Apr 01 2013
Last Saturday at Raccoon Wildflower Reserve I heard the sound of ducks in the woods but I wasn’t fooled. I knew they were wood frogs.
For most of the year wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) keep a low profile. In the summer they hide under leaves to avoid being eaten. In the winter they’re literally frozen “frog-sicles” under the leaf litter, but in early spring they emerge for an orgy in the nearest vernal pond.
The male wood frogs float around and call to attract the females. When the crowd really gets going they sound like ducks. The first time I heard them I searched in vain for the flock of ducks making so much noise at the edge of a damp field. Hah! Wood frogs. Click here to hear.
When the lady frogs arrive the orgy begins. Multiple males grab a female and ride around on her back. The pond becomes dotted with clumps of frogs.
After they mate the female wood frogs lay masses of eggs in big globs like this.
Then the orgy is over. The adults disappear into the woods and the sound of ducks comes to an end.
Ironically, there’s a duck whose courtship call sounds like frogs: the hooded merganser.
Nature is playing April Fools.
(photos by Marcy Cunkelman)