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The art of camouflage

An every day thing for tree frogs

September 24, 2011
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

GRAY TREE FROGS, Hyla versicolor, are cryptic. They are well camouflaged against whatever natural background they cling to. If it is a tree, the mottled grays blend in with the color of the bark. If however the frog is warm enough during summertime peak days, it can become a vivid pea-green and the dark irregular design on its back nearly disappears. Changing its skin color to avoid detection is one method natural has provided to tree frogs.

Iowa has 16 species of frogs. They produce eggs which hatch into tadpole-like larva with four legs but lacking gills. All frogs are anatomically specialized for jumping. Scientists categorize frogs into four families: Ranidae are the frogs; Bufonidae are toads; Hylidae are tree frogs; and Pelobatidae are spadefoots.

The sounds frogs make especially at night near wetlands, can be a chorus of many different and quite load croaking noises. To the frogs of each species, it is a way to communicate where they are. For people who can't adjust to the sound, ear plugs, and/or closed house windows may be the only method to cope. Learning to identify frog species by their unique calling sounds can be a laborious task. It is best to find recordings of know species and listen carefully for the variations in call types. At this time of year, frogs have already sensed the need to prepare for winter. Frogs will dig themselves deep into pond mud, wetland sites or deep into leaf litter on a forest floor.

Article Photos

Gray tree frogs know how to hide in plain view. A quick glance on this tree could easily have missed this 2 1/2 inch long frog. But there it was, looking very much like a bump on the swamp white oak tree trunk. Gray tree frogs have tiny suction cup pads on the ends of its toes to enable it to cling to many surfaces such as wet leaves or stems of plants. People have also seen them on the outside of house windows at night where they may be attracted to insects flitting about the light coming from inside the house.


HUNTING SEASONS are just getting started. More species come into fair chase during October. Whitetail deer archery and fall turkey bow opens Oct. 1. Gray partridge has an Oct. 8 opening. Crow season is Oct. 15. Quail and Pheasant open Oct. 29.

In the realm of hunting contributions nationally, Sportsmen lay out a lot of cash, nearly $8 million each day. In the course of one year, it totals about $2.9 billion for conservation. Since 1937, hunters and target shooters have paid $6.8 billion in excise taxes since the inception of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act.) States get a share of this money based on population and license sales. When used in addition to and with the leveraged help of other state and private conservation funds, PR dollars are a key ingredient in annual budgets. Hunters and anglers provide more than 75 percent of the annual funds of the 50 state conservation agencies. Sportsmen are clearly the largest contributors to conservation, paying for programs that benefit all Americans and all wildlife.


There are two weeks left before the Oct. 8 PHEASANTS FOREVER banquet for Marshall County. The location will the Activities building at the Central Iowa Fairgrounds. Advance tickets are recommended for the cost of $55. After Oct. 4, ticket prices jump to $75. So plan ahead and get your tickets from Steve Armstrong. Call him at 641-752-8322 for advance tickets or details on costs of youth and spouse tickets.

PF Inc. is non-profit tax exempt organization incorporated in Minnesota on August 5, 1982. They are dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail, and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, eduction and land management policies and programs.


REAP stands for Resource Protection and Enhancement. It is a 22-year-old program with a proven track record. This area meeting including Marshall County plus Hardin, Tama and Poweshiek, will be Thursday at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm, 2349 233rd Street, Marshalltown. The meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be over by 9 p.m. Every two years the Assemblies are held to gather input into projects and programs that benefited from special appropriations for a broad range of conservation interests. Such will be the case again this year.

For the last 22 years, REAP has assisted Iowa's city, county and state parks. Soil conservation and water quality issues are also addressed. Cultural, historical and conservation education programs are in the mix too. Funds are distributed according to a formula worked out decades ago and written into the authorizing legislation. It has worked very well. While never fully funded, the REAP program has been the seed money for many local projects. All interested persons are encouraged to attend the Sept. 29 meeting to listen and support continuation of the program.


If TREES are your big interest, knowing what species of trees are best for this area will the focus of a special informational presentation by ISU Extension. The date is also on Sept. 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Extension office, 2501 South Center Street, Suite N, in Marshalltown. Dr. Jeff Iles, Chair of the Horticultural Department will discuss the right trees to purchase for your lot, acreage or farm. In addition, Dr. Jesse Randall, Extension Forester, will discuss and explain tree planting tips, staking, pruning and long term outlooks for trees you want to manage and maintain. It is a free program.


Here is this weeks point of wisdom: "Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it!" -Anonymous.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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