Frog Opera Farm–that’s what I like to call this place because during wet winters, the shear volume of the croaking when you go outside in the evenings reverberates through the whole body. We’re at a low point in the hills around us and little vernal pools form. We’re particularly fond of the frogs, and besides the natural vernal pools, there is also a seasonal pond and innumerable stock tanks and little basins for them. Besides being adorable they help with the garden bugs.
Creating Frog Habitat
It’s easy to offer your own little frog breeding spot, in the form of a small ceramic basin filled with non-chlorinated water. It must be still water–no fountain. If there are frogs in your area, they will likely find it. Please note: I believe it is illegal to capture native tadpoles from natural areas. If there are some grasses hanging over and drooping into the water, that will provide some great surface for the frogs to lay their eggs on. The eggs get attached to these floaters.
Keep in mind that any standing body of water around here must have a control for mosquitos. If it’s a temporary water site, we use the mosquito dunks available in nurseries. They are nontoxic to all but the mosquito larvae. Or Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector will come out for free and treat your water and check for larvae.
(If it’s a permanent body of water, you can use mosquito fish. They are very small and rapidly reproduce and eat the mosquito larvae, but they seem to be incompatible with tadpoles, in my experience. They may eat the frog eggs.)
The tadpoles seem to mature best in temporary, sunny water spots–water that gets warmer as the water recedes over some weeks, stimulating their legs to grow. Frog eggs and tadpoles will be safer in water that has no fish predators or non-native bullfrogs to eat them. Herons and wild ducks may still swoop in for snacks though. For tadpole protection, you can add some hideaway objects in the water — like a broken piece of pottery to create a cavern, or rocks providing underwater channels. In a big pond, some branches might do. Once they have developed their legs, offer a protected escape route in the form of adjoining leafy plants.
These tadpole havens are great fun for kids, or people like me who are easily entertained. Watching them grow from teeny specks to tadpoles and then frogs is fascinating. I find it quite mesmerizing just watching the tadpoles wiggling their tails as they sun themselves. They also like having a small stick or old piece of wood (untreated!) that floats. The tadpoles attach to that for sunning, and as their legs grow, they climb up on it. Beware that the water will get murky with algae until it finally dries up. Adding cold water to a receding basin of warm water will likely slow down their growth process. Try to use water of a similar temperature if you want to prolong the pool for the last stragglers.
Once they are grown up and have jumped the pond, you will find them in the most unexpected places. Keep your camera handy.
Enjoy your frog opera and send in your froggie photos!
UPDATE: After I published this post on frog habitat, I was talking with another gardener friend about tadpoles in her pond and what to look for in terms of eggs. And then I found these two photos of frog eggs I had taken years ago. This is what frog eggs look like, including when they start to become tadpoles. So, I’m editing them into this post for everyone. Look for a (kinda gross?) gelatinous blob with little clear round sacs, usually attached to some floating sticks or grasses hanging in the water.