I’ve got a mystery to solve. Since the spring, we’ve had the symphonic croaking of frogs in our front yard. The master bedroom overlooks the front yard, so Anuj and I (and any friends staying in the bedroom directly above us) fall asleep to these sounds. Now, I’m not sure how Anuj feels about the croaking, but I think there’s something sort of sweet about being sung to sleep. It’s also a nightly reminder that this isn’t just our yard, here. Some other creatures are doing a little homesteading of their own.
The mystery is, what kind of frogs are they? An early visitor who hails from Virginia suggested they were tree frogs, but a little poking around on wikipedia and the Western New York Herpetological Society website revealed that tree frogs are typically found in the southeast. Places like…Virginia. Okay, so according to the Herpetological Society, our lovely state includes 13 types of frogs and toads – and check it out: enature.com even includes audio files of their calls! Not sure I can upload them here, but let’s see if I can’t deduce which ones are providing our lullabies.
These guys are big – the largest frog in North America coming in at 3-8 inches long. Their deep “jug o’rum call” is heard during the breeding season – May-July. That would be right now, the tail end of the season, only we don’t have a lake or pond in our front yard, and that’s where bullfrogs tend to shack up. The audio file sounds close, though – do bullfrogs have a cousin or something?
2-4 inches long – shallow water dwellers, breeding season: March-August. Hmmm…Their call is a “single twang which sounds much like a loose banjo string being plucked.” Listening to the audio file, I think it sounds more like someone clearing their throat or a cat with a hairball. Anuj thinks this could be our guy, but I’m not convinced. Maybe we’ve got a combo?
These guys prefer moist woodland areas. This sounds promising, as there’s a line of trees separating our yard from the county road, and it’s here that we think the sounds come from. Wood frogs are 1.5-3 inches long. Their call is a series of short raspy quacks and the breeding season begins in early spring. What does the audio file reveal? It sound like a bunch of chickens clucking. Not what we’re hearing every night. Damn!
Western Chorus frog:
Small, only reaching 1 inch in length. The call of the Western Chorus frog sounds like someone running their fingernail over a comb. It can be heard quite often during the breeding season from late winter into summer. They can be found in dry areas, swamps, they’re even common backyard residents. Could this be our guys!?
1-2 inches…the gray treefrog has a hearty trill heard in spring and early summer. They breed April-early August and live in trees or shrubs growing near permanent water. Well, the closest permanent water is Queechy Lake a few miles down the road. Is that too far to be considered ‘near’? Let’s take a listen…Ding! Ding! Ding! This is one of major players here! I’m talking the strings and percussion. It’s a combination of the high-pitched trill of birds, and a short, quick, back-of-the-throat-clearing sound. I think we’ve found one of our perpetrators – in all his symphonic glory…
Aside from identifying one and maybe even two of our frog species (dear Virginia friend – I should have never doubted you…), the big discovery here is that our symphonies are the direct result of it being mating season. You could say we’re in peak procreation time. And that these croakers are offering not so much lullabies, as Marvin Gaye invocations to, ahem, get to business. Is this a hint? A species beyond that of our families telling Anuj and I to get on board the breeding bus?