A Frog of Special Skill

The song of the gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) is a poignant reminder that our local woodlands have reached their spring peak. The threat of frost has passed, and the woods are fragrant now with showy wildflowers and soft, bright green leaves.

This tiny frog’s call is at least as much a part of these woodlands as any migrant songbird’s, and, best described as a melancholy trill, it is in many ways more indicative of the health of a local wetland than birdsong.

Though they are widespread in New York City’s five boroughs, gray tree frogs are rarely noticed by park visitors or wetland hikers. The frogs can change color, but generally range from a warm, muted gray to mossy green, rendering them hard to detect among the branches and tree bark they prefer.

N.Y.C. Nature

Portraits of local flora and fauna.

At an inch and a half, gray tree frogs are rather toad-like in their pudgy proportions, making their considerable climbs though the trees that much more remarkable.

Even so, the frogs are generally homebodies, and never range far from the vernal pools of water where they were born.

Few animals seem as ill-suited to an arboreal life as a frog. Their need for damp conditions, their sometimes clumsy hopping (or more properly, their sometimes clumsy landings), and their need to lay eggs in water, all seem to be a poor fit for life in a tree. But frogs have surmounted the challenges.

Locally, the very early breeding spring peeper and the gray tree frog are abundant examples of this success.

The climbing ability of tree frogs is based largely upon their toe pads; circular discs exude a tacky mucous that allows the frog to stick to branches and leaves in the wild — or your windows and aluminum siding if you are lucky enough to live near a population.

These frogs are generally nocturnal and are sometimes drawn to the insects circling lit porch lights on warm spring and summer evenings. They are particularly active on humid or wet nights.

In fact, traditional folklore imbues them with the ability to predict rain. This is unlikely, though the frogs are certainly more active, and inclined to call when humidity rises prior to, during and after a warm summer rain.

Even admirers of these beautiful gnome-like creatures are frequently unaware of one of their most unusual adaptations. The gray tree frog can survive body temperatures well below freezing during the winter months.

While in this nearly frozen state, the frog’s heart stops beating completely, its lungs cease working, and its brain activity is almost unmeasurable. This adaptation is shared with a few other northern-ranging reptiles and amphibians that must survive months of potentially sub-freezing temperatures in order to survive.

This tree frog “trick” is accomplished by producing high concentrations of glycerol, a natural antifreeze, which prevents ice crystals from forming and rupturing delicate cell structures and compromising important internal organs.

And so in spring, the frog awakens, stretches like Rip Van Winkle, and hops off into another lush green world.

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Week in Pictures for May 31

Here is a slide show of photographs from the past week in New York City and the region. Subjects include a Memorial Day parade in Queens, the bike-share program in Brooklyn and the reunion of President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie on the Jersey Shore.

This weekend on “The New York Times Close Up,” an inside look at the most compelling articles in Sunday’s Times, Sam Roberts will speak with The Times’s Michael Kimmelman, Eleanor Randolph and Kate Taylor. Also, Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, and Walter Mosley, an author. Tune in at 10 p.m. Saturday or 10 a.m. Sunday on NY1 News to watch.

A sampling from the City Room blog is featured daily in the main print news section of The Times. You may also read current New York headlines, like New York Metro | The New York Times on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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Ask an Orchestra Manager

Next up in Metropolitan’s Q. and A. series is Carl R. Schiebler, personnel manager for the New York Philharmonic.

Mr. Schiebler keeps rehearsals running on time, tracks down extras and substitutes, and serves as the symphony’s go-to fixer.

Wondering which is the hardest musician to schedule? (Hint: ever hear of a theremin?) The most common injury among the orchestra’s 106 official players? About life offstage and behind the curtain at Avery Fisher Hall?

Share your questions in the comments section below. We will pass on the best to Mr. Schiebler, with some of our own, and publish the answers next week. Also, let us know if you have ideas for future interview subjects — we’ll keep them in mind.

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