If you’ve read my “About” page, you know I’m a native Texan. This includes being a native Dallasite as well, although Dallas was not the “big city” with sprawling suburbs that it is today so I can genuinely state I had a bit of a rural upbringing despite living within the city’s limit. We actually lived “across the river” and in a community that was very isolated from the rest of Dallas. It was surrounded by woodlands and boasted its own water tower at one time. The community of Arcadia Park was eventually annexed to the City of Dallas although in my 22 years of living there it had not yet received the benefit of curbs, sidewalks or alleys. Thus, while I was technically raised in Dallas, in the 1960’s it felt more like we lived in the country.
During my childhood, my siblings and I spent a lot of time exploring the aforementioned woodlands and creeks that surrounded our community. We became familiar with opossums, skunks, birds, spiders, snakes and, especially, frogs and crawdads. However, there is one little frog I recently encountered in my suburban Dallas back yard that I simply don’t recall seeing or hearing as a kid – although I bet it was around and I simply didn’t know its call – just as I didn’t know it a few months ago . . .
I make a habit of drinking my first cup of coffee every morning outside on my back yard patio and I’ll have a late afternoon cocktail out there as well from time to time. Sometimes I sit at the table near the house and other times, I wander over to the small seating area on the opposite side of the yard. While drinking coffee at the small seating area about six months ago I heard a loud “honking” noise of a critter I could not identify. The noise actually sounded like it was a bird or other animal in great distress so I was eager to figure out where it was coming from. However, the noise only occurred in short spurts and would cease as I ventured nearer to its source.
Each progressive day, I was able to get closer to isolating the creature’s location in the yard. I knew that whatever it was, it was very near a certain Crape Myrtle growing next to the house but I didn’t see anything unusual in the small tree. I finally figured out the noise was originating (and echoing) from a gutter downspout located behind said Crape Myrtle. My first thought was a baby squirrel or fledgling bird had fallen from the roof and become stuck in the downspout. The thing had been “crying” for days and I felt it was urgent that we free it.
I admit by this time my husband had grown a little weary of me talking about the unidentified distressing noise in our back yard but he relented and stepped outside, yet again, to listen at the downspout. His heart softened as the thing finally sounded off in his presence. He immediately went to work dismantling the brackets of the downspout from the brick. Once the metal tube was free, my husband shook it gently to dislodge whatever is was onto the grass. Nothing came out.
Puzzled, we both cautiously peered inside the 8 ft metal gutter. Sitting contentedly and adorned with white Crape Myrtle flowers, was a tiny American Green Tree Frog! My husband shook his head at me, all the while laughing about our combined heroic efforts to free a tiny frog. He then placed the gutter in a nearby flower bed to allow the frog to hop out at its leisure. Hours later, Mr. Tree Frog was still contentedly sitting inside the downspout.
The next day my husband reattached the gutter to the house, frog and all, realizing the amphibian probably felt secure and was actually enjoying the moisture inside the downspout.
American Green Tree Frogs are small amphibians that enjoy wet areas with typically lots of ground cover. They are usually about 1.5 to 2.5 inches long and bright green in color with a white stripe down each side of their body. Green tree frogs have large, sticky toe pads. This accounts for why we could not dislodge our frog from the gutter! Typically, they stay hidden during the day and come out only at night to eat insects and other invertebrates. Some people have reported seeing green tree frogs attached to their outside screens at night, catching insects that are lured to the windows of lighted rooms. Green tree frogs live in the American south from the Carolina’s to east Texas. I would say my part of Texas is probably along the western border of their habitat so I feel especially lucky to have one in my yard. Overall, green tree frogs are cute amphibians that are very beneficial to yards and gardens.
Since the day we discovered our frog in the downspout, I’ve seen him out relaxing on my newly budded Plumeria tree on rainy days – which he matches perfectly, by the way. And, although I don’t always see him, I still hear him calling now and then. Some days, I hear another tree frog or two answering him from across the alley. I’ve read that only the males chant, so we could have some competition in the neighborhood! However, now that I know something isn’t in distress, the call of the American Green Tree Frog reminds me it is an unusual, but beautiful, part of nature’s summertime symphony.
You can listen to a clip of a green tree frog here – compliments of the National Park Service.
Until next time,