Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On The Subject of Frogs

From the film: "Kung Fu Hustle"
I’m still sad thinking about the frog populations crashing, as described by Elizabeth Kobert in the opening chapter of The Sixth Extinction. But on spring nights that have finally arrived, it’s heartening to hear the frogs croaking away in the retention pond across the way.

Laurie MacBride in her Eye on Environment blog treats us to a photo and some observations about the Pacific Chorus frogs (aka Pacific Tree frogs) that serenade her at her British Columbia home. She provides a link for those who might live in and amongst concrete to experience what the frogs sound like.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, friends asked me to wait until dark to get the full experience of hearing the cacophony of the coqui frogs which have invaded the islands of Hawaii and Maui and now are considered invasive pests. Here’s how one looks and sounds like which seems innocuous enough but can achieve a din when magnified by the tens of hundreds. The irritation comes from the randomness of the calls, the arhythmic din which never approaches soothing chirps but have been known to drive calm people to conduct nighttime extermination hunts and to sell houses and return to where concrete prevails.

These last few weeks have put frogs for various reasons in the pages of the local news.

As described in an article in The Herald, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is working with organizations to restore native Oregon spotted frogs, listed as an endangered species in this state since 1997. The agency collects egg masses, and the partners raise the tadpoles to adult frogs in a safe environment before they are released. (A helping hand for endangered frogs)

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reports that municipal officials in and around Victoria are warned to be ready for American bullfrogs, “dinner-plate-sized” invaders with mouths nearly as wide as their bodies who will gobble down anything they can, including bugs, birds and fish. (Brace for amphibian predator invasion, B.C. warned)

That last item brought a comment from Helen Engle who recalls:

... during the ’great depression’ people hunted down bullfrogs and cooked and ate their muscular parts as quite a delicacy. Is my memory correct on that? Are they still being eaten by humans? That animal is a menace in most wetland places (including gardens) — he eats everything that moves with an appetite that would scare one.”

And a comment by Tony Angell who wrote:

“Bull Frogs? With all the focus on celebrity chefs (Tom Douglas ad nausea) and our indulgent duty to eat while "Rome Burns" why not send out a recipe for frog legs? I was whoppin them (you had to knock them out rather than spear them) in the lakes of Michigan in the late l940s and they have a season on them there. We ate frog legs for dinner night after night and they were delicious. Who knows, with the revenue from bull frog harvesting licenses we might restore a wetland for waterfowl and perch.”

And now we sing: “Frog went a-courtin' and he did ride, uh-huh...”

--Mike Sato

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including my post & links, Mike!

    I agree, those coqui frogs are anything but melodious - I think their sound would drive me around the bend very quickly! By contrast, our own tree frogs are wonderful choristers. The other type we have in our pond, Red-legged frogs, are very quiet - the only sound we ever hear from them is the plop they make when they suddenly leap into the water to avoid being stepped on.

    I do love frog season, and hope we can sustain it for a very long time to come.

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