Frog Holler

Bufo americanus or American toad

Bufo americanus or American toad


Returning and permanent resident birds were featured last month, now for May we move closer to the ground and even into the water. Birds and insects appear with the unveiling of spring, but so do amphibians. You can’t hear salamanders, but you can enjoy the singing of frogs and toads.
They, like birds, are trying to attract the attention of amorous females, and one way to do that is to call–loudly and incessantly. Here in SE Michigan usually the first two species to call are the wood frogs and chorus frogs. They can start as early as March if it warms enough. The toad, lowly as it is (pictured above) begins calling in April. From there we hear the green frog, perhaps the leopard frog, the gray tree frog, and in some special locations, the bullfrog.
Amphibians are an indicator species, so if you have water (or wet spots) in your neighborhood, and you don’t hear some kind amphibian yawp, you might have polluted water or the creatures were extirpated for some reason.
The natural sounds of nature can at times annoy, but really, the trill of a toad beats some idiot neighbor’s booming bass, doesn’t it? The plucked banjo string call of the green frog is more soothing than the summer ritual of loud fireworks exploding in a nearby yard, is it not?

As far as resources go, I’ve found this book to be very helpful. Of course, if you don’t live in Michigan it won’t do you much good, but I’m sure one of your universities has a similar publication. The internet is an excellent resource for hearing what these critters sound like, until you can identify them on your own–I still get wood frogs and chorus frogs mixed up. At times when I hear the tree frog grunt and chirp, I think I’m hearing a bird. Perhaps you’ll be a better student than me. Get outdoors and listen.

Caller ID?

courtesy commons wikimedia

courtesy commons wikimedia

Surely you’ve heard plenty of birds calling by now. Here in SE Michigan, plenty of spring species have arrived: red-winged blackbirds, turkey vultures, great blue herons, goldfinches, house finches, and more than I can currently recount.

Have you taken time to listen to the calls? Can you identify the singers? I’ve noticed more about robin calls this spring then I had before. I’ve also had the pleasure of hearing more than the original nesting pair of red-winged blackbirds in my neighborhood–there have to be at least three pair now. I find their calling the most interesting out of the birds in my neighborhood. What’s your favorite birdsong?

I’ve found a few interesting tools that help bring birds in closer for viewing, or at least create some interaction between them and me. One are various kinds of bird calls. I bought a crow call which works well as I’ve brought in some crows twice now with it. Supposedly it works with wild turkeys too, but I haven’t tried it that way at all. For my birthday this month I received a hawk call and an owl call. I haven’t been able to use them to any effect yet, but you can be sure I’ll be trying this summer. I can do a decent Eastern screech owl call without any artificial aids, but my barred owl call might use the help from the plastic call.

Another interesting item I’ve come across is this book. I haven’t finished reading it, but so far I’m impressed simply by the author’s writing style. Dunne uses humor in a genre that tends to be very SERIOUS, full of gravitas, as this is NATURE we’re talking about, we can’t be joking. As I mentioned I haven’t finished it yet, but it looks helpful and is wonderfully readable.

So, if you haven’t paid attention to the warnings, flirtation, and other bird chatter happening around you, get outside, sit still and enjoy the concert.