Can You Spot The Tree Frog?

A nighttime symphony echoes through our farm, but the musicians have yet to be spotted.

by Rachael Dupree
PHOTO: The Wandering Herpetologist/Flickr

I have an easy answer to that question up there: No. This time of year, tree frogs are obviously all around. At dusk, they begin their glorious symphony of chirping, growing louder if there’s a rain shower and growing quieter if a human or other animal passes by. I love cracking the windows at night and letting their sweet lullaby lull me to sleep. But as hard as I’ve tried to spot a tree frog, it has yet to happen.

Kentucky plays host to several different types of tree frogs. The one that’s likely in our area—though, I’ll never know for sure until I can actually spot one—is the Cope’s Gray tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis). Its vocalization, described by the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Service as a “loud, harsh, rapidly blurted trill,” is definitely one I’ve heard during our time on the farm—though, I wouldn’t say it’s as displeasing to the ear as the description indicates. However, it’s not quite the melody we’ve been graced with this time of year, which is more akin to a cricket’s song.

We’ve been told by neighbors that what we’re hearing is indeed tree frogs, not crickets, and I believe it. The sound is more pleasant and blends more nicely into the environment than a cricket’s noise. I just wish I could tune my ear into what species is exactly making the sounds.

We have two old cattle ponds and a lagoon which likely serve as home to our nighttime noisemakers. It’s about this time of year that the Cope’s Gray tree frog will begin its mating ritual, laying its eggs through mid-August anywhere they can find water. This time of year, with all the rain we’ve endured, it seems they won’t have to look too far to find a suitable creek or ditch if the ponds don’t suffice. The rest of the year, they spend their time high in the trees—and we have plenty to share with them.

A weird and wonderful fact about the Cope’s Gray—and I love all the weird and wonderful things we’re learning about our land—is that it freezes during winter, but it doesn’t die. The glycerol, a viscous liquid, that circulates through the frog’s body turns to glucose in the winter, serving as an antifreeze to protect the frog’s cells from shutting down when the weather turns cold. The rest of the frog’s body then freezes, essentially turning it into a frog Popsicle, until the spring thaw arrives. I’ve never spotted a frozen froggie on my winter walks, but you better believe that next year, I’ll be on the lookout.

Subscribe now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *