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The sweet serenade of U.P. amphibians

ESCANABA — The wet grass, the water’s edge, underneath the garden pots — lively little hoppers are everywhere.

Frog, frog, toad, it’s like a child’s game out there in the wetlands.

Tree frogs, American toads and gorgeous green leapers are signs of a healthy environment. This year, the lake level is very high and the ground water table is up, too, from recent rains.

That means frogs and toads rule.

As the old saying goes, “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find prince Charming,” well I think frogs are charming.

They serenade us in the early spring when the peepers start singing on the first warm night. A chorus of frog music fills our summer evenings, even though we don’t always know it’s them chirping away. From the deep baritone of the bull frog to the “ribbits” of the wood frog and the soprano sounds from the leopard frogs, all of the frogs and toads of Michigan have a unique voice.

Mix them altogether when you are camping and you have the perfect lullaby.

Another reason why frogs and toads are charming is because they eat tons of mosquitoes and other insects.

So maybe their big, bulgy eyes are a bit funny looking, but you’re never lonely in the summer months in the U.P. There is always some sort of a hoppy little friend around.

Let me introduce you to some of the most popular frogs in our neck of the woods. In the woodlands, the wood frog reigns supreme. The wood frog is a smaller, reddish, brown frog that wears a distinctive black mask by his eyes. He often strays pretty far away from water.

Down by the lake you’re likely to see the northern leopard frog. This big frog uses his spots to camouflage himself in the reeds as he waits for a nice dragonfly.

Tree frogs are not as common but they are a joy to see because of their suction cup toes that let them climb up anything. Tree frogs are smaller frogs with rough skin, and gray-green in color.

Mink frogs are cool little frogs because they thrive in the icy cold waters of spring fed brooks and streams.

Sometimes people ask “what is the difference between frogs and toads?” Simply put, if it hops fast, it’s a frog. If it moves slowly, it’s a toad. If it’s slick and smooth looking, it’s a frog. The toad is the lumpy, bumpy, warty one.

The American toad my not win many beauty contests, but he is a wonderful friend to have in your garden. Bugs-be-gone — even harmful aphids — thanks to Mr. Toad. Toads look like a mound of moving gravel. They are at home in the moist sand and soil. They may be ugly but they are a gardener’s best friend.

Pull on your rubber boots or your wading shoes and go introduce yourself to the frogs and toads around your place. See how many types of amphibians you can find.

——

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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