Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Mid-day Toadsong ... it's wet again here at PFHQ.

If you've been watching the news or (looking out the
window here), you may have noticed that Florida has been getting soaked by a stalled front that became a slow low pressure system.

Here at Pure Florida Headquarters  (PFHQ), the result of all this is a greatly rejuvenated pond and near constant frog song.
In fact, our pond has gone from almost dry to ... um, about half full in the past 2 weeks.

I'm not the only one who's happy about it.

The local amphibians are really, really hoppy  happy about the new water.
At night, the tree frogs, especially the green tree frogs have been calling loud and proud. Night is usually a mixed bag of species calling, but the greens have been the dominant nocturnal singer.

The trails in the pond duckweed above belong to another amphibian, one who suddenly appeared in the middle of an incredibly rainy day.
It was their singing that brought me down from my dry house to crouch in the tall grass along the rainy shore of my pond.
You see, NPR and Cornell University have put out a call for recordings of critters in our neighborhoods and I wanted to play... I'm a big fan of citizen science.
Get involved people!

The deal is, you record some critter noise and send in your recording to:
with the subject line:
"Decoding Nature".

Get the details at NPR.

Then the wizards at Cornell will try to identify your critters.

I wanted to send an audio file of the racket my pondphibians were making, so I grabbed the cell phone and headed down to  the pond.

Here's the singer .. "Old Golden Eyes".

(Note lower left corner photo bomb by an unfortunate caterpillar that fell from the black willow tree above).

The pond was full of these Eastern Spadefoot Toads,(Scaphiopus holbrookii)
 a mostly subterranean species that I only encounter during the mating rush as on this day, or sometimes when I'm digging in the yard.

This is what they were crowding in my pond for ... "Amplexis" ... Latin for "embrace".

The smaller male has latched on to the larger female so he can be the one to fertilize her eggs when she decides to release them.

There were spadefoots everywhere calling, swimming, clasping ... it was pretty spectacular. This pond is near perfect for amphibian reproduction.
It's shallow, with lots of shoreline and edge cover, partially shaded by black willows, and almost devoid of fish larger than Gambusia minnows. (There are a few random bluegills).

Amphibians are having a rough time of it these days.
The reasons are many, ... loss of habitat, a thin skin that is super permeable to pesticides and other chemicals, and exotic fungi that have a very real and very scary potential to wipe out entire species.

Tiny intermittent ponds like mine are an essential part of the life cycle for many frogs, toads, and salamanders.
Our own small pond has hosted, newts, tiger salamanders, green tree frogs, barking tree frogs, grey tree frogs, cricket frogs, bullfrogs, eastern toads, pigfrogs, leopard frogs, and of course the spadefoots.

Those are just the species I've seen first hand down there, I imagine the gopher frogs find their way down to the pond also ... I just haven't caught them in the act.

Shallow ponds have sprung up all over our swampy Florida county with a week of very heavy rains.
This could be a rebuilding year for our smooth skinned herps.

Let's hope so.

Below is a VERY short video of an Eastern Spadefoot singing its little 3-chambered heart out.


Bruce Mohn said...

Thanks for that! I heard my first spadefoots years ago following a cloudburst in February! I waded into a puddle five feet deep to see them. Have heard them since, also following cloudbursts.

robin andrea said...

I've never heard such a song! Wow. How wonderful that it's singing its beautiful heart out. Glad all the rain is helping to reestablish their habitat. I hope there is an abundant and healthful future for them.

Chris Fooshee said...

Beautiful! As always, thanks.

Wally Jones said...

Ahh, sweet rain! Love the chorus of frog songs and really enjoyed your spadefoot serenade. Visited Lake Apopka area the other day and couldn't hear myself talk for the bullfrogs and pig frogs yelling.

Great post!

threecollie said...

Now that is cool! The only place Spadefoots are commonly found around here is in the pine barrens near Albany. Nice video!

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh Raymond, that was a Grail animal for me when I worked for The Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. I never saw or heard one. Still haven't until this. Thank you thank you thank you. I am a big fan of citizen science too, and a bigger fan of your sunny outlook on the deluge you are experiencing. You really live the adage "It is what it is." And you add a corollary: Celebrate it. You find something to celebrate in almost every natural phenomenon.

R.Powers said...

This is an annual event here at PFHQ ... as long as the pond has water!


I hear ya. The eastern toads in a tiny plastic goldfish pond here at PFHQ can be almost painful if you are within 3-4 feet of them ... which I like to be of course.

They are so secretive and subterranean ... I see these numbers at the pond and think Yowza, they must be underfoot constantly.

Thanks! My happiness at hurricanes and tropical storms gets me flack sometimes.
I hope you find that spadefoot someday ... and I am sure you will.

R.Powers said...

I hopped over Robin.
Hey lady,
They were doing everything they could to create abundance !

Grace Smith said...

I really enjoyed that! We love to listen to the frogs at night. They seem to turn up after every rain to serenade us from out little water garden on the deck. I'm always amazed that such tiny things can make such a huge noise!And leave so much spawn!