with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen


Red-legged Frog. Photo by Brent VanFossenFound under a leaf alongside the Sol Duc River of the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, this red-legged frog remained patient while Brent moved to within four inches of its nose with a 55mm lens. Red-legged frogs are found along the United States coastal areas near permanent waterways and deep, damp forests. Mostly concentrated along the Pacific Northwest, they are even found at higher elevations throughout the Cascades and Olympic Mountains. Unlike many frogs, it prefers the colder microclimates of the mountain forests.

Northwest Indian tribes associated frogs with great wisdom. Frogs were used as sacrificial victims to bring rain during droughts, and dried skeletons were made by some cultures into good luck amulets. Witches were known to use frogs in their “wicked brews”, their black magic chants speaking of their magic:

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing –
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
Macbeth (IV, i, 14-15)

Red-legged frogs (Rana aurora) grow to be 2 to 4 inches long and run from gray to reddish brown colors with small dark blotches and a golden yellow underbelly. Their names come from reddish coloration on their lower belly and rear legs. Their croak is a feeble throaty sound lasting several seconds.

Frog Tips
Like photographing most wildlife, get down to their eye level. Long lenses allow the photographer to get an up close perspective while working from some distance. Watch for reflections and distracting highlights on the water surface and frog’s skin, as well as on the plants.

The word “amphibious” comes from Latin meaning “life on both sides.” Frogs begin as water-breathing, legless, swimming fish-like larvae Red-legged frog in moss, Olympic National Park, photo by Brent VanFossenknown as tadpoles and later metamorphose into air-breathing adults. While they can live on land, most of them must return to the water frequently to avoid drying out as their skin lacks an effective moisture barrier. Frogs, in general, are considered cold blooded, with their body temperature never much warmer than the environment. They rarely survive in heat over 100F/38C, and will hibernate during most of a freezing winter.

Frogs fill an important spot on the food chain. They gobble up insects and spiders with their long tongue slicing the air at a furious speed.

Frogs are disappearing from the planet at an incredible rate. Many suffer from habitat destruction, their waterways paved over by shopping malls and subdivisions. Pesticides and other pollutants destroy many more. Scientists are researching whether or not global warming is endangering frogs as well.

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