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The Frogs of Winter

Except for a little recent brush clearing in one corner, the old, shallow clay pit between Camp Salmen’s main parking lot and the park’s office building is hidden behind a wall of vegetation. The sounds that come from it — the remarkable roar of a frog chorus after a long, hot, humid rainy day in the summer —tells it’s prime frog habitat. During dry spells when one can penetrate the brush barrier and walk through the pit one sees why; it’s a tangle of shrubbery, trees, standing water, muck and wetland plants.

You would think the pit would be silent in the middle of winter but at least two kinds of frogs have a greater tolerance for the cold than most of their cousin frogs. They like to mate at any time of year and, thus, keep up their nocturnal racket to attract the opposite sex.

One is the Cajun Chorus Frog (Pseudacris fouquettei). Most people know them from the wall of sound they make from area ditches and wetlands, a sound that constantly goes “cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep.” Because they are smallish (one inch), grey/brown and stay hidden under the leaves, they can confound the careful observer in a most fraudulent and deceptive manner by seeming to be invisible in spite of all the noise they make.

The other frog has a creepy sound that if you didn’t know what was making it, would raise the hair on the back of your neck — a sound that combines a noise like a squeaky pair of rubber shoes or from rubbing an inflated balloon with the growling chatter of demons from the netherworld. Its source is the Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus). These are a handsome, distinctive-looking frog; a frog’s frog. They can grow up to about five inches long, though most are about three inches long. They’re sleek looking, with pointy snouts and a couple of angular, racy ridges on their back. Their chief distinction is the large leopard-like spots scattered over their smooth, moist, froggy bodies.

Both frogs like it wet, are quite happy with conditions in our pit and await all their other frog cousins to liven-up and join them in the summertime chorus. And don’t forget, like the TV commercial points out and in spite of evidence to the contrary, don’t confuse “frog” with “fraud.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 August 2018 15:47

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