The frogs have returned

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Can you see what they are pointing at?

“There’s a frog!” several of Ms. Bertone’s first grade students started shouting excitedly while we checked the Riverside School courtyard for signs of life. When I approached where they had made the discovery, everyone was quick to point. The sight reminded me of my own daughter, many years ago, when she jumped up and down and cheered at the sight of a frog in a local pond. Of course, she is now twelve, and more reserved with her enthusiasm, but she does still accompany me each spring to gather a variety of local frogs to share with my students.

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Here is a closer look.

The frog was a Rana clamitans, commonly known as the Northern green frog, which is a common species in New Jersey. Since our pond was installed in 2013, I have worked to bring a variety of local species into our courtyard. Unfortunately, the first year that I tried, I also brought in several bullfrogs (Rana catesbiana), which will eat anything that happens to fit into their mouth, as can be seen in the video below:

By the fall of 2013, my students and I could only find one very fat bullfrog, which I released into a nearby canal, and realized that we’d have to start fresh again in 2014 (without any bullfrogs this time around).

When April came, we collected spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), pickerel frogs (Rana palustris), green frogs (Rana clamitans), and Northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens). I also ordered wood frog tadpoles (Rana sylvatica) from Pennsylvania, because they are such fascinating creatures–able to freeze to the point where their hearts stop beating and their brains stop functioning for months at a time:

As of this spring, we have witnessed the return of spring peepers, green frogs, and at least one pickerel frog that we saw this morning.

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And here it is! Rana palustris, first seen by our prekindergarten class on March 11.

I am hopeful that we might also hear gray tree frogs at some point in the Riverside courtyard, because their call just sounds so incredibly cool:

We didn’t find any additional turtles emerging from hibernation today, although students did enjoy getting good looks at Dot Dot Dash and Coquí, both of which were out enjoying the sun.

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Ms. Bertone’s first grade class was very careful not to get in Coquí’s path.
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Ms. Tolin’s second graders watching Dot Dot Dash clamber through the vegetation.

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