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Frogging along the Missouri River

The plains spadefoot toad in an explosive breeder that only emerges from its subterranean existence on late spring or early summer nights that receive enough rain to prompt the urge to breed. For quite some time I had hoped to be near this frogs limited range when the right conditions presented themselves; this spring I got my chance.

Ryan Thies and I headed out on a rainy early March night to explore some river bottom habitat that we hoped would produce our target. After a bit of driving around the agriculture fields, which take up almost all of the Missouri river’s corridors, I thought I herd the rasping nasal call of the plains spadefoot mixed with a variety of other anurans. We stopped the car, got out, and listened carefully. We decided that the calls had to be from our target, so we grabbed our camera bags and started a long and muddy walk in the direction of the chorus. The closer we got the more we started to second guess ourselves, we could still hear many chorusing frogs but no spadefoots. A walk around the pond confirmed our doubts.

Returning to the car, we thought we could hear the spadefoots again but we decided that it must have just been a mixture of the wind and the other frog calls playing a trick on us. Disappointed, we continued down the road and through the fields. The further we got the clearer the calls became, and we were sure they were coming from spadefoots. After a little thought, we decided that our previous mistake was prompted by the wind blowing in distant spadefoot calls from one direction that were getting mixed in with a chorus of other frogs that was coming from another direction. Regardless, this time we were on track and after another muddy trek through another field we were zoning in on this guy that was calling in a flooded corn filed.

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There were many grey treefrogs using the same pool...

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along with Fowler's toads and American toads.

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Western chorus frogs were abundant.

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Another grey tree frog

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A better looking spadefoot

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A spadefoot portrait, note the boss in between the eyes that distinguishes the plains spadefoot, genus Spea, from our other native spadefoot that is in it own genus, Scaphiopus.

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The shape of the 'spade' is another diagnostic feature that separates the two genera.

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Lastly, this plains leopard frog was found, making its way towards the pool, on our way back to the car.

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