Monday, July 14, 2014

tiny green tree frog

tiny green tree frog
nestled inside a day lily,
when I come too close -- pop!

Early on an unusually cool July morning, I am out picking flowers when I spot an emerald green spot in the mouth of a yellow day lily. On closer inspection, the spot turns out to be a tiny tree frog with a smooth, sparkling green back ending in a hood over its snout, a pale patch under its eyes, gray sides and legs, and bulbous toe pads.

Like a wary Robin Hood, the minuscule amphibian stares from under its green hood at this immense apparition. When I get close enough to see the vertical black slit in the gold-flecked iris of its eyes . . . pop! It plunges off the petal to the ground.

According to, my little frog is a Cope's gray tree frog. Gray? Yes, Hyla versicolor is a Color-Shifter, able to change from bright green to gray, almost brown, in seconds -- depending on temperature or sometimes their surroundings. 
          Male gray tree frogs are accomplished Bagpipers. They create a loud chirring sound on summer evenings by shutting their nostrils and mouth and squeezing their lungs so that air flows into a "bag" on their throat until it blows up like a balloon and resonates their vocal chords. 
          During the day they turn into expert Samurai. It takes them less than a second to throw out their long, sticky tongues to catch insects. And if it's a big insect, they can drop their eyeballs into their mouth to help push the bug down their throat whole.
          Like Spider Man, they can scale tall buildings and cling to glass windows with ease, due to their ability to secrete mucous from those exaggerated toe pads. And then leap from great heights in a single bound.
          In winter they become Cryonic Masters. After crawling under some shelter like a rock or log, they allow most of their bodily fluids to freeze, but convert enough glucose from the liver to protect their vital organs from freezing. Essentially, they stay frozen until spring revives them from their state of suspended animation.
          All that in a body the size of a quarter!

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