I recently had quite an adventure during my Starry Night and Singing Frogs program at Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold. It was a beautiful, clear night so stars were abundant and Venus shone brightly in the sky. In spite of it being late April, it was a cool night and I worried that the frogs singing would be inhibited. With this thought foremost in my mind, I led several families out of the shelter building, leaving the warm fire burning inside, and headed toward the lake and boathouse where a shallow cove often hosts frogs in abundance
As we walked down the hill toward the cove, I halted and gestured for silence. Faintly in the distance, I heard a familiar sound. Peep, peep, peep. Spring Peepers! This diminutive chorus frog is a sure sign of spring, as it is known to call as early as March and only the Wood Frog bests it by calling in February. I moved our party briskly across the field and toward a marshy area I know frogs love and was rewarded by the deafening but beautiful sound of dozens of Spring Peepers singing.
Even more exciting, I detected the calls of two other species: the Pickerel Frog and Green Frog. Both are true frogs, more closely bound to the water than Spring Peepers and sport a thin waist and long, powerful jumping legs with webbed feet. The call of the Pickerel Frog is described as something between a belch and a snore. The Green Frog call surprisingly resembles the sounds of a banjo.
Identifying the frogs was only half the battle and the children were determined to capture some of our noisy quarry. We spread out around the marsh, but the combination of darkness, water, marsh plants, and the amazing ability of the Spring Peepers to echo their calls in confounding ways and fall silent on our approach proved impossible to overcome. However, the children were delighted when our hard work was rewarded with the capture of a Pickerel Frog. We admired her for a time, but finally left the frogs to their marsh, the night, and their wonderful nocturnal concert. As we walked back to the parking lot, I discussed the other frogs (Bullfrogs, Southern Leopard Frogs, Northern Gray Tree Frogs and Fowler's Toads to name a few) that would be adding their voices to the nightly performance from now until late July.
Staff Contributor: Christopher Lanza, Senior Park Naturalist