Growing up with a forest in my backyard, I thought I knew all the sounds that Indiana spring nights had to offer, from the distinctive hoots of owls to the occasional chirp of bats. Apart from these somewhat rare springtime noises, it seemed like the forest, for the most part, held on to the blanket of silence left behind from winter. However, that was before I heard the near-deafening chorus of amphibian breeding calls as a frog monitor. This spring, along with my fellow frog monitor, Sam Bosio, I made my way from the University of Notre Dame to Lydick Bog. We first made these short trips once the night temperature warmed to above 45°F to listen and record this strange phenomenon.
Male frogs and toads emerge from their winter burrow in the ground to mate by letting loose a bewildering mix of trills, barks, peeps, chirps, and croaks. Depending on the species, the breeding call will sound completely different–which makes listening to the fogs an ideal way to identify various species present in a given area. During springtime in Northwestern Indiana, you can hear several species of frogs and toads depending on the air temperature and type of wetland habitat. Some of the more common species (which you can listen it here) are Chorus frogs, Spring Peepers, Northern Leopard Frogs, American Toads, Green Frogs, and Bullfrogs.
Lydick Bog offers a unique type of wetland, a bog made of a floating bio matt on a kettle lake. The bog makes for a perfect habitat for amphibians that need moist environments for their skin. Sam and I were able to share the experience of this Indiana phenomenon, courtesy of Garry Harrington, a naturalist at Rum Village Nature Center, who led an amphibian tour of Lydick Bog.
While my backyard at home was not conducive for a frog habitat, many wet environments such as ditches, slow-moving streams, and retention ponds can all be suitable homes for frogs; you just have to know where to listen. Since toads are not as dependent on wet environments as frogs, you can hear or see them in your lawn, forest, or grassy environments. If frogs or toads are on your property, you can thank them for reducing algal blooms, reducing pesky insect populations, and providing a vital food source for other animals higher up in the food web.
Amphibians are key indicators of environmental health. Sadly, their populations have been declining worldwide due to invasive species, habitat loss, pollution, and disease. Yet, you can create a small sanctuary in your backyard and reap the benefits of having them around. Simple steps such as avoiding using pesticides can help protect aquatic environments. Rain carries pesticides from yards to water sources where chemicals hurt amphibians since they have permeable skin. In addition, you can attract amphibians by planting native gardens which attract insects that amphibians love to eat. Other methods include creating shade, hiding places, or including a watery spot on your property. With these tips, I toad-ally hope you hear some amphibians soon!
Bonus: listen (below) to the LOUD peeps of Spring Peepers and the softer crrreeeks of Chorus frogs recorded with our devices from Lydick Bog.
-Mia Wagner, undergraduate researcher at the University of Notre Dame