Saturday, June 11, 2011

Frog Listening

Back in February we volunteered to plant long leaf pine trees on Eglin AFB as part of an erosion control project.

That put us on a volunteer list for projects being done in our area.

During the first week of May we got this email.

"All-
This is one of those volunteer projects that if you are scared of snakes, spiders, slimy critters and stomping through the creeks at night – just delete this email now!

For those of you that are still intrigued – Brandon Rincon, a wildlife biologist - is looking for volunteers to help with frog surveys at night along streams on the Eglin Reservation.

When: May 16th – May 20th
Time: 7:00 pm – 1:00 am
Where: Different creeks on the Eglin Reservation
Meeting Place: Jackson Guard pavilion at 7:00 pm
How many people: 2 Volunteers per night

Requirements:

1. Must be physically fit enough to walk at least 4 miles (sometimes 8 - depends on the fitness of the volunteers) through the woods and along the streams – not always easy walking, but not always horrible either

2. Must be able to walk on uneven terrain for extended periods of time

3. Must be able to walk through streams/crossover streams when needed (not swimming, just walking through)

4. Must be able to keep somewhat composed when you encounter snakes and spiders unexpectedly… just about guaranteed to happen!

5. No prior knowledge or experience required, but always appreciated!

6. Must be at least 18 years of age – no exceptions

Still interested…

Items needed:
1. Food for the evening
2. Plenty of water (camelbaks /waterpacks are really nice)
3. Wear hiking boots/rubber boots or shoes that you can walk very comfortably in for four miles with the possibility of wet feet
4. You can bring a camera – not required, Brandon will have one
5. Bring bugspray – just in case
6. Headlamp – you can get one at any outdoor store, Walmart or maybe even K-mart for around $10. You’ll want your hands to be free – or you can just bring a flashlight
7. Wear a hat! A ball cap is perfect for a headlamp to sit on and it helps keep the spiders out of your hair (serious)

If you are interested – please send me an email with the date you’d like to go out.

Lots of fun to be had… if you don’t mind the creepy crawlers at night!

Erica "

My Dad gets the same emails and he called and laughingly asked if I was going to volunteer for this.

Of course NOT.

They lost me at "if you are scared of snakes, spiders, slimy critters and stomping through the creeks at night."

But then last week we got this email.

"All –

Brandon is doing another round of frog surveys – these are different this time though. He will be doing “road” surveys – just stopping at bridge/culvert crossings and listening for whatever happens to be calling! The work is super easy this time – no stomping around in the woods – unless you are adventurous and want to go after the frog that’s calling just to get a look!

Dates: June 7th – 10th
Time: 7:00 pm to 1:00 am
How many people: 1 person each night - but if you have a friend that wants to go, 2 will be fine

Meeting place: Jackson Guard pavilion

What you need: Food/Water for the night, bug spray, headlamp/flashlight, camera (if you want pictures of anything). You still need to wear long pants and close-toed shoes.

Erica"

Now this I can do!

So I talked the Island King into spending an evening with me in the woods listening to frogs.

We met Brandon, the wildlife biologist, at Jackson Guard in Niceville, loaded our stuff into his truck and off we went into the Reservation.

Naturally, the first question we asked was why survey frogs?

He told us that in 1983 a new species of frog was discovered on the Reservation.

Lithobates Okaloosae - otherwise known as the Bog Frog.

Originally, it was only found in Okaloosa County but over the past few years has migrated a short distance to the east into Santa Rosa County.

Brandon's job is to mark the locations of the Bog Frog. That data is given to Eglin officials so they know where not to conduct bombing training missions.

The Bog Frog has a very distinct voice, which sounds like a chuckle, and by sitting quietly next to streams, ponds and lakes you can hear them easily.

We had 12 areas to check and after driving deep into the woods we came to the first spot.



Brandon had a sheet for each location which he marked with the time, temperature, humidity and noted which kind of frogs he heard.

We stayed at each spot for 5 minutes and then were off to the next one.

We heard Pig Frogs (aka Southern Bull Frogs) Cricket Frogs and Bronze Frogs.

I started the trip thinking it would take years of studying frog voices to be able to tell them apart but by the end of the night I could identify all three of the frogs above.

At one point we were standing at the edge of a creek and I turned around and there on the ground behind me was a frog.



Brandon grabbed it and explained that this was a female Bronze frog.

Only male frogs make noise so by listening you can guesstimate how many frogs there are in an area but finding a female assures the biologists that the frog population at that spot will continue to grow.

Who knew I'd make a valuable contribution to the frog studying world! I doubt I'll get credit in a science book though.

We drove on for hours, stopping at ponds and streams but as the night wore on I realized that the email I'd received was a little misleading.

There were quite a few spots we needed to check that we couldn't get to by truck.



Brandon would stop and say "Ok, from here it's only about 450 yards" and off we'd go.

There wasn't any creek tromping, just clear paths down to the creeks. Which was fine with me - I don't mind walking in the woods at night, I just won't walk in swamps or creeks at night.

The only problem was that all of the places we needed to go were downhill from where we parked.

Which meant 450 yards down to the creek and then 450 yard back uphill to the truck.

Six times.

Halfway back to the truck on the 6th trek I decided that at the next spot I was going to use the old "I must have twisted my ankle on the last hike so I think I need to wait here" trick.

Thankfully, that was the last time we had too go far from the truck so I didn't have to use the I'm Hurt card LOL

We didn't hear Bog Frogs at any of the locations we checked so at the end of the night Brandon took us to a stream where he heard them the night before.

We couldn't see them but we could hear them. It's hard to describe the sound they make but it's very distinctive.

Which means I can now name 4 different types of frogs by their voice.

The Island King and I never really did understand why volunteers were needed for this particular mission but we did enjoy riding through the woods, listening to the night and learning a lot of interesting stuff.

Thanks, Brandon!
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