The green tree frog

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(HOST) Green Tree Frogs aren’t usually found in Northern New England, but for the last year one enterprising amphibian has been commentator Ted Levin’s house guest – thanks to the wonders of air travel.

(LEVIN) A year ago, I got a phone call from the florist at the Hanover COOP. A frog had arrived in a shipment of Florida ferns, those stiff, wiry sprays you see in floral arrangements that always seem to outlast the flowers.

I told the florist to catch the frog and put it in a lidded container with tiny air holes and just enough water to allow the frog to soak.

The following morning, I claimed the frog, which clung to the side of its new home, a clear plastic, quart container, the sort in which the deli usually packs potato salad. There were also ferns and four smooth stones inside the container. Perfect accommodations for a green tree frog 1,400 miles from home.

The inch-and-a-half long frog has resided on our dining room table ever since, feasting on window-walking cluster flies from October to April, and an assortment of insects – moths, small grasshoppers and katydids, green caterpillars, horse and deer flies – and spiders the rest of the year. It particularly likes barn spiderlings, whose countless webs festoon our home and barn, making every awning, sill, and overhang look like they are fringed with doilies. The frog spits out ladybugs. They must taste bad. And it won’t eat anything treading water. Food must be crawling or climbing or flying.

Green tree frogs are bright green anurans with white undersides and a pair of white stripes, one on each side, running from below the eye to the base of the hind leg. Their eyes are gold, their pupils black and slit like a cat’s. They walk and climb on suction-cup toes; and they hop when panicked. I consider them “old friends,” since I used to catch green tree frogs on the front door of my mother’s Florida home, just below the porch light, lured out of hiding by a gathering of bugs.

At first my boys called the frog Gollum, but now they refer to it as Froggie. Over the year, it has grown to full size (which means it was less than a year old when it appeared on the COOP floor). I took it to Maine for a week, where it fascinated an Audubon camp full of science teachers, but worried me because it refused to eat coastal insects.

I plan to release Froggie on my next trip south. Until then it remains the centerpiece of dinner parties and everyday meals, a pet that’s easy to satisfy and never complains or barks or chases deer.

To make Froggie feel at home we periodically play a tape of chorusing green tree frogs, which apparently does little for the frog, but takes me right back to starry nights in South Florida, on an airboat in the middle of the Everglades, surrounded by the urgent voices of frogs.

This is Ted Levin of Coyote Hollow in Thetford Ctr.

Ted Levin is a writer and photographer and winner of the 2004 Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing.

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