Surprises and Wonder

Tonight was a night of surprises and wonder. The photo shows the meadow -- up until tonight this year a big disappointment in terms of calling frogs. To date I've heard a solitary western chorus frog give a couple of half-hearted calls a couple of times and that's it. In previous years this was an excellent location frequently with multiple species, but it seems to generally be much drier this year... until tonight!  On my way out to my most distant post I looked in at the meadow to see it before dark and was astonished to find that the river was actually running through it. I'd never seen anything like this here.  Surprise #1.  Surprise #2 -- when I came back through to listen for frogs after sunset, I heard four species here, one of which should have been done calling last month at the latest -- the western chorus frogs, and there were at least two competing for attention here.  This has me thinking that although it's a bit late, things have been so dry in this area of the preserve that at least a couple of them are behaving opportunistically.  Good luck guys! Surprise #3 -- 7 species tonight (thanks in part to the western chorus frogs calling out of season).

In addition to the western chorus frogs, there were American toads out there somewhere, a plains leopard frog not too far away, and an eastern gray tree frog calling from a tree somewhere nearby. All are audible in the recording below.  But before I sign off, the wonder:  the lightening bugs were amazing tonight. I really wanted to capture the beauty of the spectacle but didn't have anything to do it justice.  It was a show just for me and God.

06-01-15 In the Least Expected Places...

This is the back of a strip mall in Charleston Illinois where I'd stopped to drop off a donation to the local Goodwill Store. I missed its closing by about 2 minutes, but while I was standing there pondering what to do next, what should I hear but a Cope's Gray Tree Frog calling from near the dumpster. I investigated a bit (but felt awkward prowling around the back of a Chinese restaurant just outside their screen door) a found a barrel about 2/3 full of rain water. I didn't find the frog but have no doubt he was calling from somewhere right near there. I have to take my hat off to him -- he chose a spot with great acoustics even if not very picturesque. The recording is from the same spot as where the picture was taken. He only calls a couple of times in this brief recording but was going strong earlier.

05-28-15 Finally a Nice Variety!

Finally a great outing for frog calls this year. There were cricket frogs at the east penninsula with fowler's toads in the distance, still disappointingly nothing in the meadow, fowler's toads and a cricket frog and a plains leopard frog calling at the river (though there had actually been a good chorus of plains leopard frogs calling when I arrived but they stopped and didn't start up again during my official listening period), then cricket frogs, a plains leopard frog, and a bull frog at the boat ramp with fowler's toads and eastern gray tree frogs audible in the distance. This recording is at the river featuring fowler's toads and a cricket frog:

This is near the boat ramp, featuring cricket frogs, with distant eastern gray tree frogs and fowler's toads and a bullfrog. There are also a couple of guest solos by a distant coyote:

05-13-15 Plains Leopard Frog

Frog call survey tonight was almost a no-show, but I did get a solitary plains leopard frog making his quiet chuck chuck chucks near the river.  In the audio you can hear the river and some distant traffic noise along with the leopard frog's periodic chuck chuck chuck sound.

04-19-15 The Casual Toad

Yesterday my wife was out for a walk late morning and left me a voice mail of a strong chorus of American toads calling from the waterway along the Boulware trail in Champaign. Sweet! I wanted to get out there today but was busy until close to dusk. It rained all day today and the stream was swollen. Not sure what the factors were -- overcast, cooler weather, though not unreasonably cool, faster current or everyone just got their partying done yesterday, but I walked the main length along the waterway one direction and heard nothing today. On my way back, there was one solitary American toad calling perhaps once a minute or so. I started recording him and another somewhere a distance up the waterway began calling also, which seemed to give this guy a bit of motivation to step it up a bit so that the recording here has him calling about once every 30 seconds (the other one is not audible in the recording).

04-13-15 Another Night at RiverBend With Little to Hear

Another official Frog Call Survey tonight at RiverBend and didn't hear anything *officially*. There were far fewer Western Chorus frogs along the way than last time. One did call as I arrived at the Meadow, but was quiet for my five minute waiting period and my official 10 minutes of listening, so he doesn't count except as a footnote. Similarly, there was a very nice chorus of American Toads somewhere across the river at my monitoring spot there -- I could hear them but they weren't where I was monitoring. The recording, however, is of them. You have to listen hard -- there's the river in the foreground and distant highway noise in the background. Somewhere in the middle if you listen hard enough, there's a chorus of American toads (they were easier to hear in person than in this recording). Non-amphibian highlights included a couple of crayfish strolling the grassy path I was walking.

03-31-15 More Western Chorus Frogs

Did an official frog call survey at RiverBend tonight (the photo is of Sunset Lake from the peninsula). In my four monitoring locations I had a single lonely Western Chorus Frog in the meadow (not much water there), and he wasn't any too enthusiastic. We (my son Daniel joined me tonight!) did have an American toad cross our path and saw an American mink scurry past near the river. Also heard a couple of woodcocks. There were livelier choruses of Western Chorus Frogs in the area though and the recording is of several in a small pool along the road not far from the shelter at the boat ramp. After listening to them a bit (and recording) we shined our flashlight around the pool in hopes of catching sight of one or more. They kept right on singing, ignoring us completely, but we still couldn't spot any of them.

03-17-15 Western Chorus Frogs, My Sister and the Railroad Tracks

Every spring I have the discussion with my sister and brother-in-law as to what frogs they're hearing outside their home near the railroad tracks in Tolono. This year we finally made it official: I ventured down, my sister ventured out (brother-in-law wasn't home) and we listened in on a very nice chorus of Western Chorus Frogs in a rather compromised pool alongside the railroad tracks... until a passing freight train joined and overwhelmed the chorus. For the curious, they did not continue calling while the freight train was passing-- at least they were not calling when it was gone, and it took them probably 5-10 minutes to get going again.

03-16-15 Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs and a Couple of Loud W. Chorus Frogs

I got out tonight to check out some vernal pools in Vermilion County. There were three in close proximity. The largest was 2/3 still covered in ice, yet I found all three frog species in it (a W.Chorus frog just under the edge of the ice in fact), as well as a smallmouth salamander gliding silently and deftly through the water. The frogs were not calling in this pool though, at least not while I was there. The smallest pool had spring peepers calling and some wood frogs present, but not calling that I could see or hear. The medium pool was a hotbed of activity and both recordings are from there. The first is of a W.Chorus frog holding its own against a very strong chorus of spring peepers and wood frogs. He was positioned against a leaf sticking up out of the water, and I think it helped direct his sound toward me.

The second recording, in contrast to the huge noise of the first, is a later restart after the whole chorus fell silent. It seems the spring peepers always lead first. A couple start calling tentatively and then eventually a whole chorus builds and the woodfrogs join in. Here though is a false start.

04-17-09 Spring Peepers, American Toads and Plains Leopard Frog at Private Wetland, Vermilion County

I was privileged to be invited to a "Frog Party" tonight by a friend of a friend on his private wetland. Well before sunset the American toads and Spring Peepers were raising a huge ruckus and it only intensified after sunset. They were joined by an occasional W. Chorus frog and one or two Plains Leopard Frogs. Maybe an early gray tree frog too, but over the insistence of the hundreds of peepers, it was d ifficult to hear much else. The recording includes one or two Plains Leopard Frogs throughout, but if I hadn't heard them in person while recording, I probably never would have recognized they were there in the recording. The Peepers were deafening and the American Toads were doing their best to keep up.

04-11-09 Very Cold American Toads at Perkins Road Wetland Site

First sign of amphibian life at the Perkins Road Wetland site tonight-- two American toads trying to out trill each other despite 42 degree air temperature (water may have been warmer-- the day was fairly warm before the sun went down). The recording here doesn't have it, but before I got my recorder out, a couple of calls sounded similar to a car trying to start on a freezing day-- just couldn't quite get it going, or kind of dying at the end. Apparently they got warmed up call-wise before I was able to start recording, though these still sound somewhat lethargic to me...

3-6-09 Wood frogs and spring peepers at Kickapoo State Park

On a tip from a friend I and my ten-year-old son drove out to Kickapoo State Park hoping to hear wood frogs, which I had not yet ever heard. We hiked the trail to the vernal pools where we were told they could be found, but all we heard were spring peepers:

It was still ten minutes before sunset so we proceeded down the trail a ways, veered off to listen to some frogs at another pool-- still only spring peepers with a possible plains leopard frog in the mix-- but as we made our way back towards the first pool, now about 25 minutes after sunset, we could hear the spring peepers had been joined by a very healthy chorus of wood frogs:

What a difference 35 minutes can make!

7-30-08 Riverbend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

My last survey outing of the year on July 30th was notable for finding more E. Gray Tree Frogs more widely spread than I have there before-- most notably one callng from the edge of the meadow and another from quite nearby from among the trees between the meadow and the path. The recording is of a chorus of E. Gray Tree frogs accompanied by katydids in the foreground and other insects in the background. These were in roadside puddles actually outside of the preserve on the road leading to the gate.

7-7-08 Riverbend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

In spite of heavy rains earlier in the day, the water levels were the lowest I've seen them this year. The shallows actually had the normal land emerging from the water (and three bucks with velveted antlers crossing it when I got there). Mostly cricket frogs there, but a solitary bull frog also; spotted what I think was a small plains leopard frog in a puddle near the shallows. The meadow belongs to the fireflies now. On my way out to the shallows I stopped by-- the water that's been there all year was quite low now and, to my surprise a dozen or more small dead fish were floating in it. A solitary unidentified frog or toad hopped into the water as I arrived. Listening later I heard a single cricket frog (quite a contrast to the June 17 recording below) and scattered Fowler's toads. There were American toads and, I think, Fowler's toads at a distance-- possibly from across the river somewhere.

Frog call survey highlight of the evening, however, were the E. Gray Tree Frogs. Two were calling from the drainage area off the boat ramp parking lot-- dualing tree frogs. The recording is of them. Leaving the preserve I was treated to a massive chorus of E. Gray Tree Frogs calling from standing water on land belonging to the gravel quarry.

6-17-08 Riverbend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

A lot of cricket frogs tonight. The recording is from the meadow (cf. also entries for 4/5 and 5/18). Not a lot of diversity, but a lot of cricket frogs.

5-18-08 Riverbend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

The picture is of the meadow pool-- a temporary pool that's stuck around quite well this year due to the heavy rains-- same reason the "Shallows" are not as shallow as normal.  Tonight's monitoring turned up a lone bullfrog calling from the Shallows where I would have expected much more activity. In contrast, the flooded meadow was alive with a deafening din of cricket frogs, fowler's toads and a couple of  plains leopard frogs.  I had also heard American toads apparently calling from the meadow as I was coming down the trail, but not while monitoring. The recording is of the meadow-- same place as the recording from April 5 less than two weeks before, but entirely different sounds. Check them out and compare!

4-18-08 Forest Glen Preserve, Vermillion County, IL

I was on a cub scout camping trip with my son, Stephen, and on our first night there I had to find out where the calls were coming from.  Hiking down the road a short distance from the group camp sites I found a clearing with a fire pit in the middle and on the opposite side a large scrape in the ground with calling Spring Peepers and American Toads. The next day returning from our hike I came by the scrape again and found several pairs of toads in amplexus like the pair in the photo surrounded by black strings of eggs. The recording is from the first evening. I particularly like this melodic combination of the bell-like sounds of a large chorus of spring peepers and the long sustained trills of the American toads.

4-5-08 Riverbend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

The "Shallows" weren't as shallow as they used to be, but there were a couple of Plains Leopard Frogs active nonetheless.  I was able to get close enough to get a picture of the one on the left after my monitoring period was over. Too much water in the Shallows turned out well for the meadows, however, which had a lot of water and a lot of Western Chorus Frogs actively calling.  The recording is from the meadow.

3-17-08 Brown County State Park, Indiana

As was the case last year too, my first frog calls of the year were in Indiana, not Illinois, while vacationing at Brown County State Park.  The picture is of what I believe is a beaver dam at the east end of Ogle Lake where a stream comes in. The flooded area behind the dam resounded with the calls of Spring Peepers and Western Chorus Frogs-- a delightful combination and the audio for this post.

7/23-25/07 Eleven Point River, S.E. Missouri

July was busy and I didn't get out to my normal haunts at all for frog call surveying. I did take a wonderful three-day, thirty-five mile canoe trip with my son Jason on the Eleven Point River in South East Missouri. I don't have any recordings, unfortunately, but although we heard some bullfrogs and some cricket frogs, by far the most common calling frogs were green frogs. They were spread out down the river, normally one per vegetated area along the side of the river. There were sometimes two or three in an area, but across the river or down the river from each other-- never it seems calling from the same patch of plants. Ahh, and the first night we camped at the campground associated with the folks we were renting our canoe from, there was a tree frog in the shower (pictured above)-- an eastern gray tree frog I believe, though the calls I heard were not exactly like what we have here in Central Illinois, but I've been told there are "dialect" differences through the ranges of the varous frogs. Unfortunately, again, no recording.

6-29-07 River Bend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

A lot of rain during the week had reflooded a meadow that had been full of American toads on my first visit. At that time, the American toads were all but deafening at this location and at my next visit two weeks later there was nothing but mud. Tonight there was one insistent American toad, a few plains leopard frogs, a whole chorus of Fowler's toads and even a few cricket frogs. In the recording, you'll hear an American toad followed by a couple of plains leopard frogs (the clucking sounds) followed by the American toad again joined by the Fowler's toads. The cricket frogs, unfortunately, are not audible in this recording.

6-23-07 Shades State Park, IN

Yes, I call this the Frog Blog of Central Illinois, but after a couple of weeks being too busy with family things to get out to do frog call surveying, I couldn't resist posting this recording done at Shades State Park in Indiana while on a camping trip this past weekend with my son Stephen. We arrived much later than we had intended on Friday night and were setting up our tent by flashlight. I became aware of a chorus of E. gray tree frogs at some distance, so though it was after midnight, Stephen and I went for a walk and were able to track them down more or less. There was no direct access to the lake where they were from where we were that we could find at night so the recording is done from the opposite side of a wooded area bordering the lake. In the recording cricket frogs are also audible. When we got near enough to record I was excited to hear quite a number of green frogs calling too, but unfortunately their calls are subdued enough they are not audible on the recording at the distance we were. After tracking down the lake the next day I had wanted to return that night to try to get a good recording of the green frogs, but that night there was a thunderstorm -- not conducive to tramping through the underbrush to the edge of the lake or recording either one.

6-3-07 Collins Pond, Homer Lake Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

Cricket frogs and bullfrogs. That's all I heard tonight at Homer Lake and Collins Pond. The recording is from Collins Pond. Very near me was a bullfrog under some overhanging bushes on the edge of the pond. The recording opens with him doing a series of three "croaks." Following this was a small splash from that direction. He gives another two croaks. A bullfrog from across the pond answers, then there is a series of splashes. This series is the nearby bullfrog, for some reason, being startled and hopping in a short series of hops across the surface of the pond several feet before going under water. Cricket frogs and some noisy birds form the background for this.

5-28-07 Shadow Lake, River Bend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

The frogs and toads were raucous tonight! It was a loud party after hours on both lakes at River Bend and I heard three species I had not yet heard at this preserve: Fowler's toads, bullfrogs and Eastern gray tree frogs. In addition, I heard at least three plains leopard frogs (I had only heard one briefly on my first visit) and the cricket frogs were still loud and insistent. American toads were still active as well in one area of Sunset Lake.

In the recording, done at the flats on Shadow Lake, you will hear the constant clicking (in large numbers, almost like the ringing of bells) of cricket frogs and the constant bleating-like sound of Fowler's toads (much more strident than the trilling of American toads). There is the softer clucking sound or a plains leopard frog repeated throughout the segment (at about 20 seconds into the segment he makes the other sound in his repertoire -- sounds somewhat like a wet rubber sole squeaking on a tile floor) and about 10 seconds in, a single croak of a bullfrog (there were only a couple of bullfrogs active at this site and they seemed rather relaxed about calling -- one croak every minute or two, but over on Sunset Lake they were much more active and competitive with a near-constant booming). In addition, at a couple of points you'll hear crickets (the insects, not the frogs) in the foreground and a guest fly-by by a mosquito.

5-20-07 Pond at Japan House, Urbana IL

Busy weekend and I wasn't able to make it out on my normal rounds of Champaign County Forest Preserve District Properties. So I took the opporunity for a quick stop in town at a spot I'd wanted to get a listen in at: the ponds at the Japan House on S. Lincoln in Urbana. I had expected more bull frogs. They were there and calling periodically, but not as many or as frequent as I had expected. Cricket frogs were plentiful and, as I was about to leave, an American toad joined in as well. In the recording here you will hear the American toad, cricket frogs, and a faint bull frog a few seconds into the recording. In addition, the blackbirds were active and noisy in the reeds and there is some distinct traffic noise from nearby Lincoln Ave.

5-18-07 Frogs and Toads of Champaign County

I really needed to do this bit of research just to help get myself up to speed on what to expect as possibilities when and where... Hope it's helpful for you too.

speciesexpected frequencyexpected timeframeexpected location

American Toad (Bufo americanus)mediummid April - early May, but young males may call through late summerflooded fields, ditches and other bodies of water

Fowler's Toad (Bufo fowleri)commonlate April to late Juneflooded fields, ditches and other bodies of water

Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans)commonlate April to Augustshallow margins of lakes, ponds, marshes and streams

Grey Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)rarelate April - Augustwoodland pools, roadside ditches and other temporary bodies of water

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)commonlate February - May, but some males call in autumnponds and water-filled depressions in upland forest

Western Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata)commonmid February - Mayditches, flooded fields, floodplain depressions and even wet areas along busy highways

Plains Leopard Frog (Rana blairi)mediumMarch - Aprilstill water of pools, roadsides and drainage ditches, marshes and ponds

Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)commonApril - Augustpermanent bodies of water in forests, prairies and disturbed habitats

Green Frog (Rana clamitans)mediumMay - Septembervariety of shallow weedy aquatic habitats around lakes, ponds and streams in wooded areas

Pickerel Frog (Rana palustris)rareApril - Mayclear cool ponds

Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala)mediumlate February - mid Aprilall sorts of shallow water haibtats

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)raremid March - Aprilshallow vernal pools and forest ponds

information for expected timeframe and expected location directly from Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois (Phillips, Brandon and Moll) available online at

5-6-07 Collins Pond, Homer Lake Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

It was a slow night for frogs and toads. As I made my rounds, apart from a good number of cricket frogs at Collins Pond (recording below), I heard only one insistent Spring Peeper still active in the woods across from the Walnut Hill shelter. The woodland pool where there were so many Spring Peepers three weeks ago (see April 15 entry and recording) was only mud, as was a low spot near the parking lot at Collins Pond which had had a couple of active Western Chorus Frogs during my last visit. Non-amphibian highlights of the evening included a close fly-by by a large owl (great horned?) at one of my listening stops at Collins pond and my first-ever sighting of glowworms in the woods at Homer Lake.

4-28-07 Pond Near Kingston Mines outside Peoria, IL

Visiting my brother this weekend near Peoria so didn't get to my usual rounds of frog call surveying for the Champaign County Forest Preserve District, but he lives on a lake with ponds and wooded areas nearby. Just in the course of Saturday evening I heard a couple of cricket frogs, a couple of bull frogs, a plains leopard frog, American toads, western chorus frogs and gray tree frogs. The recording is of a gray tree frog and several American toads in the pond across the lane from my brother's house.

4-22-07 Sunset Lake, River Bend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

On my survey of River Bend Forest Preserve tonight, I heard my first cricket frogs of the season. Here they are against a backdrop of American toads at Sunset Lake. I also heard a lone Western chorus frog in a woodland pool. I did not survey all of my normal sites at River Bend due to the high wind and less than ideal survey conditions.

4-15-07 Woodland Pool, Homer Lake Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL

A chorus of Spring Peepers in a woodland pool at Homer Lake Forest Preserve, Champaign County, IL. During my survey tonight I also heard Western Chorus frogs in meadow pools near Collins Pond in a separate unit of the preserve.

4-8-07 too cold for frogs this weekend...

Didn't get out as the temperatures were unseasonably low and I don't expect there'd be much in the way of vocalizing amphibians this weekend.

3-30-07 Shadow Lake, River Bend Forest Preserve

American Toads across an arm of Shadow Lake, River Bend Forest Preserve, Champaign County, Illinois. Their chorus is punctuated about half-way through with the warning slap of a beaver tail. During the three hours I was out surveying tonight I also heard Western Chorus Frogs and one Plains Leopard Frog.