Froggy went-a-courtin’

So, what did you hear in May? Did you spot any amphibians? I found a salamander, nowhere near my back yard, but still…outside of the Great Smoky Mountains and one specimen in Pennsylvania, I’ve only seen three salamanders in Michigan in my entire life. I also spotted a bullfrog on that day–didn’t hear him, though.
Early May was quite dry in SE Michigan, so the toads stopped, but then after some rainy days last week, the boys picked up their trilling tones again to catch the ears of some girls. At my second backyard (about 40 miles away from my primary backyard) I heard the green frogs call along with a few chorus frogs still hanging around. The gray tree frog was starting his season as well, two weeks back. As the spring winds down, some species breeding ends while others pick up. Keep your ears open, triangulate, and then try to spot the little hoppers before the water evaporates and fall is here again.IMG_0485

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.