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The mating call (05/25/2011)
By Frances Edstrom

Since we moved to the country — actually I should say the township, since the city continues to crawl out into the countryside — but, since we moved out here, people often say, “Oh, I bet it’s nice and quiet out there!”

Well, the answer is no. It’s often really loud. I sat on the porch over the weekend, doing a crossword puzzle, when I became aware of a loud, insistent buzzing sound, as though I was in a barber shop when a set of triplets were all getting buzz cuts. I traced the sound to one huge bumble bee traveling from flower to flower in the hedge around the porch.

And then there are the birds. Huge crows sit in the trees, now and then flapping their wings to make a sound like shaking out a wet bed sheet. And when they get to crowing, it sets all the dogs in the neighborhood to barking like crazy. The cardinals sing all year ‘round, and in the spring are joined by any number of little birds that sing like crazy, especially in the very early morning, when I want to sleep.

But the absolutely loudest and most persistent critters are the tree frogs! At first I thought it was some sort of bird, because the noise was coming from a tree on the deck by the pool. But some friends who are old hands at country living told us that no, that very, very loud calling was a tree frog. No bird. We listened, and then heard an answering call to our frog that seemed to be coming from the far side of the lawn.

Unfortunately, I think we unwittingly invited these frogs to our yard by uncovering the pool. There it sits, the water in it green, littered with leaves, looking like tea brewing. When I began to read up on tree frogs on the DNR website, I found that male tree frogs “gather at breeding sites and announce their presence with what is known as advertisement calls. When one male calls, others soon call back in contest.”

It goes on, “Each of Minnesota’s 14 species has a distinct call used to attract females of the species. Although an individual species tends to breed at the same time each year, fluctuations in weather can cause variations. Wood frogs breed early in the spring, taking advantage of temporary wetlands. They are called explosive breeders, meaning they gather in large numbers, but only for a few days. Prolonged breeders, such as gray tree frogs, can be heard calling for several weeks. Other calls produced by toads and frogs include aggressive calls made by a male when another male enters his breeding territory, and rain calls made after the breeding season and may be related to changes in the weather.”

The DNR says that the females come to investigate the call, checking out the various males for a suitable mate. The female will then approach the male, maybe even touch him, indicating she’s interested. Sort of like high school dances, I think. But frogs don’t waste a lot of time dating before mating. The male jumps on the female’s back, and she swims out to the breeding place, carrying him along. Then she lays her eggs and he fertilizes them externally. (Is this more than you wanted to know about the sex lives of tree frogs?)

Now I’m afraid that our tree frogs will lay their eggs in the pool, and be waiting for them to hatch, when — oh, oh — we empty the pool, drag out the guck with their eggs attached, and refill the pool and throw in chemicals. What will happen to those baby frogs? Are we killing off our very own mosquito eradication squad? I can only hope that this guy will be disappointed in love, or find a nice puddle somewhere to set up housekeeping. 


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