first photos of Atelopus coynei tadpoles

August 3, 2023 • 9:20 am

As I’ve described before, I collected the first specimen of Atelopus coynei, a small tropical frog that now has its own Wikipedia page. I collected it in the late 1970s on a field trip to Ecuador with my grad-school bestie, the late Ken Miyata, a man who’s sorely missed (he died in a fishing accident in 1983). As I had loaned Ken $500 to help him pay for rent and food, he did me the honor of naming the frog after me.

As it was rare, and first found in coastal Ecuadorian wet forests, which have largely disappeared, I eventually assumed that my frog was extinct, a metaphor for my own life. But, mirabile dictu, it was rediscovered by the great naturalist and photographer Andreas Kay on February 7, 2012 at Chinambi, Carchi, Ecuador. This was far from the sea, in the rain forest of the Andes foothills near the Colombian border, and the frog was still listed as “critically endangered.

Then, in 2017, I got an email from naturalist Lou Jost, who reads and contributes to this site, telling me that A. coynei had been found on land close to the EcoMinga Foundation’s Dracula Reserve (Lou co-directs the foundation).

. . . . in December 2017, Javier and our herpetologist and reserve manager Juan Pablo Reyes organized an expedition to explore land we hoped to buy to expand the Dracula Reserve. The expedition included Mario Yanez, a well-known herpetologist from Ecuador’s National Institute of Biodiversity. They were thrilled to discover a good population of Atelopus coynei on one of the properties we were considering!!!! They also discovered another species that had been lost in Ecuador, Rhaebo colomai, though that species was known from a population in nearby Colombia. To top it off they discovered a dramatic completely unknown frog species, yellow with blue eyes!!! This is an amazing area and saving it has become a high priority for us. We are being helped by the Orchid Conservation Alliance, the University of Basel Botanical Garden, and the Rainforest Trust.

The three species mentioned above:

Atelopus coynei, photo by Juan Pablo Reyes and Jordy Salazar/EcoMinga. Isn’t it a beaut?

Rhaebo colomai (photo by Mario Yanez):

The new yellow species with blue eyes (photos by Juan Pablo Reyes and Jordy Salazar/EcoMinga). I don’t know if it’s been described in the literature yet:

But now the story of A. coynei has been supplemented, as workers at the Dracula Reserve have made the first sighting of its tadpoles! As Lou wrote me on July 28:

We have a monitoring program for Atelopus coynei, and during that monitoring, our sharp-eyed reserve guards found the world’s first-ever A. coynei tadpoles! This is really nice to see, as an indicator of breeding and also as a new piece of the species’ biology. I’ll send pictures to you as soon as I receive them (I haven’t seen them yet). Yippee!
Of course I begged for photos, and yesterday Lou sent some of an adult and several tadpoles along with this note:

Here are the adorable tadpoles and an adult, taken in our Dracula reserve. We are carefully monitoring the population and it looks very healthy. We’ve managed to significantly expand the Dracula Reserve, thanks to grassroots campaigns by the Orchid Conservation Alliance, Reserva: Youth Land Trust, and Rainforest Trust. The photographers of the tadpoles, Milton Canticuz and Luis Micanquer, are local residents who were hired by us as reserve wardens and have become passionate conservationists. I hope you can come and visit them some day!

I surely will. This name is forever, as the scientific names of animals cannot be changed PLUS I’ve never done anything that would make me be canceled.  Here is the gorgeous A. coynei and its tadpoles sent by Lou and photographed by Canticuz and Micanquer:

My beautiful, beautiful frog:

And the first photos of its tadpoles:

Note the developing legs:

Of course I asked if Lou was 100% sure that these were A. coynei tadpoles, and he replied:

No, I’m not 100% sure; it is their deduction based on their knowledge of the patterns of local frogs, and our herpetologist experts (who know the local fauna well) concur.

Here’s some info on my frog taken from Wikipedia:

Atelopus coynei, the Rio Faisanes stubfoot toad, is a species of toad in the family Bufonidae endemic to Ecuador. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, and rivers. It is threatened by habitat loss.


Atelopus coynei can be differentiated from other similar species by its ventral patterning, thick fleshy finger webbing that covers its first finger, and from its long hind limbs that cause its heels to overlap when the legs are positioned perpendicular to the body (Miyata 1980). 

Range and habitat

Atelopus coynei formerly ranged across the northwestern Andes foothills in Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha and Santo Domingo provinces of Ecuador, where it lives along stream banks in primary and secondary montane forest between 500 and 2,000 meters elevation.

It currently found in only four disjunct areas in Carchi Province, including two locations in Dracula Reserve and Río Chinambi.

Adults are diurnal, active on rainy days on the rocky banks of river and streams. They rest at night on the leaves of streamside vegetation. They lay eggs on rocks in flowing streams. Tadpoles are typical of Atelopus, remaining attached to rocks. [See photos above for tadpoles on rocks.]


The conservation status of Atelopus coynei is assessed as critically endangered. It has a very small population which is continually declining from loss and degradation of its habitat, chiefly from agricultural activities. The population is estimated at fewer than 250 mature individuals.

Stay alive, my frog, and please outlive me! I know that Lou, his colleagues, and the EcoMinga Foundation are doing their best.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 20, 2023 • 8:15 am

We have a new batch of photos from reader Larry Powell.  His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are some pictures, mainly of amphibians and reptiles, from a trip I took a few years ago to southeastern Arizona to help a friend with some fieldwork. A busman’s holiday for me, as I saw a lot of amphibian and reptile species I’d never encountered in the field, and got to spend some time in beautiful country with good company.

First off, one for the entomologically-inclined – what I believe to be Giant Mesquite Bugs (Thasus neocalifornicus). We found aggregations of these large impressive insects on mesquite bushes (of all places) while looking for lizards on the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch. Going by the red banding on the legs, these are females. There’s a nice account of this species here.

This Mojave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) was waiting outside when we left our field headquarters one morning. It’s apparently quite a dangerous species, with potent venom, but this individual appeared to be fairly phlegmatic.

I believe that this is a Western Patch-Nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis), going by the number of upper labials – the large scale on the end of the rostrum identifies it to genus; but there’s more than one species in that corner of Arizona. This one was encountered on the gravel road leading to the highway.

We were in Arizona during what’s called the monsoon season (June – September), and got caught in some spectacular thunderstorms. After one, the dry wash near our field headquarters filled overnight, with standing pools crowded with spadefoot toads, which spend most of their adult lives buried but breed explosively when the rains come. This individual is a Couch’s Spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus couchii) that I removed from the breeding festivities for a portrait.

There are four species of horned lizards (Phrynosoma) found in the SE corner of Arizona, and I’d hoped to see one or more that I’d never seen in the wild. However, the only individual I encountered was this neonate Greater Short-horned Lizard (P. hernandesi), which belongs to the species I’ve been working on in Alberta for years. Still nice to see, though.

From the Sonoita Valley we moved up to the Chiricahua Mountains, and here we encountered this Madrean Alligator Lizard (Elgaria kingii), hidden under some wood litter. This individual is regenerating its tail.

The Chiricahuas constitute a sky island archipelago, high enough in elevation to harbour life zones not typical of the surrounding desert. We spent our time there in the deciduous forest and coniferous forest biomes, which were at just the right temperature from my point of view. Common at higher elevations was Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii); a subadult is shown here. This species is viviparous. They are very quick on their feet.

Another, less conspicuous high-elevation lizard in the Chiricahuas is the Slevin’s Bunchgrass Lizard (Sceloporus sleveni). Despite being mainly found at high elevations, this species is oviparous. Like S. jarrovi, they are exceedingly nimble.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 26, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Larry Powell of Calgary; his captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are some photos of amphibian and reptile species that are found in Alberta. Most of our species are widely distributed through western North America, and reach their northern (or eastern) range limits here. We don’t have a very diverse herpetofauna, and the species we do have must deal with long cold winters.

Some of these (Prairie Rattlesnake, Greater Short-horned Lizard, Long-toed Salamander) are species that I’ve conducted ecological research on in Alberta, and the others are individuals that I’ve come across during various field projects.

Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) – A large and amiable salamander found over much of Alberta’s prairies, but seldom seen, as it spends most of its time underground. This one was found right at the western margin of its Alberta distribution, at the eastern edge of the Front Range:

Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) – This is our other salamander species, found in the mountains. It’s much smaller than the Tiger Salamander, but also spends most of its time underground:

Three Long-toed Salamanders from the same population in the Front Range, showing the great variability in dorsal colouration and pattern. This species exudes a toxic secretion from glands in the skin, and from a ridge of glandular tissue down the dorsal side of the tail, that is both sticky and irritating, so the bright yellow blotching is presumably warning colouration:

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus) – This is a cold-adapted species found in the boreal forest across Canada. It overwinters by allowing its extracellular fluids to freeze, and limits damage to cellular structures through cryoprotectants. This individual was found in the Front Range:

Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) – This species was formerly widespread and abundant in the Alberta Prairies, but almost disappeared in the late 1970s. There doesn’t seem to be any satisfactory explanation for this. They are still locally common in spots, however – this individual was found in a dugout in the deep southeast of the province, in relatively undisturbed short-grass prairie:

Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus) – A handsome and charming toad that reaches its northern limits in southeastern Alberta, where it occurs in great numbers in spots (mainly the sandy areas around the South Saskatchewan River). The breeding call sounds like a miniature jackhammer, and breeding congregations are audible for a long distance:

A Great Plains Toad in the hand:

Bullsnake (Pituophis catenifer sayi) – Bullsnakes are found over the short-grass prairie region of southeastern Alberta, mainly near rivers. They are unusual in being oviparous – most Alberta reptiles are viviparous. This specimen was encountered by the South Saskatchewan River, north of Medicine Hat. Bullsnakes spend a lot of time underground, hunting rodents in their burrows – note the large rostral scale, thought to be used in burrowing:

Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) – Another species of the short-grass prairie in the southeast of the province. Like Bullsnakes, their distribution is associated with drainage channels – they hibernate communally in the bedrock exposed in these situations, and travel considerable distances during the warmer months to and from their dens. This individual is a subadult, encountered on a road at the edge of the Cypress Hills:

Greater Short-horned Lizard (Phrynosoma hernandesi brevirostris) – This is our only lizard, found in scattered locations across the southeast corner of the province. They are remarkably cold-hardy. This is a large adult female I’m holding – males are quite a bit smaller. The species’ viviparity is probably part of the reason for this sexual size dimorphism:

Another Greater Short-horned Lizard – this individual is a member of the northernmost population of this species in the world, located about 30 km north of Medicine Hat. It’s a subadult female:

A frog pollinating a flower? Not so fast!

May 10, 2023 • 11:30 am

A frog pollinating a flower? That would be remarkable, and a paper supposedly describing the phenomenon was recently published. It got a lot of attention, including a large piece in (guess where?) Scientific American.  I was prepared to write about it based on the publicity, but I needed to see the paper first. When I read it, I was sorely disappointed. The evidence for frog pollination, which would be the very first described case of an amphibian effecting pollination—was as thin as a piece of paper.

The relevant paper, from the journal Food Webs, is not widely available, even through the University of Chicago library. Fortunately, a kind reader somehow got hold of the pdf (you can too, through judicious inquiry), and just a bit of it is online, which you can see by clicking the link below.

I’ll be brief (well, I’ll try). This group of investigators from Brazil report that the tropical treefrog Xenohyla truncata was observed eating fruit, petals of flowers, and sipping nectar during one four-hour observation period.  This itself is unusual because frogs are mostly carnivorous and insectivorous. This species (and one congeneric relative) were reported earlier to be omnivorous, eating both fruits and invertebrates.

The popularized result? One (count it, one) frog was found with pollen on its back after sticking itself into a flower to eat. Was it observed pollinating another flower? No. We don’t even know if the plant is self-compatible, so that a frog could even effect cross-pollination on the same plant. Did the frog visit more than one plant, so that cross pollination was possible? No.

The upshot s that all the publicity given to this frog is comes from the observation of a single individual exiting a flower with pollen on its back. That says virtually nothing about whether it is a pollinator, and even less about whether it’s an important pollinator.

Here are the data described in the paper:

We conducted in situ observations of a breeding population of X. truncata on 15 December 2020, in a Restinga vegetation area in the municipality of Búzios, state of Rio de Janeiro, southeastern Brazil (224613.94”S, 41574.47” W; WGS84; 2 m a.s.l.), for approximately four hours (from 6:00 to 10:00 pm). Air temperature was 25.8 C. We observed five individuals of X. truncata in feeding activity on two plant species between 7:00 and 9:00 pm.

. . .Around 8:00 pm we observed other X. truncata individuals leaving bromeliads and climbing a Brazilian milk fruit tree [JAC: Cordia taguahyensis] full of fruits and flowers. Three individuals (sex undetermined) clustered around a ripe fruit and began a dispute to get close to the fruit, pushing each other away as they tried to bite the fruit (Fig. 1D; Video S2). After approximately five min, two individuals gave in and remained perched on branches close to the fruit, while the third began to nibble the fruit, increasing a pre-existing hole to gain access to the pulp (Fig. 1D). While this individual fed on the fruit, the others no longer disturbed it. The same individual remained nibbling and sucking the fruit pulp for about 10 min, the others eventually approaching to feed. x

. . . On the other side of the same tree, we observed a X. truncata individual that climbed a branch and entered an open flower (Fig. 1E), where it remained for approximately 5 min performing suction-like movements (Video S3). Upon leaving, pollen grains were adhered to its back (Fig. 1F).

This is the first report of a frog species actively feeding on nectar and flowers in nature and the first evidence that it may act as pollinator.

Here are the two pictures mentioned above, along with their captions from the paper:

X. truncata within a Cordia taguahyensis flower (E)


. . . and coming out of it with pollen grains (red arrow) on the back (F). Photographs by C. H. de-Oliveira-Nogueira.

The frog was also observed feeding on an “alien” (THEIR WORD) species, the beareded Iris, Iris x germanica (see video below; the “x” indicates the species is of hybrid origin).

So what’s the evidence that this frog actually effected any pollination? None that I can see.  What is the evidence that it’s a regular and important pollinator of the native milk fruit tree? None, nada, zippo.  Now it is possible that this frog could still pollinate other flowers on the same tree (if it’s self-compatible) or on other trees, but we don’t have that evidence. What we have is the authors’ speculation, eagerly and breathlessly snapped up and regurgitated by the press.  More from the paper (my emphasis)

As mentioned, the relationship between X. truncata and the native C. taguahyensis is remarkable. The flower structure of C. taguahyensis allows X. truncata to enter and exit the flower, and to carry pollen grains after the visit. In this case, X. truncata could act as a pollinator of this species, or even of other plant species with similar floral structure. However, to play the pollinator role of C. taguahyensis, this frog should visit another flower or another plant individual on the same night. We lack information about the breeding system of C. taguahyensis, but some Cordia species are self-compatible, whereas others are self-incompatible (Opler et al., 1975; Machado and Loiola, 2000; Mcmullen, 2011; Wang et al., 2020). As X. truncata wanders from one plant to another before it settles in a bromeliad for daytime shelter (our pers. obs.), it is likely that the above mentioned scenario about its pollinator role actually occurs. 

How likely is it? We don’t know.

Species in the genus Cordia are visited by a wide variety of invertebrates, such as bees, butterflies, beetles, wasps and flies (Opler et al., 1975; Machado and Loiola, 2000; Lopes et al., 2015), as well as vertebrates such as bats (Alvarez and Quintero, 1970) and birds (Opler et al., 1975; Dalsgaard, 2011; Wang et al., 2020). Thus, C. taguahyensis is likely pollinated by multiple animal species and the treefrog X. truncata is now a potential pollinator candidate.

“May”, “might”, “seems likely”, and so on it goes. To show pollination, you need to show pollination, not speculate that it’s likely. One way to do this is dust a flower with fluorescent pigment, like those used in making black-light posters, and then see if any fluorescent pollen makes its way to another flower (and, of course, that the flowers are reproductively compatible). This wasn’t done (we used this method to mark Drosophila in the wild.) Ergo, while we have new evidence that X. truncata is omnivorous and eats petals and nectar, and that pollen adheres to its back, that’s all we have.  It’s possible that a cross pollination occurs occasionally, but even that is speculation, and doesn’t show that the frog, as opposed to the many insects that visit the plant, is of any importance as a pollinator. As the authors say, “the treefrog X. truncata is now a potential pollinator candidate.”

Well, at least there’s a video of the cute little frog eating from a flower (but the “alien” plant, not the milkfruit flower); this comes from IFL Science. Cute little bugger, isn’t it?  The nectar and plant material may be a valuable supplement to the diet of this frog.

The journals that mentioned this paper as a possible case of amphibian pollination include Science, the New York Times, IFL Science, and other places. But the first place that comes up when you google “pollinating frog” is Scientific American.

Sofia Quaglia at the NYT gives the most critical take on this paper, saying this:

But more observations are needed to say the frogs really are pollinating plants.

“We cannot say that these frogs are actually pollinators,” said Felipe Amorim, a pollination ecologist at São Paulo State University who was not involved in the research. “They are flower visitors, they are flower-visitor frogs. We have a lot to learn about this novel interaction.”

For instance, the mucus secreted by the frog’s skin needs to be tested to confirm it doesn’t spoil the pollen before it gets to its destination. Scientists also need to work out whether the pollen is ever delivered to other flowers and if it does successfully fertilize and germinate them. It’s also still unclear why this frog species has developed a liking for flora over fauna in the first place.

And at least Sci. Am. mentions some of these problems. But really, the publicity given this observation, which has an interesting part (some frogs eat flowers and nectar) and a not-so-interesting part (one frog got pollen on its back) far exceeds its scientific novelty. This is what happen when either a university publicity machine goes into action or journalists copy each other’s content.  Two colleagues to whom I sent the paper both found the claims of possible pollination by the press (and by the authors, too) wildly exaggerated.

As Kurt Vonnegut said, “So it goes.”

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 9, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have a lovely selection of photos of red-eyed frogs taken by reader Mike Canzoneri.  His notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

The Red-Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) is probably the most photographed frog in the world, and it’s not difficult to see why. These colorful frogs have a unique personality and are incredibly photogenic.

The Red-Eyed Tree Frogs shown here are all from my property on the Southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica and are less colorful than the populations found on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. In fact, the coloration varies significantly from one isolated population to the next, and this year we are likely going to see the species get reclassified and split up into several separate species based on geographic population throughout its range. The color morph that I have around me lacks the vivid blue bars on the side of the body (mine are more bluish-gray) and the bright yellow/orange on the legs and feet that you find on the population on the Caribbean coast. A large percentage of the ones I see also have one or more white spots on their backs as can be seen in the 1st photo below.

Since moving to my house and rain forest property in the Golfito area, I’ve watched the A. callidryas population increase, though not nearly as sharply as some other frog species around me. The main reason for this is that I started keeping the lagoon in front of my house filled with water through the dry season (it normally dries up after the rains stop and rainy season ends) and I’ve added several more year-round tanks of water. Not only do the late rainy season tadpoles now make it to the frog phase, but reproduction for many species continues year-round around my house. Below is a common sight (A. callidryas in amplexus) on practically any night around the lagoon and tanks. After a pair spends time in amplexus they will eventually move to the underside of a large leaf over-hanging some water to deposit and fertilize eggs in a golf ball sized gelatinous egg mass. When the eggs hatch, 7 to 10 days later, the new-born tadpoles drop into the water below.

With an increased population of A. callidryas, I’ve also seen an increase in the populations of their predators, most notably the Northern Cat-Eyed snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), which feeds on frog egg masses (primarily those of A. callidryas) and also on the frogs themselves (any species they can fit in their mouth) and even tadpoles. Here I noticed a Red-Eyed Tree Frog on the same leaf as a Northern Cat-Eyed snake. The snake eventually moved on and the frog was unharmed.

An interesting sight I caught a couple weeks ago was two male A. callidryas fighting, likely over territory. I had never seen this behavior before from this species (plenty of other species show aggression between males) and it was surprising because these guys are typically low-energy frogs and at night you frequently see them sleeping, even the males during mating. These two were wrestling on a leaf and when the one on the bottom rolled over to the top, they both rolled off the leaf…at the last instant, the feet of one of them caught the base of the leaf and they hung, upside-down, still grappling. Eventually they separated and both climbed back onto the leaf.

And finally, here are some sleepy Red-Eyed Tree Frogs. Notice the gold nictitating membrane that covers each of their eyes…it obscures the bright red eyes that could catch the eyes of a predator while still allowing the frog to see what is going on around it.

If you found this interesting and enjoyed the photos, I can do another piece on some of the other frog species that inhabit the same environment around my house. Feel free to ask me anything about any of these photos or about the frogs around me in Costa Rica. For the photographers: all of these shots were taken at night, in-situ, with a Lumix (Panasonic) G9 20MP Micro 4/3 camera and an Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom lens and with a Godox V860ii speedlight mounted on the camera and a custom flash diffuser made by Erick Mesen here in Costa Rica.

I want to see more frogs, so please urge Mike to send more photos!

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 13, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today we have a new contributor: Gerfried Ambrosch, who sends us lovely pictures of herps. Gerfried’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I took all of these photos on my iPhone. Most of the amphibians depicted are nocturnal. Only the picture of the Alpine newt was taken during the day. Interestingly, some of the most important European green toad populations are found in urban areas, which is why they’re sometimes considered a synanthropic species. However, one main reason this endangered, steppe-dwelling species of toad now mainly populates these secondary habitats is that its primary habitats have mostly been destroyed. Once common, the European tree frog ­– Central Europe’s only tree-climbing frog – is now also a threatened species. Fortunately, there are many wildlife-protection and biodiversity projects (some of which I’m involved with) in Austria and Germany that work hard to mitigate these problems.

European green toad (Bufo viridis), Vienna, Austria:

European green toad (Bufo viridis), in amplexus, Vienna, Austria:

Common toad (Bufo bufo), in amplexus, near Graz, Austria:

Agile frog (Rana dalmatina), near Vienna, Austria:

European tree frog (Hyla arborea), near Graz, Austria (had to climb up a tree to take this photo!):

European tree frog (Hyla arborea), mating call, near Graz, Austria:

Alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), near Graz, Austria:

Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), near Graz, Austria:

Spot the frog!

December 7, 2022 • 8:15 am

I’m taking a break from wildlife photos today as I’m conserving them and am also tired. But reader Pradeep has contributed a “spot the” picture. In this pile of rocks, there is a frog. Can you spot it? If you do (or don’t), just say “I did” or “I didn’t” in the comments so to allow readers to look for themselves. The reveal will be at noon Chicago time.

Click to enlarge the photo. I’d call this “medium hard”.