They are gray and are often found in trees | Lifestyles
I’m a little sad because the weather is getting colder and the bugs and reptiles and amphibians will go away for a while.
But I’m sure we’ll have some hot spells this fall, as we usually do, so the bugs aren’t gone yet.
And, I know, I know, most people probably like it when the bugs are gone. However, I happen to love bugs and other creepy critters that most people don’t care about. With the exception of mosquitoes, they can be gone forever as far as I care. Well, I’m sure they serve a purpose, but because I’m under attack on a daily basis, I really don’t care.
I also love the sounds of nature during the warmer months.
I remember a freezing night in January many years ago when I was outside with my son throwing snowballs at himself before retiring for the night. We had a lot of fun, and after we were done I pulled him aside and said, “Listen, son. What do you hear ? “
He replied: “Nothing”.
He was right. We were living on a farm at the time, and it was absolute silence. No wind, no planes, no bugs, nothing.
The following June, we went out at night again and I asked him if he remembered that silent winter night, to which he replied, “Oh, yeah! It was a brilliant night!
I agreed it was a lot of fun and asked him if he remembered the silence? Again he said, “Oh, yeah.”
I asked him, “What do you hear now?
This time he replied: “Everything!
Once again, he was right. We have indeed heard “everything”. Crickets, katydids, tons of other insects, birds and bullfrogs. He was shocked at the difference between summer and winter.
I think that with kids, the biggest differences between the seasons are in the temperatures, or the shorter days, and / or the holidays, not the sounds around us.
Although I prefer cold to heat, winter is a time of sleep for many of these creatures, while summer is when nature hops off.
And, without a doubt, many of the creatures we heard from that summer night were gray tree frogs, the topic of this week’s Randy’s Natural World.
Males are the loudest, often calling all night long with their bird-like trills.
An RNW reader recently contacted me regarding these amphibians. So why not introduce them now, I thought.
And, to me, gray tree frogs are amazing. Not only because they can hold onto just about anything, but the fact that they can change color to suit their surroundings is fascinating. They can change color like a chameleon, albeit more slowly.
But, be aware that these frogs have a toxic coating on their skin. Now a person can hold one, but the hands – and wherever these frogs have come in contact with the skin – should be washed thoroughly immediately afterwards.
If a careless handler rubs the eyes with this poisonous substance, it can cause eye burns which can last for half an hour or more.
The substance can irritate the nose, eyes and lips, as well as cuts and scrapes.
Now, there are two species of gray tree frogs in Oklahoma – Hyla versicolor (sometimes called northern gray tree frog) and Hyla chrysoscelis (known as cope’s gray tree frog).
However, the two are physically the same and the only way to tell the difference is to listen to their songs – which are different from each other – or to have genetic testing.
So in this column, we’ll just keep it simple to “gray tree frog”.
Adult sizes range from 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length, with females being slightly larger than males.
Gray tree frogs are often patterned to look like tree bark with lichen on it. Most of the frogs I see are modeled this way, however, their colors and patterns can vary widely. Depending on temperature and other factors, they can be pale gray without a pattern to almost white, or leaf green without a pattern.
My favorite color pattern is a mix of light green and gray (pictured).
Their dorsal skin is granulated and they have a distinctive light patch, usually demarcated by a dark gray line, under each eye (photos). The limbs are banded the same gray / dark gray as the back. The groin and underside of the legs are dark yellow (pictured), and the chin and belly are white. The eyes are light yellow with dense dark brown reticulations.
These frogs are found throughout eastern Oklahoma, from as far west as Altus to Ponca City and across eastern state. Their range over the United States extends from the Plains States and almost everywhere in the east, with the exception of the southern two-thirds of Florida.
The genus name of the two species of gray frogs, “Hyla”, means “belonging to the woods”.
It is a largely arboreal species that occupies a variety of woodland habitats and is frequently found in forests, swamps, on farmland and in backyards. And, many people find them hanging from windows and other items on their porches.
Gray tree frogs feed primarily on insects, such as mites, spiders, plant lice, snails, and slugs. They may also occasionally eat smaller frogs, including other tree frogs.
(Editor’s Note: Randy Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. He has been an avid bird enthusiast, nature enthusiast, and photographer for over 40 years. Contact him at [email protected])