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the primordial gospel of frogsong

April 4, 2011

With spring asserting herself more and more here, the frogs have returned along

with the birds.  Actually, they don’t migrate, they just quiet down.  Lately, though,

they’ve been croaking away if it’s warm enough.  I find frogsong as pleasing as

birdsong.  I once called it primordial gospel, but I don’t remember why now.

Maybe it was because amphibians were our first relatives to crawl out of the water.

Maybe I was overreaching for a metaphor.  Maybe I can’t tell the difference.  I’m

complicated, as men go.

Anyhoo, the smooth-skinned crooners in our area look like this, but more focused:

He or she is cradled in Jude’s hands.  I’m fairly sure he/she is a Pacific tree frog.  I’ve

ruled out Cuban t.f. and European t.f. straightaway, and the common t.f. is common

only in Asia.  If any of you are herpetologists or skilled researchers, I’d appreciate

it if you could confirm or correct.  Until then, let’s assume.

The Pacific tree frog, Hyla regilla, is prevalent on the West Coast from Mexico to

southern BC.  Since that range includes Hollywood, its high-pitched “c-r-r-ick”

is the frogsong you’re most likely to hear in movies.  It’s also been described as

the famous “ribbit”, but I’m solidly in the “c-r-r-ick” camp.

Right now the Hylas are still shaking off winter.  When they turn amorous, the

males make their intentions known with a “kreck-kek”.  Then just about any

amount of water, from a puddle to a pond, becomes a singles saloon and the

frogs go bar-hopping.

The “kreck-kek” has to suffice as a pick-up line.  The Hylas just don’t have enough

time for snappy patter like “Do you swim here a lot?” or “Let’s go over to my tree.”

From conception to metamorphosis, new Hylas are good to go within 3 months.

Adults eat a lot of insects and spiders.  Tadpoles eat algae and detritus.  If you’re a

Hyla herder, try to keep the tadpoles concentrated on detritus and save the algae

for bio-fuels.  Thank you.

The tree frogs here are preyed upon by the rough-skinned newt, an interesting

critter in its own right because its skin is toxic.  It puts off most predators except

garter snakes, which is the only species of snake I’ve seen here.

Hylas can throw their voice to confuse the newts and others.  If they sense danger

approaching, they simply pipe down and wait it out.  When the night is full of their

chorus, its ethereal quality is enchanting.

  1. Charlotte Wales permalink
    April 4, 2011 2:45 pm

    I may have told you that my place has a cafe building from the early ’50’s and a studio, where I live. In front of the cafe building, there’s a cement pad about 8 feet square – don’t know what it was for, but there’s a hold about 4 inches across near one corner of the cement pad. For the past two summers, I’ve kept some plants on the cement pad, easier to water, etc. Out of boredom, I’d aim the water hose into the hole – – – and out came a frog, who looked VERY pissed off due to his unexpected shower! This got to be a game, me aiming a little water into his hole, him coming out and giving me the evil eye till I stopped. He’s a handsome fellow, very portly, dark green – I’m waiting to see if he comes back this year, so we can continue our game!

    • April 4, 2011 3:04 pm

      You’d think a frog would appreciate more water. I used to cut grass with a riding mower when I lived in Kansas. The adjacent lot grew wild. When I’d do the border stretch a rabbit would come out of the brush, run about 10 yards ahead of the mower and wait until I got close again, then run 10 more yards and wait. I had more fun with him than I did with the mean French lop-eared rabbit I owned.

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