Scouting for frog habitat/ spawning grounds

Unintended findings-

(Typical local tree-frog that spawns around Powell Butte- they range in color from green, striped to mud-brown)

Today I went exploring the south side of Powell Butte- near the Springwater Corridor- to look for alternate access to the nature preserve. What I found was some excellent swamp/wetlands/ ponds already, in some cases, filled with frog-egg-scum. Nearby there was a sign announcing that the area had been part of the Kelly Creek Restoration and Flood Mitigation Project.

The area is around where Kelly Creek flows into Johnson Creek. I have know since I was a kid that this was a neighborhood plagued by floods. In fact, from looking at the surroundings of Kelly Creek and it’s larger friend, Johnson, you can see that part of the trouble is that wetland, swamps and ponds have been filled in order to build homes and yards. Our forefathers in their “wisdom” thought that they could replace the natural wetlands with houses and get away with it by building concrete walls around the creeks and/ or shunting them into underground pipes. The nearly annual flooding of these areas is nature’s response.

And, of course, elimination of salmon and other aquatic life is the result as well.

Somebody a couple years ago got the idea that they might be able to move this particular clock backward. This is from an article written by “Interfluve”- a company that conducts habitat restoration in wetlands:

More than 70 years ago, the confluence
of Kelley Creek and Johnson
Creek in Southeast Portland was a natural
habitat that thrived. A project in the
1930s to move flood waters through the
basin more quickly straightened and
lined the creeks with rock walls and
severely degraded the habitat and water
quality in both creeks.

So the project aimed to restore creek-fed swamps and ponds while taking out the concrete barriers and re-building the creek-beds. Also:

Crews also create(d) two backwater
channels along Johnson Creek and one
along Kelley Creek. These channels will
provide wetland habitat, more high and
fast flow refuge for fish and floodwater
“Old channel scars fill up during storm
events like a bathtub and drain as flow
decreases,” said Corsale.“This creates more
of a refuge (for fish) from high flows and
fast flows.”
Crews (have) also (placed) a lot of large,
woody debris into the channels to create
pools and cover for fish, and they are optimizing
the slope of the creek for a spawning
channel. At the same time, Greenworks
PC is working on a watershed re-vegetation
program and will create four different plant

Since the project is completed (as far as current funds allow) a good deal of improvement is already visible. I didn’t have my camera today but I saw many areas where aquatic habitat is flourishing. The following pictures are archival.

I rescue tadpoles from drying puddles every year and raise them into frogs and set them loose. This is an attempted scan of a tadpole about halfway turned into a frog (poor quality):

Better picture of tadpoles typical of the ones I find in the Powell Butte drainage ditches:

Sometimes we find newt tadpoles- they start out a little bigger, are more colorful and quickly develop these gills you see in the picture below:

Then they grow stubby legs and don’t look at all like frogs.


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27 responses to “Scouting for frog habitat/ spawning grounds

  1. Thanks for the inclusion of tadpole newts here. I am interested in newts and I have seen them before in my pond (which is now nicely populated with tadpoles of different types) I had thought that the smaller ones with 4 legs were the newts so I will now check back and see what I can find.



  2. mikela

    I found some tadpoles and I need to find out how to raise the poor little things… HELP!


  3. rickpdx

    It’s fairly late in the season to be finding tadpoles but here’s my standard procedure:

    * I keep them in an open tank, with some kind of filtration/ aeration system.
    * Best case: the tank should be outside or on a deck/ porch (that way, when they’re ready to hop away, they just leave when it’s time.
    * While they’re in the tank I scatter some flake fish food daily. They usually don’t eat this directly but it encourages the growth of algae, which they do eat.
    * It is really fun to watch them change. First thing will be the rear legs. One day they’ll look like weird fish and the next they’ll have back legs. It’s almost like they “pop” out fully formed.
    * Next comes front legs. This happens about 2 weeks or less after the back legs. during this time you will see they’re tails get shorter and shorter. Eventually they’ll have all four legs and a stubby tail. They are almost ready to go out into the world.
    * I like to keep some big rocks in the tank to give them space to crawl out of the water when they are ready.
    * One day, if the tank is open, they will start to leave. They’ll climb out of the tank and head out into the world, looking for a niche. Depending on the type of frog, they may return to your neighborhood next spring looking for a place to spawn. The native Oregon tree frogs I raise tend to come back to places close to home to spawn.
    * If you keep them, you will need to feed them. What to feed depends on the type of frog. If you have the little tree frogs you need to find a source for “pin-head” crickets. You should also dust the crickets with some kind of nutritional supplement for amphibians (see your local pet store- the best thing is a varied diet with many kinds of small insects but if you only have crickets, use a supplement).
    * The other thing that may happen- it turns out this way for me sometimes- you may have newt or salamander tadpoles (depending on where you live). The newts that I find around my area grow big gills before they grow legs, don’t lose their tails and stay aquatic for maybe a couple years or more. These are easier to keep- you can feed them flake food, blood-worms or some kinds of small live food you may find at your local pet store.

    Good luck! Tell me how it goes.
    Rick/ Moon Soup


  4. supereagan2

    My tadpoles aren’t eating the food, but they seem full and are excrementing.


  5. rickpdx

    well, then don’t worry for them
    if there is some pond scum or algae they’ll sometimes eat that
    what kind of tadpoles? do you know what sort of frogs you have?


  6. william mclean

    hi there, ive just recently built a pond in my garden and i want to put tadpoles init and im woundering if i could take tadpoles from my local canal (union cannal in edinburgh) and put them in.

    if i can put them in it could i collect food from the canal to feed them.

    thanks for your time.


    • rickpdx

      Yes- you could collect local tadpoles from the canal. That’s better than buying from a “pond store” where they often sell non-local species that compete with the indigenous ones. In my experience, most tadpoles will eat flake fish food while they still have tails. They will also eat “pond scum”- algae that tend to form around the eggs. Either way, good luck. Watch them and learn how they like it. They will remember your pond as their home and will come back year after year to spawn.


  7. Stephanie Nunn

    Hi. We have an above ground pool that we have kept covered up for a couple months now because we are not using it. I had noticed, shortly after covering it, that there were these little balls floating around that seemed to stick together looking like eggs. Of course the first thing I thought about was frog eggs because we have ALOT of small frogs around here and even tree frogs. They turn into tadpole looking creatures but the heads get so big that I was begining to think they weren’t really tadpoles. I found your website today and saw the above picture of the “newt-tadpoles” and that is exactly what mine look like. I haven’t actually seen any frogs come out of the pool (they feed off the algea that has accumilated) but it’s amazing to keep looking at them every few days to check and see how big they get! Will they grow legs? There has had to been some that have left the pool because like I said this began about 2 months ago and the eggs kept appearing, so there are all sizes, and there are not as many as there were a month ago. I wish I could see one that had legs. Guess I will keep checking every day!


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