Field Notes Update

Gray Treefrog Resting on Steps by Todd Henson

A gray treefrog resting on the steps with grass in the background.

Sometimes you don’t have to look far to find wildlife to observe. I found this little gray treefrog resting on my front steps one afternoon. I almost didn’t notice it. It blended in fairly well with the concrete steps. But when I did notice I couldn’t stop myself from grabbing my camera and capturing a series of photographs.

The gray treefrog has turned its eye to the camera.

There are 2 species of gray treefrog in this area, Hyla chrysoscelis (also known as Cope’s gray treefrog), and Hyla versicolor (known as gray treefrog), virtually indistinguishable except by their call, their DNA, or in some cases their location. This little treefrog never called while I was around (they typically call at night). I don’t have DNA testing equipment. And both species appear to exist in my area. So I have no clue which of the 2 species this little frog was a member of.

Side view of a gray treefrog.

These treefrogs are typically only seen during the mating season, which can stretch from March to August for the gray treefrog, and from May to August for Cope’s gray treefrog. I photographed this one in mid-May 2018.

This gray treefrog never had a problem with me up close photographing it.

This is the first treefrog I’ve seen in my neighborhood. I used to see many at a friends house in another neighborhood, but they mostly disappeared after further construction began. I will have to keep my eyes open, perhaps I’ll see more this season. Have you seen any treefrogs in your neighborhood?


The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.

The Virginia Herpetological Society is a great resource for identifying and learning about reptiles and amphibians native to Virginia.

I also regularly make use of field guides, another great resource for identification and education:

Young Oyster Mushrooms on a Tree by Todd Henson

A small cluster of young oyster mushrooms growing on a tree in the woods.

Mushrooms and fungi can be a common sight when hiking through the woods. You can find them growing from the ground and on living or dead trees. The mushrooms pictured here are growing from a living tree, and I believe they are a small cluster of young oyster mushrooms which are from the Pleurotus family. I found this cluster just off the trail in a Northern Virginia park in early September.

Front view of a small cluster of young oyster mushrooms.

Notice the interesting shapes of the gills that run down the stem of these mushrooms, how they run down the entire length. As they mature the caps will grow much larger and possibly darken a bit. The stem below the cap will almost disappear, leaving just the large cap and the gills underneath it.

Oyster mushrooms are a popular edible mushroom commonly found in grocery stores, though don’t take anything here as advice on harvesting them. I am still very much an amateur at identifying mushroom species.

Eastern American Toad on the Trail by Todd Henson

Front angled view of an eastern American toad

I’ve mentioned before to look down once in a while when hiking in the woods, that you never know what you might see. In this case we saw an eastern American toad almost hidden on the trail. These are fairly common in this area, but it’s still always great to see one, especially when it’s patient enough to let me photograph it.

We found this toad in a wetlands park on a trail through woods that border the wetlands. A perfect environment for it, but being in the woods it was fairly dark. So I had to boost my ISO to 2000 - 4000 to have a fast enough shutter speed, and even with that these photos were shot between 1/25 and 1/40 of a second. This toad was fairly calm, though, which made things a little easier. It’s always nice having a cooperative subject.

Side view of an eastern American toad

I tried to photograph it from a variety of angles to capture as many details as I could for later identification. I’m not an expert at identifying wildlife so I’m always trying to learn more, and one thing I’ve learned is to capture as many details as possible while in the field. In this area the American toad can be confused with the Fowler’s toad, and apparently these species can hybridize, which makes a positive identification more challenging.

After consulting several field guides and online resources I believe this to be an American toad. It has a single wart in most of the dark patches on its back, which is indicative of an American toad. Fowler’s toads tend to have 3 to 7 warts in each patch. In the front view you can see some dark spots on its underside, again indicative of an American toad.

Back view of an eastern American toad

If you think I’ve misidentified this toad please leave a comment and let me know what you think it is and why. Thanks.


The resources below contain affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This is at no extra cost to you.


Virginia Herpetological Society


I own the following 3 books, though my editions may be older than those shown. I love Charles Fergus’ book, Wildlife of Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. It’s not a field guide and only contains drawings of some of the wildlife, but it has lots of information on the species that live in this area. The Peterson and Audubon Field Guides are my current go to guides.