If we can discover the meaning in the trilling of a frog, perhaps we may understand why it is for us not merely noise but a song of poetry and emotion.
My apologies for once again using this corny phrase in a post about Cope’s Gray Treefrogs (see previous post about their life cycle). The recent downpours brought us over 4 inches of rain in two days last week. It was a boost for the plants and for our local frogs. A few nights ago I arrived home to the deafening trills of Cope’s Gray Treefrogs. I went out to investigate, and was amazed at how many were calling. It also reminded me of just how loud they can be when you get close to them.
The calls were so loud and frequent that it was a little tough to tell where they were coming from, so I scanned the area near the pond with a flashlight and started seeing frogs everywhere. As is often the case, they all stopped calling when I first got close. But, it only takes one, somewhere in the yard, to start up again and they just can’t help themselves, even with a flashlight shining in their face. A spicebush a few feet from the edge of the pool had four calling frogs in it, so I took some time trying to get a decent photo.
It turned out to be quite challenging to photograph then in a shrub. Just when I would get close, the frogs would decide to move a couple of inches behind a nearby leaf or twig before resuming their amorous trills
It didn’t help my case that my glasses were fogging up and I occasionally bumped a twig with my camera or tripod, silencing all the frogs for a minute or two.
I finally spotted one out in the open on one of the rocks that form the edge of the pool. I slowly moved the tripod over and clicked a photo, then another, and then just sat and watched this little guy doing his best to attract a female. I shot a short video clip, but later realized that the flashlight I used to illuminate the calling frog created a flickering effect on the video. Oh well, next time I’ll do it right and go ahead and get the video light. But I still wanted to share the sounds with you…it really is incredibly loud.
As I looked around, I started to see paired frogs slowly moving toward the water. Studies have shown that female choice determines mating, and they tend to approach males with longer and more frequent calls (must be an indication of fitness).
A successful approach results in amplexus, where the male clings firmly to the female as she deposits eggs in the water. The egg mass is externally fertilized by the male. Eggs hatch within a few days and it usually takes 6-8 weeks for the tadpoles to transform and leave the water. The chorus was still going strong as we turned out the lights and headed to bed. I hope the night is successful for them. If so, it will be fun seeing tiny frogs all around the yard in a few weeks.