This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Frog Night

It was a loud night, two nights ago. It was one of those nights that would have had people out in their fountain-splashed patios trying to make the frogs shut up. And planning how to eliminate any froglets that might develop from the frenzy of sexual energy that is keeping hardworking people awake. I know people do get upset, but I hope not too often. The frogs and toads are only trying to keep up the work they were designed to do, just as we are.

So it was a loud night, and we have been waiting for it for almost three months. Waiting for it, because the Louisiana Amphibian Monitoring Program is trying to monitor the populations of frogs in Louisiana, together with many other states that are concerned about the same thing – declining amphibians worldwide. The volunteer surveyors do night surveys three times a year to put data together that will soon be able to describe what exists now in Louisiana – in terms of baseline numbers. Without that it would be impossible to tell if the numbers are going up, or down, over time. So, that’s why we welcome the loud nights, and why we hope not too many people object to them. One day these frogs could warn us of environmental issues before those issues become harmful to humans – much like the canaries do for coal miners, and if the frogs are declining they could be warning us already and we can't tell.

Friday night much of Louisiana received considerable rain. Here in Butte La Rose we got almost four inches in about three hours. That more than doubled what we had received since the beginning of the year, and together with the couple inches we got last week the frog frenzy was set to begin. And it did. Sunday night Dugan and I ran the Bayou Sorrel survey route and heard many thousands of frogs calling all over the woods, bayous, ditches and even roadside puddles. The survey considers a Code 3 chorus to be so many frogs that you can’t hear any individuals, just the wall of sound they make, and there were many Code 3’s Sunday night. It was awesome! But that’s not all. When I got home about 11:30 pm, the small, shallow borrow pits along the levee on highway 3177 had literally come alive. Certain species of frogs are “supposed” to breed in the winter months, and others in the spring and others in the summer. Well, they forgot about the dates and all came together in the same pools to breed at the same time – 11 species all calling together at once. Think what that would do to a backyard pool next to a bedroom window. Just for the fun of it I will list all the frogs that were calling from the little borrow pits: northern chorus frog; spring peeper; southern leopard frog (these are the three “winter” species); then, bronze frog (top); green treefrog; squirrel treefrog (above right); gray treefrog; Fowler’s toad; Gulf Coast toad (left); cricket frog; and narrowmouth toad. All of these together at high volume and high numbers. What a glorious thing to hear, although some folks might have wanted earplugs. Now, we will hope there is enough subsequent rain to sustain enough water in the borrow pits long enough for the tadpoles to mature and grow into next year’s frogs.

A short bird note: the first young yellow-billed cuckoo was out of the nest and looking to momma for food two days ago. That's sure wasting no time migrating here, building a nest, laying eggs, incubating them and raising young by May 1!

The river is at 7.9 on the Butte La Rose gauge and will stay there for several days. The Ohio and Mississippi are not doing anything to cause a rise any time soon. The manager of the hydroelectric plant told me this morning that the Mississippi river temperature is up to 68 degrees F, which means it warming up pretty fast. Warmer water is not what we want in rising water because it carries less oxygen and could do more harm than good if it gets back into the swamp. But, not much likelihood of that this year, it seems.

Rise and Shine, Jim


Blogger CarolynF said...

We had a similar night here in North Louisiana last Sunday night. The swamp was so loud with frog chorus you could hardly hear yourself think. I don't recognize the different kinds of frogs, but enjoyed it the same. I didn't realize there were so many different frogs in one area.

May 02, 2006 6:51 PM  
Blogger jim said...

Hi Carolyn. Ross tells me that you and he are kin. He's good folks in my book. Yes, there are 30 different species of frogs in Louisiana; not all of them are all over, of course. Ross can get you a free CD that will teach you how to tell them apart by voice, if you would like that. Your yard/swamp sure sounds like my kind of place.

May 02, 2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger Brigette said...


When I read "Frog Night" I instantly started re-thinking my decision about participating in the LAMP surveys. I am still not quite in a position to take on a route of my own (my little boy is still too little for that), but it would have been fun to go out and hear all the frogs that night.

I hear them now & then around my house but I have not heard them much this year because of the drought. The large leopard frog that was living in my front ditch has moved on as well (I think); I have not seen him in some time now.

Anyway, it's so good to hear that the frogs are still out there. I miss doing that work sometimes (especially when the paperwork here starts piling up). Speaking of, it calls loudly today, so I'll have to catch up with you more later. Happy frogging!!!


May 03, 2006 7:56 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Well, Brigette, you might see if you can hitch a ride with Debbie, Jacoby or James Beck. Each of them does LAMP work, and they are all in your work neighborhood I believe. Glad you are still interested. Thanks, Jim

May 04, 2006 9:44 PM  

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