by Marlene Berlin
It is time to visit Broad Branch Stream to see the tadpoles. When they are young, it is difficult to identify their species. Two species I have heard, the spring peepers and American toad (which made a debut performance during the Forest Hills Connection Broad Branch Stream tour in April), look similar in their beginning stages of growth.
As I was taking photos of the Broad Branch tadpoles a mallard male dropped in for a visit. He kept me company, quacking away. I am expecting to see ducklings soon.
Tadpoles of other species can be seen in the pond about midway to the culvert on Broad Branch Road. Look for the big trunk jutting out and where Linnean Stream outflow comes in. That’s the pond. These tadpoles are much harder to spot. If you fix your gaze on a submerged log, you might find one or two. These tadpoles could be those of a gray tree frog or southern leopard, species reported to FrogWatchDC last summer in addition to the spring peeper and American toad. Their light brown-olive green coloring is not distinctive.
Often as you step near a pond you hear splashes and then see ripples as tadpoles of various stages of development dash for cover. They’re so fast you can’t catch even a glimpse. Don’t get discouraged. Patience is rewarded.
In most cases, we have another month or two to watch them grow up. It takes 50 to 65 days for the American toad to reach maturity, 60 days for the gray tree frog, and even longer for the spring peeper (60 to 90 days), southern leopard (60 to 80 days), and bullfrog (two years).
Bullfrogs tend to mate a little later. In mid-April, I visited a pond where bullfrogs like to congregate, but did not hear or see anything. Last year I was hearing them in mid-May.
Spotting these creatures is not always easy, but you’re guaranteed to hear them if you visit Broad Branch Stream around dusk. The frogs will be performing their nightly chorus. This is what you would have heard if you happened to be there on May 7th around 8:30 p.m.
Can you identify the species from their sounds? These videos can help you out:
Diana Hart says
This lovely write up brought me back to childhood at our creek and watching those tiny, wiggling mysterious creatures. Thanks for the audio reminder of summer evenings.