A Tree Frog Chooses

I didn’t notice this little Pacific tree frog in my watering can yesterday until after I filled it with water. Lucky me, he clung to the side long enough to admire and snap some pictures. I don’t think the frog felt so lucky. He looked concerned — alarmed even —  or maybe he was dizzy.

frog 2

I had just disturbed his hiding place by putting the end of the hose in the can and turning on the water forcefully enough that I wouldn’t have to wait too long for the can to fill. I wanted to get on with watering the flower pots. I watched what I thought was a leaf swirling in the eddy from the accumulating water. The leaf, of course, turned out to be this frog.

My daughter used to catch these frogs and put them in her pocket. Once, she carried one around in her little purse. (I didn’t let her keep them too long because I didn’t want to stress them.)

Pacific tree frogs are the smallest frogs in Washington and the ones we hear calling by the thousands in the evenings when the weather starts to warm. I love to hear them singing, always a sure sign of spring. It’s incredible this little guy, and his guy friends, can produce such a large sound. They work hard to impressive the females.

Pacific tree frogs can be found anywhere in Washington where there is water, and we have plenty of that around here. The same daughter who used to catch them had a school friend with a pond next door to her home. One summer, we kept a container of pond water on our porch a with half dozen or so tadpoles in it. It was great fun to watch them grow legs and begin to change into frogs. We had some trouble keeping them fed with the right nutrients, but I remember at least one or two made their full transition, although we never got lucky enough to see them leave. I figure our container had a better success rate than the pond did, where tadpoles fall prey to a number of predators, including dragonfly larvae, bullfrogs, garter snakes, and birds.

I wondered how long “my frog” would cling to the side of the watering can. He was a welcome guest. I did not shoo him away. The flowers could wait.

His toes were like fingers wrapped around the can. At one point, he had just one finger curved around the edge, which looked creepily human-like in it’s articulation. There was no webbing between his front toes, but I think saw a little between his back toes. They must have because they swim in our hot tub. He had visible toe pads, which are sticky for climbing trees and more.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), adult frogs have been seen and heard up in trees and outside windows two stories high.

I’ve never seen a frog in a tree. Perhaps I’ve just not looked hard enough. Their electric green and brown bodies camouflage them well against the bark and moss.

Are they more brown or green? It depends on the frog and their environment.

“Individual tree frogs can change color between green and brown tones in a few minutes. This color change is related to the temperature and amount of moisture in the air, not to the background color as is the case for most reptiles,” writes the WDFW.

That’s pretty cool.

They also all have a black mask around their eyes.

I’ll name mine Zorro, not that he’s mine anymore, or ever was.

Zorro clung to the edge for at least five minutes, then he jumped off and hopped into the underbrush, making the choice we all face at one time or another: What’s the best course of action in a situation like this?

Crawl back into our hiding places even though it’s not safe anymore, and we might risk drowning?

Keep holding on for dear life and hope for the best?

Or take the leap into action, not knowing if where we’ll land will be better or safer and it might be a really long jump?


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