Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Treefrogs

I woke early this morning. Warm air wafted in our open bedroom windows and the morning dawned bright. A combination that we've not had for some time. The dawn chorus started early, first the robins and phoebes, then a barred owl.

Warm temperatures the last few nights have stirred another creature: the gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor). This small 2-inch frog waits for warm evenings (above 15C/59F) to start its intense breeding season. The male belts out a loud trill, amazingly loud for such a tiny amphibian. Males sit on tree branches near a wetland, trilling with all their might to attract females. The males use so much energy to trill that over the course of several intense calling nights they lose weight.

Treefrogs trill during the day some, but the most intense trilling occurs in the evening, up until about midnight. Yesterday late morning Kodi and I wandered back to the wetland as we are apt to do these days. I listened to the birds of the wetland and forest edge: yellow warblers and common yellowthroats in the shrubs, red-winged blackbirds defending their territories among the cattails and buttonbush, an ovenbird behind me in the midstory tree canopy. The loudest call though was the treefrog.

The gray treefrog, as its Latin name versicolor suggests, can change its color from ashen gray to green to light brown. This, along with their small size, makes them hard to find against the lichen-covered trees that they inhabit. They could be down low in a shrub or up high in a tree. Large toe pads enable them to climb easily.

Throw open your windows at bedtime or spend some time outdoors in the evening after sundown and listen for a loud trill. You might mistake it for a bird or even an insect (such as a cicada). The diminutive treefrog rules the night sounds on these warm evenings.

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