Jim and I had been bouncing along a seldom used forest road, our destination still miles ahead. We were heading for a once flooded meadow from which, until the lengthy drought, carpenter frogs had been known to call. But our drive had been intercepted by loud toooonks coming from a woodland pond that we were passing.
Herpers, like birders, learn and respond to the sounds of nature, and there was no mistaking these sounds. The calls – toooonk, toooonk, toooonk, a pause and then another series of toooonks – were those of our largest native east coast hylid, the barking treefrog, Hyla gratiosa.
I should mention that at times barking treefrogs actually do produce a sound that could be likened to a grating bark. The barks are often produced when the frogs are high above ground and are celebrating a period of high humidity or, especially, are welcoming the approach of a summer storm.
But on a night like this – a glorious, breezeless, warm, late spring night, devoid of moonlight and replete with hordes of very thirsty mosquitoes – the toooonks indicated that the frogs were all in the breeding pond. We parked, listened, and determined there were several dozen barkers in the chorus. Although loudest, they were outnumbered by pine woods and green treefrogs, as well as by cricket frogs. Cameras were readied and we edged through the brambles towards the pond…
But what about the carpenter frogs?
We’ll be making another trip. Maybe we won’t be diverted the next time.
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