We’ve had a lot of rain in the last 3 days, and the Tchoutacabouffa River out in front of our rental house has ALMOST reached flood stage. The gray clouds were skidding across the pink sky as the sun set yesterday evening while we stopped at a local market for dinner. We spotted a squirrel treefrog that had been attracted to the bugs around the lights and took him out of the concrete jungle back to the tree-lined bayou where his life expectancy should be much higher. Seeing the rain was stopping and water was everywhere, I was tempted to do some road cruising & see what sorts of reptiles and amphibians might be attempting to cross the roads. Real world duties beckoned , however, so I headed on home.
When I opened the truck door, a regular “thrum, thrum, thrum” could be heard and felt. I wondered what sort of pump, generator, or small engine my neighbor was running. It took me just a second to realize that it wasn’t a mechanical noise at all – it was a chorus of male frogs and toads ready to breed! That immediately brought to mind our 2011 trip to the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center where the overwhelming noise of the male barking treefrogs could be heard over a mile away (That chorus was mistaken for a large diesel engine by some that night, and that notion was only dispelled by a visit to the breeding pond).
Last week, the bay pond by our rental house was merely damp. Last night, it had up to 5 feet of water in parts of it and was alive with invertebrates and frogs. The importance of these ephemeral wetlands that completely dry out (so they don’t sustain fish populations) for breeding sites for many invertebrates and amphibians can’t be stressed enough. At a minimum, there were gray treefrogs, eastern narrowmouth toads, eastern spadefoot toads, pig frogs, and southern leopard frogs calling in the pond last night.
Gray treefrogs were the most common and loudest frog in the chorus.
I think my favorite caller of the night was the diminutive eastern narrow-mouthed toad whose call brings to mind the “baaing of a petulant lamb”.
As more and more of the eastern narrow-mouthed toads paired up in amplexus, the number and volume of their calls dropped considerably.
A few eastern spadefoot toads were calling as well; most of them from an area of flooded brush that had a lot of deep water and underwater branches to trip the careless photographer. I tried to photograph a few of the spadefoot toads that were calling in other parts of the pond because I love the way their white throats inflate to the size of a golf ball. Unfortunately, there were as unapproachable at night as they are in the daytime. I did successfully stalk several of them, but none of them would call while I was close to them. The few that I could see calling in open water were calling and swimming at the same time, and would dive under as I approached.
All of which helps serve as a timely reminder that our Hands-On Herp Photography Workshop is this coming Saturday in McLeansville, NC! More details here: http://photobiologist.com/photogallery?g2_itemId=6810