Tag Archives: Green frog

Amphibians at MABA by Maris Van Vlack – RISD Student and MABA Intern

Keep a lookout for the many amphibians that live at MABA! Although all amphibians spend part of their life in water, each species lives in a different habitat. Because of this, you can find them all over the MABA property! I have seen them by the vernal pool, pond, brook, as well as by the sides of the trails. 

Yellow spotted salamander in ink and watercolor; eastern red-backed salamander in watercolor

Salamanders can be found by the brook, usually near or under rotting logs. There are two main species at MABA: the yellow spotted salamander and the eastern red-backed salamander. The yellow spotted salamander is mostly black with yellow spots. The red-backed salamander has a reddish-orange stripe down its back, and tends to have a longer, thinner body. At first glance, you may mistake a red-backed salamander for a small snake. 

Frogs are by far the most common amphibian at MABA, and green frogs are the most common of them all! By the pond at the back of the sanctuary, they will come and sit just a few feet away from me. They range from 2” to 3.5” in length. I have noticed a lot of variety in the coloring of green frogs: some (like the one pictured) have more green spots, and others appear more grayish green.

Green Frog in watercolor

Pickerel frogs are about 2.5” in length and have distinctive black and brown markings on their bodies. When the frogs are in the water and only their head is visible, try and notice if there are any black markings by the eye. This can help you distinguish pickerel frogs from green frogs. 

Pickerel frog in ink and watercolor

Of the MABA frogs, the Wood Frog seems to live the farthest from the water. Often on the trails by the edge of the brook, Wood Frogs are mostly tan or light brown with a dark stripe by their eye. 

Wood frog in watercolor and marker

Frogs and toads are quite similar, but toads tend to have dry skin and live farther from the water.

American Toads, which are the only species that I have seen at MABA, are tan or brown and have spotted, bumpy backs. Below is a drawing of two of the toads I have seen: the larger, older one was about 3” long and the smaller one was only 1” long. Both were seen on the Main Loop Trail. 

American toads in ink

This larger American Toad was being preyed upon by a garter snake when I approached. When it heard me come closer, the snake slithered away and left the toad alone. 

If you cannot get a picture of an amphibian you see, it is helpful to remember its size, coloring, markings, and location so that you can identify it later. A quick sketch might help as well!

My name is Maris Van Vlack, and I will be blogging for the summer of 2020! I am a rising sophomore at the Rhode Island School of Design, with a major in Textiles and a concentration in Drawing. I used to take homeschool classes at the Museum of American Bird Art and have had my artwork exhibiting in their Taking Flight Exhibit for young bird artists.

I am especially interested in working with unusual materials in my work, and am inspired by plants, animals, and the patterns found in nature. This summer, I will be creating a guide for the MABA trails with sketches and paintings. I will be recording and writing about my observations, and sharing them through these blog posts. Hopefully this will be an educational and inspiring resource, and will motivate you to sketch what you see when you visit MABA this summer!

Ghosts of the Farm

August 2, 2016

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary, Worthington, and Lynes Wildlife Sanctuary, Westhampton

Pine Forest at Lynes Woods - at 72 dpi

I’ve combined these two sanctuaries into one blog post because they have so much in common.  Both are in the foothills east of the Berkshires, both are just under 200 acres in size, with one mile of trail each, both are abandoned farmsteads, and both were visited on the same day by yours truly!

Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary is aptly named.   Turning off Rte. 143 onto the lightly traveled Williamsburg Road, I then turn onto a dirt road (Corbett Road), which eventually narrows down into a grassy cart path before ending abruptly at a small turnaround.  Road’s End Indeed!

Old Farm Wagon, Roads End - at 72 dpi

Reminders of the sanctuary’s agricultural heritage can be seen along old Corbett Road.  Stone walls, ancient sugar maples, an old dump, and fragments of rusting farm machinery are scattered along the old roadbed.   By 1750, approximately 80% of the forests in this area had already been cleared for lumber and firewood, and the land given over to agriculture.  But as early as the 1820s, farmers were leaving the area in search of more productive soils – a trend that continues more or less to the present day.

A beaver pond west of the road is not visible through the trees, so I wander down an old track that leads in that direction.  I find no open views of the beaver pond, but discover a lovely spot where Steven Brook flows into the pond.  Sparkling, clear water bubbles over a bright gravel streambed, while the flute-like song of a wood thrush drifts up from deep in the forest.

Stevens Brook, Roads End - at 72 dpi

The Brookside Trail passes through an “old field white pine forest”.  Recent rains have soaked the ground, and robust clumps of Indian Pipes are poking up through the pine needles all over this area.   The ghostly white flower stalks look like skeletal fingers (another name for this flower is “corpse plant”).  Perhaps the farmers of old are rising up to take a look around!

Indian Pipes at Roads End - at 72 dpi

Indian Pipes at Roads End, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 10.25″ x 12″

Lynes Wildlife Sanctuary was also a farmstead years ago, and featured a farm pond and orchards.  The farm pond is still there.  The lilies growing along the bank form exotic, tropical-looking patterns, which I pause to photograph.

Farm Pond Lilies, Lynes Woods - at 72 dpi

The fruit trees and orchards are gone, but several old fields, which are mowed annually, remain.  These fields are warm, sun-filled pockets in the forest, buzzing with dragonflies and butterflies.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Lynes Woods - at 72 dpi

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

At the edge of the field are witch-hazel shrubs loaded down with ripening fruits.  The flowers won’t appear until October, at about the same time the fruits burst open and expel the seeds.  The genus name Hamamelis refers to the simultaneity of these two events.

Witch-hazel Fruits - at 72 dpi

Sketchbook studies of Witch-hazel Fruits, pencil, 5″ x 8″

On the Lyman Brook Loop Trail, I paint a small watercolor of the handsome white pine forest that straddles the steep bank above the brook.

Pine Forest at Lynes Woods - at 72 dpi

Pine Forest at Lynes Woods, watercolor on Arches rough, 9″ x 9″

It’s mid-afternoon and quiet as I make my way further along Lyman Brook on the eastern edge of the property, but more than once, I disturb small frogs that squeak and leap out from under my feet.   These are young northern green frogs (Lithobates clamitans melanota).  These aquatic frogs are the ones you’re most likely to see around small streams and brooks in summer.   Despite their name, they can be brownish or coppery in color, but they usually show at least one bright patch of green on the upper lip.

Green Frog sketchbook study - at 72 dpi

Green Frog sketchbook study, pencil and watercolor, 4.5″ x 7″

One of the frogs sits motionless on a gravel bar after I frighten it from its perch in the streamside vegetation.  I focus my telescope on it and make some drawings, taking special care to record the intricate pattern of spots and stripes on the face and throat, and that startling bright green on the upper lip.  I learned from my books that this individual is a female – with an eardrum smaller than the eye, and a whitish (not yellowish) throat.

Green Frog at Lynes Woods 2 - at 72 dpi

Green Frog at Lynes Woods, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 12″

While working on this watercolor later in my studio, I remembered (with pangs of guilt) how as kids we would gather frogs like this into buckets and sell them to a local bait shop!