A few nights ago, I camped next to a marsh in nearby Finger Lakes National Forest. The object was to get some sleep so that I could rise at 4am and enjoy the birds, singing at dawn. As it turned out, I stayed awake well into the wee hours of the morning, fascinated by the never-ending chorus of Bullfrogs and Green Frogs
The two species are easy to recognize. Green Frogs give a single throaty gunk! or else several gunks! delivered in rapid succession: gunk!-gunk!-gunk! Their calls seem more-or-less random, with no discernable tendency of different individuals to call back-and-forth or in unison.
In contrast, Bullfrogs produce a sonorous vroom .. vroom .. vroom, sometimes stuttering their notes a bit. Furthermore, Bullfrogs often respond to one another’s calling. When one begins, another nearby may join-in, alternating its calls with the first. This produces a interesting “pumping” effect, most evident when two males sing on somewhat different pitches: vroom-vrum-vroom-vrum-vroom-vrum … At times, three or four males may chorus together, all falling silent when their outburst ends.
What captivates me most is the way the sounds of the two species complement one another. The bullfrogs call in spurts and fall silent in between. The Green Frogs never stop, their random gunks! piercing the silence that falls between the bullfrog vrooms! The resulting soundscape is quite unique among frogs and toads, and is of widespread occurrence throughout much of the East.
After several hours of drifting in and out of sleep, I finally slipped into a fuzzy-froggy dreamstate, only to be jolted from my dream by my iPhone, signaling me that it was 4am and time to get on my feet and go to work. Geez … for the nature recordist, work never seems to end. When on earth am I finally going to get a good night’s rest?
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