Collectively, amphibians (including frogs, toads, and salamanders) and reptiles (including snakes, lizards, and turtles), are called “herps” or hertofauna. These are creatures whose body temperature varies (poikilothermic), are cold-blooded (ectothermic), and four-legged (tetrapod), although in the case of snakes the legs are no longer visible.
FWG has a variety of amphibians that mainly breed in the Amphibian Pond but very few types of turtles and, so far, no lizards, and only one snake – the harmless Eastern Gartersnake. Our most common turtles are Common Snapping Turtles but a few other species occasionally arrive. The snapping turtles although probably always present in the Amphibian Pond are rarely seen since they stay submerged most of the day.
Northern Leopard Frog, Lithobates pipiens, Grenouille léopard du Nord [CHS]
Uncommon at the FWG.
American Bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus, Ouaouaron [CHS]
Only seen (or heard) occasionally at the FWG. The photo at the right was taken in August 2007 – a very large bullfrog, body about 15 cm (6 inches) long. They may be distinguished from the common Green Frog by having a smooth back. Green Frogs have parallel ridges that run down the sides of the back.
American Bullfrog; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Green Frog; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans, Grenouille verte [CHS]
Our most common frog species at the FWG. Green Frogs can often be seen in our Backyard Garden pond as well as in the much larger Amphibian Pond. While normally green some can be brown or bronze coloured. We have also had one that was partly blue – a rarity. All will have brown stripes on their back legs.
They can be distinguished from bullfrogs by two parallel folds down their backs. They also have large circular eardrums called tympani just behind their eyes. In the males, the tympani are larger than the eye sockets.
Green Frog tadpoles overwinter and complete their transformation into adult frogs the following year. We often see tadpoles still active until late fall, surfacing for air until most of the pond is frozen over. The tadpoles sink a little way into the detritus on the bottom of the pond for protection. They may also find shelter among rocks or the roots of aquatic plants, such as cattails. Tadpoles don’t hibernate or enter a state of torpor. They will swim away if disturbed. But to conserve energy and lower oxygen requirements, they remain motionless in whatever hiding place they find. Their body temperature is always the same as that of the water they are in, which in winter at the bottom of our pond is about 4°C. If the water froze to the bottom, the tadpoles would die. They also require a certain amount of oxygen, so flowing water is preferred. [Source: Stephen Darbyshire]
American Toad, Anaxyrus americanus, Crapaud d’Amerique [CHS]
Also common at the FWG, toads of all sizes from 1.5 to 10 cm can be found in the Backyard Garden, woods, and fields. They gather in our Amphibian Pond in late April or early May to mate and lay eggs.
American Toad; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Grey Treefrog; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Grey Treefrog, Hyla versicolor, Rainette versicolore [CHS]
Very common at the FWG. Their call, which sounds a bit like a bird, can be heard all over the garden and around the pond all summer. Seeing them is much more difficult as they can change colour to blend into the background. Colours include green (see left photo), brown, and grey (obviously). Sometimes found on the walls or a window ledge at our Resource Centre. They are also know to inhabit abandoned best boxes around the pond.
Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer, Rainette crucifère [CHS]
Rare at the FWG; probably not breeding.
Wood Frog, Lithobates sylvaticus, Grenouille des bois [CHS]
Can be heard in our Amphibian Pond in mid-April, usually for a week or two, before they return to wooded areas. Their call, which sounds like a quack, often has visitors looking for ducks in our pond.
Wood Frog, Amphibian Pond; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Common Snapping Turtle; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina, Tortue serpentine [CHS]
Common at the FWG and have been observed laying eggs. During the pond rejuvenation in 2016, three adults were found. A smaller one is shown on the left. In 2016, a nest was found in the Butterfly Meadow. Thirteen hatchings were transferred to the Amphibian Pond in late fall. In 2017, another nest was found also in the Butterfly Meadow. None hatched but Sandra Garland removed before winter to incubate them. Unfortunately, none hatched. Four other hatchlings from another nest and presumably from another female were found by Isabel Nichol. These four were released in the Amphibian Pond in spring.
Midland Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta marginata, Tortue peinte du Centre [CHS]
Uncommon at the FWG.
Blanding’s Turtle, Emydoidea blandingii, Tortue mouchetée [CHS]
Blanding’s Turtles are known to be “shy,” so the FWG tends to be a bit busy for them; however, we do see one at least once a year. This one (right) was photographed in April 2006 another was spotted in 2017.
Blanding’s Turtle; photo David Hobden
Eastern Gartersnake; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson
Eastern Gartersnake, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, Couleuvre rayée de l’est [CHS]
First found at the FWG in 2013, when three individuals were observed: in the Butterfly Meadow, near the Resource Centre, and on the path between the parking lot and pond. Three others were found together near the red barn under a tarp.
- Nova Scotia Herpetofaunal Atlas: tadpoles and larvae
- Jean-François Desroches, David Rodrigue. Amphibiens et reptiles du Québec et des Maritimes. Éditions Michel Quintin; 2004.
- The urban outback – wetlands for wildlife: A guide to wetland restoration and frog-friendly backyards (click on “Contents” to see the full range of information in this Toronto Zoo publication).