Listening in Nature: A Refrain of Associates


Pickerel Frog at North Chagrin Reservation, Cleveland Metroparks. You may examine him and listen to this spectacular particular person on this submit


Distinction and
continuity. I discuss concerning the necessity of each in my music concept lessons however
wasn’t anticipating to see these ideas demonstrated so profoundly in my life
this yr. But after I reread my April weblog submit from the previous yr –“Covid-free Live shows, that’s precisely what I noticed– the continuity of the pure
world offering a way of steadiness, predictability, and continuity when a lot
else was about sudden contrasts.

A yr after the
coronavirus shutdown started, it was time for early spring amphibian songs once more.
And there they had been: “a refrain of mates,” as certainly one of my music concept college students
who has assisted with frog calling surveys had characterised them.

He was
particularly referencing the Western Refrain Frogs, which I particularly love.
“Oh, you’re keen on ALL of them,” I can hear you considering. OK, level taken. You’re
completely appropriate. And I really like them much more than ever this yr.

I believe a lot of
us had been particularly delighted and relieved to listen to the primary Spring Peepers this
yr as their songs challenged the annual March battle of chilly fronts and heat


In lots of places, they had been joined by the Wooden Frogs’ urgently intense
calling, splashing, and chasing as they converge within the vernal swimming pools for a
week-long reproductive frenzy. 

                  Wooden Frog male swimming after one other male in his house.

For them, it was
time for copy. For me, it was time to get out my “Wetland” Muck Boots
and keep in mind that this yr, I nonetheless wanted to take a masks together with my
recording gear.

Eldon Russell
Park alongside the higher Cuyahoga River in Geauga County is without doubt one of the spring
live performance venues I attend yearly in March for frogs and once more in April for
marsh marigolds and birdsong. As I parked this yr, I additionally remembered how final
yr at the moment, park guests (myself included) sat in our vehicles listening to
the governor’s 2PM coronavirus press convention updates earlier than ever stepping
outdoors of our automobiles.

Strolling up
the storm-battered path alongside the Cuyahoga River, that uneasy reminder
dissipated into the delight of listening to a wonderful refrain within the moist woods to my
proper. This was an enormous refrain of Spring Peepers, however…wasn’t there additionally a
sizable Wooden Frog ensemble past them? And will I someway work my well past
the Peepers?

Nicely, not
precisely. After getting caught in a wetland final yr and sinking in mud inside
an inch of the tops of my knee-high Muck Boots, I promised myself I’d by no means
repeat that unsettling scenario. After rapidly sinking six inches into the
mud, I reconsidered my route.

However what about
coming into the woods from the opposite aspect? It was shrubby, moist, and mucky, however
there have been sufficient footholds to succeed in the live performance corridor. 


As you may think, I
briefly forgot the exhaustion, unhappiness and nervousness of the previous yr and
I definitely didn’t have to fret about social distancing.

One other annual
March vacation spot is the Medina Park District’s Letha Home Park. The ponds and
moist fields are usually stuffed with frog music within the early spring, but it surely’s a
completely different refrain from the northeastern counties. This park is southwest of
Cleveland and the sunny, moist fields are a splendid stage for Western Refrain
Frogs. I don’t have the chance to listen to these tiny frogs in my speedy space – they merely
aren’t right here – so touring west/southwest to search out them is a part of each spring
for Wendy and me. It’s one of many journeys we all the time attempt to take collectively.

The west aspect of
the park is primarily wetlands and moist meadows and is accessed through a bridle
path. We had barely begun to stroll the path after we heard the large variety of
Western Refrain Frogs and Spring Peepers within the distance – the “refrain of mates” we’d come to
go to. They aren’t calling there for lengthy –that is the early spring amphibian
refrain that defies the potential for a short return to winter,

      This tiny Western Refrain Frog was singing within the flooded subject at Letha Home.

As we bought nearer
to their flooded subject and shallow pond, we heard Wooden Frogs calling with them
as effectively. 




In some areas, Wooden Frogs had been already ending their transient season of
“explosive breeding” (sure, that is an precise time period). I usually hear for Wooden
Frogs in vernal swimming pools which are typically within the woods, however this space was broad open
and in full solar.

                        Wooden Frog within the brilliant solar at Letha Home Park

It was an
fascinating location for listening to vital numbers of all three whereas
interested by how folks can study to differentiate between these species when
they’re all collectively. Simply Wooden Frogs and Spring Peepers collectively isn’t so
difficult, however the addition of Western Refrain Frogs – particularly in giant
numbers – leads to a dense wash of sound whose parts may be tough to

The pairing that
would profit from some ear coaching observe can be the Wooden Frogs and
Western Refrain Frogs. The Peepers will maintain themselves. (For those who’d like
to observe Spring Peepers with Western Refrain Frogs, nevertheless, see my  notes on the finish of this submit)

Pay attention first to
simply the Western Refrain and Wooden Frogs within the first half of the subsequent recording.
(I’ll carry the Spring Peepers again into the combination for the second half of the

Folks typically evaluate Wooden Frogs to quacking Mallards, and the sounds
are undoubtedly related. The Western Refrain Frog music is commonly described as
sounding like working one’s finger over the tooth of a comb from the tip with
longer tooth as much as the tip with shorter tooth. It sounds reasonably dry – not the
distinctive peeping pitch of the Spring Peeper.

Now have a look at the
sonogram, maintaining in thoughts that what you see nearer to the highest of the picture is
what’s greater in pitch. 

On the decrease pitch degree with be erratic vertical bands
which are the “croaks” of the Wooden Frogs.

Subsequent, have a look at the
greater pitches.  See all the skinny,
barely diffuse strains that appear to progressively ascend as a unit? I believe this
seems to be like a suggestion of the comb tooth of the Western Refrain Frogs.

Lastly, the
brilliant, ascending diagonal strains are the Spring Peepers and you may match these
brilliant strains with their loud, high-pitched, penetrating calls.

A extra distant
cease on the annual March Frog Music Tour is the big, sunny pond at The
Wilderness Middle within the southwest nook of Stark County close to the Wayne County
line. This was yet one more reside live performance Wendy and I might
safely attend.

Let’s take a couple of
minutes to hear intently for every little thing happening on this pond. There have been
truly 4 completely different frog species singing on the similar time! Whereas listening
and recording from safe footing within the water close to the shore, I might hear
the primary Leopard Frogs starting so as to add their low-pitched calls.
They sound reasonably like growling and loud night breathing and may truly sing beneath

My remaining rousing
frog refrain was a lot nearer to residence at Cleveland Metroparks’ North Chagrin
Reservation alongside the Chagrin River. Wendy and I celebrated the total moon at
the tip of March by going out at night time to hear.

The Wooden Frogs
had already completed calling and had returned to the woodlands. We solely heard a
few stragglers, however the Spring Peeper refrain was overwhelming! 

                     Spring Peeper singing at North Chagrin Reservation

There are not any
Western Refrain Frogs right here, as I discussed earlier. Whereas there are Leopard
Frogs in different parks east/southeast of Cleveland and in most different locations I
hear, there’s one thing particular at North Chagrin: Pickerel Frogs! And we had been
there to listen to the primary few Pickerels starting to name as we watched the
moon’s reflection within the water. 

I made a
subsequent journey to listen to rising numbers of Pickerels at North Chagrin. I had
no thought there have been so many there and was delighted to really see and
{photograph} one in full music! 

Within the recording under, the very shut, loud
soloist is the Pickerel Frog in my photograph.


Wendy and I went
again collectively, and the Pickerels – accompanied by an enthusiastic refrain of
Spring Peepers – had been now joined by a continuo part of American Toads. An
occasional beaver tail splash added accents as we sat quietly and listened with
flashlights off till closing time.

My refrain of
mates helped me by way of one other March and into early April. Different splendid
ensembles will observe, however these early frogs who yearly summon Spring’s
arrival had been as soon as once more my continuity and hope.

For those who’d wish to
learn and take heed to extra comparisons of varied frog calls, you’ll discover
recordings, pictures, and sonograms in my 2019 submit, 

“Snarls and Snores” at 
and Pickerel Frogs) and “A Live performance of Western Music” at
(Western Refrain Frogs and Spring Peepers)

Thanks to
violinist Andrew Smeader, Jr., for the outline of the frogs as “a refrain of




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