Last night was a great night for Wood Frogs, here in upstate New York. The temperature reached nearly 60F during the day and a thunderstorm passed through in the evening. After dark, I drove to one of my favorite locations and hiked through the damp forest to a small woodland pool. There I found males calling, participating in their yearly cacklefest, with pairs in amplexus and plenty of egg masses scattered about in the shallows.
The real find of the evening, however, was a group of males knotted around one female … a situation that is not adaptive, for either sex. When caught up in a knot, the female is unable to lay eggs and the males are therefore unable to fertilize them. What happens is that the males wrestle and kick at one another until finally one prevails, at which time the pair quickly swims to the bottom, only to rise again some minutes later to lay and fertilize eggs in relative calm.
Even though I have plenty of videos of Wood Frog breeding behavior, every year I make an effort to witness their ritual. On this occasion, it was supremely invigorating to be out there in the moist woods, the temperature dropping into the 40s, and the Wood Frogs cackling their delight. Once I got my video footage, I turned my light off and sat down on the wet leaves. The sky was clear and the half-moon threw a blanket of muted light across the forest. As the Wood Frogs cavorted in front of me, I noticed moonlight reflecting off their bodies, little bursts of light coinciding with their movements as they chuckled. This is truly a cause for celebration … once again I have moved my body, mind and spirit into their domain, into their ephemeral mating frenzy, and I know that I am a better person for it.
Wood Frog Group Chorus with raindrops (made at a nearby pond on same night):