Frog Calendar 2019: Twelve months of frogs!

Looking for a natural history gift for a friend or family member? Or a herpetological calendar to keep you up to date? I have compiled some of my favorite photos into a 2019 calendar highlighting some wonderful North American frogs. The calendar and some other amphibian gifts are available through my Zazzle Store: MrBufo. Each month has a different photograph drawn from ten species of North American frogs. The photographs include different behaviors (singing and mating) and life stages (tadpole, metamorphosing froglet, and adult). Click on any of the photos below to take a closer look at the calendar, and to order one for yourself.

January has a Pacific Chorus Frog with an enormous inflated vocal sac, and February has a Spring Peeper looking in your eyes as he sings.

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

March has two Spring Peepers in an amplexus embrace, and April has a bold American Toad in full trill-mode.

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale; Amplexing Spring Peepers

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale; American Toad Photo

May has a male Gray Treefrog calling from a perch in a tree, and June has a Green Frog calling from the pond.

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale; Gray Treefrog Photo

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale; green frog photo

July has a bellowing American Bullfrog sending drops of water into the air, and August has a Gray Treefrog tadpole with a stunning red tail.

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

September has a lime-colored Green Treefrog squeaking its song, and October has a Pickerel Frog sitting in a shallow stream.

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale; Green Treefrog

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

November has metamorphosing Northern Leopard Frog with a long tail, and December has a recently metamorphosed New Mexico Spadefoot Toad with cute, bulgy eyes.

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

2019 Frog Photo Calendar for sale

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Telephoto lens attachment for cell phone cameras: useful tool for citizen-science applications like iNaturalist

Smartphones with high-quality cameras and gps capabilities have facilitated an explosion of citizen-science projects in which members of the general public share observations about the natural world with scientists. However, one limitation of making photo-based observations with smartphones is that most phones are not able to take good images of animals that are far away. A solution to this problem is to use a telephoto lens that can be clipped to the phone. I have used the Godefa Cell Phone Camera Lens, 12X Zoom to make observations on iNaturalist and HerpMapper. They come in handy in a variety of situations, including documenting snapping turtles looking for nesting spots, nervous baby rabbits, and birds way up in a tree. These lenses are typically available from amazon for less than $10.

The lenses I’ve ordered come with the lens, a clip to attach to a phone, an attachment to protect your phone from scratches, and a lens wipe. Here a photo of what has been in the lens packages that I’ve ordered:

telephoto lens kit for iphone or android

The lenses screw into the clip, and then easily clip onto the phone. I use an iPhone in an otterbox protective case. The lens clip fits easily onto my phone. The only drawback of using the lens with the protective case is that at the most zoomed-out situation a black ring appears around the edges of the photo. [Aside: you can pick up phone cases with some of my photos at my MrBufo Zazzle store]

telephoto lens attached to iphone

There are a couple things to keep in mind about this lens. First, this lens is not equivalent to a high-quality Canon and Nikon telephoto lens! You can get decent photos with it to help identify animals at a distance. But in my experience, the photos aren’t high enough quality that I would want to hang them on my wall. Second, the lens can be hard to focus, especially if you zoom all the way out. In this case, stabilizing the camera on something can be helpful, but does not always solve the problem. Despite these minor hiccups, the lenses meet my needs: they let me get good photos of distant animals for citizen-science projects. Here are a couple examples of the kind of photos you can take with these lenses.

I photographed this greenfrog from an observation deck in the Cleveland Metroparks. In the first photo, I did not use the zoom lens attachment, and this photo is not zoomed in using the phone’s zoom feature. You can barely make out the green frog near the middle of the frame:

regular photo of green frog

Without the telephoto attachment, here is the best zoom on the iphone. The green frog can be seen, but the is not good quality, and it is hard to make out details of the frog’s body and color pattern.

zoomed in low quality photo from iphone

And here is a photo of the green frog using the telephoto lens. The iphone zoom function is only slightly used to get rid of the black circle.

green frog image with iphone with telephoto lens attached.

Now for a more controlled example. In this example, I am about 15 feet (4.5 meters) away from a birdbath. There is a small statue of a bird in the middle of the birdbath. The first photo was taken with my iphone not using the zoom function. You can’t make out the ceramic bird very well. This would not be a good voucher for a citizen-science database like iNaturalist:

test of iphone at 15 feet

And here is the photo when I have zoomed all the way in, but still have not attached the telephoto lens. The image doesn’t look great, and the ceramic bird is still small. If this was a real animal, you could probably make it out for identification purposes, but probably couldn’t get much other information from the photo.

iphone zoom test

Now I have attached the telephoto lens over my iPhone with otterbox case. The iphone is not zoomed at all, resulting in a ring around the edge of the photo. I don’t think the ring would be present if I did not use the otterbox case, but I haven’t tested that.

telephoto lens on iphone with black ring

Now I have slightly zoomed in to hide the black ring. I could have focused better, but was in a hurry taking the photo. This is already better than the photo without the telephoto lens.

use of telephoto lens attachment on iphone

Finally, here is a photograph with the telephoto lens attached, and the iPhone’s zoom feature fully engaged.

zoomed in with telephoto lens attached.

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A long video of relaxing frog calls at night

Looking for some relaxing nature sounds? The audio in this video was recorded next to a pond in northeast Ohio on a warm summer night. Bullfrog and Green Frog calls dominate the sound, but you can also hear the distant trills of a few Gray Treefrogs, and a few birds and insects. Please enjoy!

The three species of frogs heard in the video are the American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana), the Green Frog (Rana clamitans), and the Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor). Below are photos of each of these species. If you like the photos, you can click on each photo to purchase a print or digital download. More videos and recordings of calling frogs, including frog song ringtones for phones, can be found on my frog song page.

The American Bullfrog has a bellowing call that sounds a bit like a foghorn. In the photo below, you can see how the vibrations from his call sends water droplets flying into the air.
Bellowing male bullfrog

The Green Frog has a short “plunk” sound, reminiscent of a person plucking a banjo string.
Calling Male Green Frog

The Gray Treefrog has a pleasant, high-pitched trill.
Calling from a tree

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Photos of Alligators at Sunset

In August 2018, I was able to visit the Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina and watch American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). The park is a great place to watch these majestic animals. As you enter the park, you drive along a causeway that separates Mullet Pond from a swampy area around Oaks Creek. Alligators can be seen along either side of the causeway, but stopping on the causeway is prohibited. There is a parking area at the end of the causeway. You can park there, and then walk back along the causeway. This provides a great way to view alligators in the open water.

You can also drive back to the park office & gift shop, and walk along the Atalaya Straight Road between Mullet Pond and Mallard Pond. There are many trees and other vegetation growing along the path here, and a lot more emergent vegetation in the water. So your views of the alligators will be very different.

Here are a few of the photos I took of alligators along the causeway near sunset. If you’d like to purchase a print or digital license, just click on the photo, and it will take you to my smugmug natural history photography site.

A large alligator at sunset:
Large Alligator at Sunset

A close-up of an alligator’s head as it swims through the water:
American Alligator Portrait

An alligator swims diagonally across the frame, leaving a wake behind it:
American Alligator swimming at sunset

This is perhaps the favorite photo I’ve taken in 2018. I love the MC Escher-esque effect of black and white patterns on the water, with a gator in the middle:
American Alligator M.C. Escher Theme

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Pacific Sand Crab digging into sand

The Pacific Sand Crab (Emerita analoga) is one of the delightful creatures you can find in the surf of beaches along the Pacific Coast of North and South America. These small (up to 1.5 inches / 3.8 cm) crustaceans are a delight for kids and adults to find and observe. As waves lap the beach, the crabs will swim into the water, and then burrow back into the sand as the water recedes. Here is a video showing how the sand crab can bury itself in less than two seconds:

I posted this sand crab video on twitter, and received an interesting response from biologist Zen Faulkes. He published several papers on his experiments investigating the neurobiology and mechanics of how sand crabs dig (1997a, 1997b, 1998).

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