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The First Frog Orchestra Experience

What an adventure last night was! We  set out with all our sound recording equipment, nets and buckets in stylish socks and sandal attire as the sun was setting.

Driving through the winding roads on the way to Lopinot we could here a chorus of frog calls but nothing prepared us for the crescendo we were to hear as we stepped out the car at the Chicken Shack area. An abandoned over grown hollow with high grass and streams, well sheltered with an assortment of trees and shrubs – the ideal habitat for a range of frog species. Below is a photo of the Hyla crepitans aka the flying frog. This wee guy was lurking in the streams calling loudly ‘ rrrrr rrrrr’.

In the hollow we were excited to find a species which is now rare in the area – Elachistocleis surinameasis –  a burrowing frog which feeds on termites and ants! It has orange markings on its tummy and a wee pointy nose. We almost lost him too as he attempted to burrow to the ends of the earth! We are also debating – did we find the Elachistocleis ovalis? This species has a vertebral stripe but the markings are just not making sense! John Murphy suggested that these species are rare closer to St Augustine nowadays because of the sugar cane plantations and the incesticides that are used on the crops. The chemicals tend to be of a compound closely related to estrogen, perhaps the chemicals are affecting the frogs reproductive activities and decreasing population numbers.

The Trachycephalus venulosus (above) aka the Warty Tree Frog could be heard barking deeply in the trees – beautiful golden eyes!

In the area the Physalaemus pustulosus aka tungara frogs were having a mating frenzy – amplexus pairs were in abundance much to Mhairi’s delight! She is collecting pairs for her experiments back at the lab. Their calls were pretty disco, reminding us of popping a lid aff a bottle o coca cola (plenty of that over this way – we live close by the factory). These wee guys have two different types of calls, chucks and whines. The calls with chucks are more impressive to the females, however the frequency of this call is easily detected by the predatory fringed-lipped bat, Trachops cirrhosus, so whines are used as they produce a different frequnecy but are favoured less by females. This creates an interesting tradeoff with sexual selection opposing natural selection.

Further along the road we drove til we found last years prime spot for Phyllo medusa. The vegetation had been cut back and burnt in areas which we had seen earlier in the week but we ventured along any way to check if any remained and to record our findings. We found two of these charasmatic creatures chilling on the muddy hill slope branches over looking a small stream. Driving back home the stars were out twinkling and bats were swooping over head along the road. Cup o tea and bed!

Frog call music coming soon – Have a listen to the froggy choir – can you identify any of the species?

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