Skip to main content

Oregon Family Magazine

The Tadpole Days of Summer

05/01/2011 ● By Anonymous
Free, evening concerts, could be heard all around Eugene in the early days of spring. Did you hear one in your backyard? The warm, longer days, brought a series of duets and trios, sung by the male Pacific Tree Frogs–– better known as “Chorus Frogs.”

In their earnest effort to attract mates and defend their territory, the male frogs call out in high-pitched trills, “ribbits,” and “krrrecks.” Each one amplifies his voice with a resonating throat sack he blows up to 3X the size of his head! These Northwest frogs are so loud, they are the frogs chosen to sing in background jungle scenes of many Hollywood movies.

Once the Tree frogs mate, eggs are laid, and the pollywogs emerge a few weeks later––childhood magic begins.

Remember catching tadpoles (or pollywogs) as a kid? Those days defined summer. They were hours of engaging, carefree fun that few children experience anymore. We scrambled down to the rocky creek bed, bucket and net in hand, and scooped up all we could catch, examining each one carefully for signs of the frog to come. Tiny budding legs in every stage, yolk sacks, and shrinking tails, captivated our attention long beyond the call for dinner.

Unfortunately, we wondered at the transformation with an instinctive urge to participate. Many of us, with all good intentions, scooped the tadpoles into jars and took them home to watch the process unfold. We just didn’t know what we know now–– that tadpoles survive best if left where found, in their natural habitat. Small bowls and tanks of aging pond water, with minimal food, are poor homes for these delicate creatures.

With these precautions in mind, encourage your children to spend some time this summer observing, exploring, and dipping for tadpoles. Remind them to capture only a few (and never in a dry hand), for only a few minutes, and gently release them back into their homes. We are intruders that mean no harm, but can do a lot.

Here’s a tip on identifying the Tree frog tadpoles: If you take a birds-eye look at a pool of tadpoles, Tree frog tadpoles are the ones whose eyes jut out a bit at the sides of their heads. A Bullfrog tadpole’s eyes are more to the top of his head. Tree frog tadpoles are also quite smaller than the Bullfrog tadpoles, who can remain as tadpoles for up to two years before they metamorphose.

A great place to see Tree frog tadpoles is at Mount Pisgah Arboretum. Walk along the oak savannah road, just south of the water garden, and look for the seeps along the left side of the gravel road. These large puddles were excavated to provide more habitat for the Tree frogs to breed. Once the tadpoles complete their transformation (in late summer) they leave the puddles for the pond or forest, where they can climb on vegetation with their sticky toe pads. One hopes that the puddles don’t dry up before the tadpoles turn to frogs! The dry, Tadpole Days of Summer can be a challenge to these vulnerable creatures growing up in a watery environment.

by Fran Rosenthal, Education Manager, Mount Pisgah Arboretum