​Just for Kids: The Frog Chorus

By George Steele

Win­ter has a hold on nature, but spring is com­ing, trig­ger­ing changes in the plants and ani­mals that have been inac­tive all win­ter. One of the surest signs that spring has sprung: the frog chorus.

The open­ing choral move­ment will be the wood frogs with their pick-it-up” croaks. 

This duck­like quack­ing might be heard even before the pond ice dis­ap­pears. They’ll soon be joined by spring peep­ers and their high shrill peep­ing whis­tles. Some­times the sheer vol­ume will almost be painful to the ear. As the spring moves along two more frogs join in, the green frog and Amer­i­can toad. The green frog song is likened to a plucked ban­jo string gungggg,” while the toad does a fast trill. One can imi­tate this by try­ing to hum and whis­tle at the same time.

Warmer tem­per­a­tures bring out the final per­form­ers, the grey tree frogs and bull frogs. The tree frogs are excel­lent climbers with short chant­i­ng trills, often heard high up in trees a good dis­tance from water. Bull frogs, the largest of the frogs at the Arbore­tum, don’t real­ly go rib­bet”. The clos­est to that sound would come from the pick­er­el frog which makes a snor­ing-like rib­bet”, but I’ve not found it at the Arbore­tum. The bull frog song is a drawn out shh­h­hug­garum­mm”. Some­times their calls become syn­co­pat­ed into a roar­ing rhythm of grunts.

By the way, it’s only the males that are singing. The songs are their way of say­ing to the females, check me out, I’m so good lookin’,” attract­ing females to mate where tad­poles, some­times called pol­ly­wogs, will hatch and grow. The young of peep­ers, wood frogs and toads grow quick­ly, often in short lived ver­nal pools, while the young of green frogs and bull frogs need per­ma­nent water bod­ies as it takes mul­ti­ple years to trans­form from the tad­pole to the land dweller.

This cho­rus is an invi­ta­tion to explore the night, ser­e­nad­ed by these six species. You can fur­ther enhance your enjoy­ment with two explo­ration strate­gies. First, search for the glow­ing eyes of the Amer­i­can toads. When you hear the toads trilling, qui­et­ly approach their pond and shine a strong flash­light on the oppo­site shore. You’ll spot their eyes glow­ing like lit­tle sparkling dia­monds. The sec­ond is a bit more chal­leng­ing ̶ tri­an­gu­lat­ing on a singing frog, the peep­ers being the best ones. You’ll need a team of three, each armed with a flash­light. Agree upon a frog that you’ll approach. With flash­lights off, move so that the call­ing frog is between the three of you, then slow­ly close in on the spot. If the frog becomes alarmed and paus­es, stop and wait. If you haven’t scared it off it will start again short­ly. When all of you have closed in to where you feel the frog is, stop and turn on a flash­light aimed at that spot. If you have suc­cess­ful­ly tri­an­gu­lat­ed it, you can watch it fill its throat sac with air as it read­ies itself for anoth­er blast of song.

So go out and lis­ten for the voic­es of spring, either on your own or here at Lan­dis when you vis­it with your family.

Spring 2020

Volume 38 , Number 1

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