Posts Tagged ‘Lithobates sphenocephalus’

With a mixture of horror and fascination, I watched as a large black snake slowly ingested a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) that it had caught on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. The frog was struggling and crying out loudly and then suddenly it was free. The lucky frog hopped away and the snake could only tell its friends about the one that got away.

When I first spotted the snake, it was holding the frog in the air. It appeared to have grabbed the frog by one of its back legs and was trying to adjust the frog so that it could swallow it. Unlike a Great Blue Heron that swallows its prey in a single gulp, the snake has to pull its prey in slowly. Little by little the snake seemed to get more of the frog’s leg in its mouth.

The frog continued to struggle, seeking to get some leverage so that it could pull its way out of the snake’s death grip. I didn’t see exactly how it happened, but all of the sudden the frog was free. It almost looked like that snake had released the frog, though that just seems so unlikely to have happened. Whatever the case, the frog was extremely fortunate—all of the previous encounters that I have observed between snakes and frogs have ended with the frog inside of the snake.

I was shooting with my macro lens, so I couldn’t zoom in closer, but I did manage to capture a sequence of shots that show some of the action.





© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that spring is here, you can see and hear frogs throughout Huntley Meadows Park. One of the most common types in our area is the Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), like this one that I spotted this past weekend.

Southern Leopard Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the frogs that I have seen in the last few months have been hopping away or diving into the water as I walked along small streams in search of dragonflies. Last weekend, though, I happened to notice a frog in the shallow water of a small pool in the woods of my favorite marshland park.

The light was nice and the frog was only partially submerged, so I moved closer to the frog to take some shots.  I could tell was a Southern Leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), a pretty common frog where I live. I really like the distinctive spots that are responsible for its name.

Standing relatively upright, I was able to get a good shot of the frog’s entire body. I was happy with the shot, but not fully satisfied, so I decided to try for a lower shot. Sometimes I will lie on my stomach with my elbows propped on the ground for this kind of shot, but the ground was wet and muddy, so I settled for a low crouch. I was hoping to get as close to eye level with the frog as I could.

When you look at the two photos, you can notice some interesting differences caused by the change of perspective. The frog appears much flatter in the second shot and some interesting reflections of the eyes have now appeared, which might have been caused more by a change in sunlight than by the change of position. Somehow I feel a little bit more immersed in the frog’s world in the second shot.

I’m not sure I’d be able to judge which of the two shots is better—I like aspects of each one. More importantly, I reminded myself of the important of varying my perspective, of changing angles and distances when working with a subject.

You can learn a lot by getting down with a frog.

Southern Leopard frog

Souothern Leopard frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday the marsh was alive with the sound of music—frog music. As the temperatures soared to 65 degrees F (18 degrees C), the high-pitched sound of the frogs grew to almost deafening levels at some of the shallow vernal pools.

It was obvious that there were hundreds, if not thousands of frogs present in the area, but they seemed to be invisible. I managed to spot only a single one, this little Southern Leopard Frog that was partially submerged in the water at the edge of one of the pools.

In a few days the vernal equinox will arrive here in the Northern Hemisphere, marking the start of spring (according to the astrological calendar). The frogs obviously decided to get jump ahead a bit or are using the meteorological calendar, which calculates the start of spring as the beginning of the month of March.

Yesterday the frogs were loudly proclaiming that spring is here, and I am thrilled at the prospect of warmer weather and new life springing up everywhere.

Southern Leopard Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With the temperature in the 20’s (-5 C) the last few days, it’s hard to remember that we had record-breaking temperatures less than a week ago, when temperatures soared to 72 degrees (22 C).

During a trip to my marsh on one of the warm days last Saturday, I was a little shocked to see some frogs out of the water, which not long before had been covered with a thin sheet of ice. I thought they would be in a hibernation state by now. The frogs were in the reeds and the ones that I could see were Southern Leopard frogs (Lithobates sphenocephalus), like the one in this photo.

I figured that frogs buried themselves completely in the mud like turtles do, but was surprised to learn that is not the case. According to an article in Scientific American, aquatic frogs, like the leopard frog, do hibernate underwater, but they would suffocate if buried in the mud. Instead they remain on top of the mud or only partially buried.

In addition to the frogs, a lot of small turtles took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and could be seen sunning themselves on logs in the marsh. Unfortunately, there were no cameo appearances by dragonflies—my fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford and I searched diligently for Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies, which we had seen earlier in December, but we came up empty-handed.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I walked along the boardwalk yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, fellow photographer Christy Turner pointed out this Southern Leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) in the bushes and I managed to get a shot of the cool-looking frog.

These frogs are pretty common and I think I hear them often, but I hadn’t seen one in months. We have had a lot of rain this past week and this frog may have decided to chill out in the underbrush rather than remain in the now deep water in this part of the marsh. It was an interesting challenge to try to find an uncluttered visual pathway to get this shot—I crouched and leaned as I focused on the frog, conscious of the fact that I could end up in the bushes with the frog if I were not careful.

Things turned out pretty well, and I avoided falling in the water at that moment, though my feet got soaked later in the afternoon when I ventured too close to a flooded-out section of the boardwalk.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have been hearing the sound of frogs for weeks, but I rarely catch a glimpse of one and was happy to spot this Southern Leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus) on Monday.

I really like the view from the front, with the frog surrounded by little bubbles, his eyes reflecting in the water. The second view, however, lets you see better the positioning of his legs.

The frogs are active now and I even saw a pair of intertwined snakes. Spring is here in full force in Northern Viriginia.


Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Have you ever watched a frog as he was croaking?

Apparently he closes his mouth and nostrils, squeezes his lungs, and his vocal sacs expand, looking a lot like a bubblegum bubble.

Southern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates sphenocephalus) have a vocal sac on either side of their head, although some other frogs have only a single sac under their chin,

Here’s a shot I took on Monday of one as he was croaking. You can see the vocal sac bubble pretty wellif you look closely at the side of the head nearest the camera.


I am including this additional frog photo, because I really like the way that the bubbles surround his head.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I was out again in the marsh, hoping to photograph frogs as they were croaking.  Of course, the first problem was finding them. I could hear them throughout the marsh, but many of them were hidden from view in the cattails or far out in the water.

Eventually I was able to locate a few frogs that were within the range of my camera and I am still going through those images. What I was looking to capture was the vocal sacs that expand like little bubbles when they make the croaking sound. I am still not sure if I captured that phenomenon well enough, but plan to post some images later.

One of the frogs that I spotted, a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), was apparently unaware of my presence and began swimming slowly in my direction. He seemed to be trying to keep his head above the water and doing a version of what I used to call the “dog paddle”—I may start calling it the “frog paddle” from now on.

This photo shows the swimming frog in mid-stroke, surrounded by lots of bubbles. I am not sure if he is responsible for the bubbles, but they add a nice touch to the photo.

I’m pretty sure that I will be off again soon in search of frogs, snakes, and turtles as me move into spring. Stay tuned, there’s more to come.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday, the marsh was alive with the sound of music, frog music. Entire areas of the marshland seemed to resound with waves of sounds, some it high-pitched and some of it lower in range. The warm weather, in the low 60’s (16 degrees C), seemed to have roused the frogs from their sleep and they were in the mood to sing.

Although I could identify the general areas of the frog activity, it proved to be very difficult to spot the frogs themselves. My eyes scanned and rescanned the shallow waters near the cattails until at last I spotted a frog.

I think this frog is a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus), but I am not entirely sure of my identification. You can see from the photo how effectively he is camouflaged.

Frogs and turtles are starting to be active, can the dragonflies be far behind?


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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