Several Naturewatch readers have contacted me about the loud, prolonged trilling coming from suspected nearby trees without finding the cause. The long “explosive” trills are mating calls of the 2 1/2-inch male and the occasional short trill is an answer from the smaller female gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor). As noisy as they are, they are challenging to locate as they may be hiding under loose bark, in a stone wall, even under eaves of houses. They have a knack for making their voice come from a different location than it is. Sometimes they may be near a swimming pool, certainly near a pond, temporary or permanent and other times, like our neighborhood, with little water nearby. In my years residing in Pittsfield and Dalton, I have known of one treefrog species, the spring peeper (Hyla crucifer), although there is another recently added, the gray treefrog. Now we have two species — the noisy gray is new to Pittsfield, having moved north from south Berkshire over the years. A friend in North Adams informs me of its presence in that city as well. Of interest is theMassachusetts Herp (Amphibian and Reptile) Atlas 1992-1998
survey lists confirmation the species in Sheffield, New Marlborough, Sandisfield, Tyringham, Stockbridge,, Lenox, Washington, Lee, Becket and Otis. And reliable, but unconfirmed, in Monterey, Mount Washington and Great Barrington. The first time I heard the gray treefrog noisily crooning was in the late 1960s, following a day long birding along the North Shore. We had heard the roaring trill out the car windows and pulled over at the rest area at one end of French King Bridge, spanning the Connecticut River along state Route 2 between Erving and Gill. I would hear them more recently after dark in the outskirts of Holyoke at our daughter and family’s house. There, they would lay their eggs after mating in the shallow water-filled cover of their above-ground swimming pool. On one later visit, there were 30 or more young treefrogs, about 3/4 inches, hiding under the fringes of the pool cover. This master of camouflage, after we no longer hear it during the nighttime, will have found a mate and will be off, as its lady friend searches for shallow water, to lay eggs in clumps of 10 to 14, preferably along the shore of a pond. Keep an eye out for them and you may even finally see the frog itself. I think their mating here will end very soon, so enjoy them! Soon it will be time for the crickets to begin chirping!
Marion Larson, executive editor of Massachusetts Wildlife magazine and chief of Information & Education, reminded me it is time to consider a message on what to do if you find baby cottontail bunnies. It is a hot topic at this time of year! I include an excerpt of an info sheet she sent me: Life history Breeding occurs from March through early fall. Females do not dig their own nest burrows, but rather scratch out a slight depression in the ground in an area of dense grass for concealment. The nest is lined with fur and dry grass. The gestation period is about 28 days. Cottontails usually have 2 to 4 litters per year, with about 3 to 8 young per litter. Young rabbits, called bunnies, are born blind, naked, and helpless, but grow rapidly, leaving the nest after only 2 to 3 weeks. They are weaned and totally independent at 4 to 5 weeks. Adults are usually solitary by nature, except when a female is caring for its young. If you find bunnies Generally, bunnies are visited by their adult mother one to two times a day to avoid attracting predators to the young. The young rabbits are generally safe when left alone because their color patterns and lack of scent help them remain undetected. If you find a nest of bunnies, leave them alone. Resist the urge to “check” upon them as your continuing visits will also attract the attention of predators. Even though a location may seem unsafe, in most situations, it is best to leave bunnies and other wildlife alone. Keep pets restrained and avoid the nest area.
I received the first report of the season of a monarch butterfly, spotted June 8, at 1,320 feet elevation, in Becket, by Naturewatch reader Mike Hansen.
Q: Can you suggest an app for identifying plants (perennials, wildflowers, etc.)? There seem to be so many of them. And while we are at it, how about an app for identifying birds? — Don W. A: One of the better sources of information is SEEK created by the iNaturalist, that not only will identify most plants, both cultivars and wild, but amphibians, fungi, fish, arachnids, birds, insects, mollusks, and mammals. I have not tried them all and, to be truthful, have only used it to identify plants, both wild and in the garden, and our garden toad. It correctly identified lungwort a wild plant wild plant with white-spotted leaves, a species new to me. It also identified several plants I know, but wanted to confirm its value. It got at least 90 percent correct and those it did not know it said Dicot. The only drawback is that it requires a cell phone. For birds, if you have an idea of the bird’s name, enter it into your computer and you will come up with a list of sites. I always choose www.allaboutbirds.org if I have an inkling of the bird’s name, or I go tomerlin.allaboutbirds.org
if I have no idea. It will ask a few questions and, often as not, will provide the name. If you prefer a field guide online, go to www.audubon.org/bird-guide. It is a bird photo guide with names.