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GREEN SCENE: It's been a wet spring, so enjoy all the frogs

The cold wet spring, which hopefully is finally ending, has been a challenge for many.

The cold wet spring, which hopefully is finally ending, has been a challenge for many. It has been particularly severe for people elsewhere in Canada who are dealing with floods - a risk we might still face in the lower Fraser River region if the weather warms suddenly.

Farmers worry that overly wet fields will prevent them from planting crops and, thus, earning their living.

We have all lamented the lack of sunshine.

Bird-watchers are concerned the damp start to spring has delayed the appearance of insects and will hamper the ripening of berries, and thereby pose severe challenges for nesting birds that rely on these as food.

If there are any potential winners from the wet weather, it may be the frogs.

Perhaps you have not heard any frogs calling this spring. For the most part, frogs have generally been big losers as development has moved across our landscape. While we have guidelines in place to protect salmon streams, their headwaters and associated wetlands are usually considered to be the non-essential pieces that can be re-purposed to fit human needs. I fondly remember a time when the long-gone forests on the Westwood Plateau would be filled with a stupendous roar from the calls of tiny tree frogs each spring.

Preserving habitat for native frogs has proven to be an almost insurmountable challenge when development comes along. One of the problems is that local native frogs require wetlands each spring for egg laying plus extensive forests around these wetlands where adult frogs can hang out for the rest of the year. While it seems relatively simple to preserve a wetland, it is much harder to protect the surrounding forest that provides essential habitat for adult frogs and also collects the rainwater that will help to fill the wetland each spring.

Our tiniest frog, the tree frog, is also our loudest. The spring breeding season ensures its chorus is especially loud and insistent. Tree frogs are an apt name for them because adults require a damp forest with abundant woody debris on the ground. Another native frog, the red-legged frog, now a species at risk, has similar habitat requirements.

There remain only a few local wetlands where both these frogs may still breed; these include ones in Bert Flinn Park in Port Moody and unprotected sites along the Coquitlam River that remain under the threat of development.

Tree frogs and red-legged frogs must not only deal with the threat of habitat loss but also with competition for the remaining wetland habitat from two much larger, non-native frogs. These two non-natives are the green frog and bullfrog.

Bullfrogs, which pose the far greater risk, are so large they predate on native frogs and even ducklings. Their tadpoles take two years to develop so they require permanent pools of water rather than ones that fill for only several weeks each spring. Roadside ditches or drainage channels can provide good habitat for bullfrogs. These frogs remain in wetlands even as adults so their habitat requirements are easy to meet.

Como Lake, wetlands in Mundy Park and drainage channels in places like Colony Farm and DeBoville Slough provide plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse of these frogs. The two species look somewhat alike but can be easily distinguished by their calls. Bullfrogs have a rumbling so-called "jug of rum" call while the call of a green frog sounds like a loose banjo string being plucked.

Another native amphibian you might see, especially when hiking on Burke Mountain, is our native western toad, which is widespread throughout B.C. With a tough, warty skin that helps to prevent water loss, toads are much more terrestrial creatures than frogs. Like frogs, they are breed in wetlands but, once past the tadpole stage, can emerge as large groups of tiny toadlets that are known to move in synchrony into upland forests.

Occasionally, the sight of hundreds of small toads crossing a road becomes a newsworthy item in late July or early August. Quarry Road is one local site where such toad migrations have occurred in the past.

Listening to a chorus of frogs on a spring evening was once a common experience but, sadly, it is much less so now. Regardless, we still have a few magical places where you can hear frogs and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of them. I hope you will enjoy these special places and take care of them so that future generations will be able to partake of the same delights.

Elaine Golds is a Port Moody environmentalist who is vice-president of Burke Mountain Naturalists, chair of the Colony Farm Park Association and past president of the PoMo Ecological Society.