A Night at the Opera







Night was settling in as we drove through the forested hills, a cool breeze coming in the windows. At a low spot, at a turnoff to an old logging road, we could hear the familiar staccato call of Hyla chrysocelis. It wasn't their rain call, or their sunset call - this was a love song. We pulled over to witness.

A handful of treefrogs were clustered around pools of rain water. At our approach, they ceased calling and flattened themselves to the ground. As the minutes passed and the night grew black, the little would-be lovers became blind to our presence, and continued calling despite the shine of flashlights and headlamps.


The chorus was now in full swing. Frogs were calling from all around - in the low bushes, and from under them, out in the open puddles. A lone Bufo americanus added his trill to the performance, even though his time for love had long passed.

Timing is everything when photographing calling frogs, and it helps to have thick skin and a great deal of patience while snapping off shots and swatting insects. The ardent males did not seem to care about camera flashes or a lens six inches from them; they were intent on their performance. The song is everything, it has been bound to the lives of frogs for as long as there have been frogs.  Emily Dickinson once penned that 'hope is a thing with feathers'. Hope is also a thin, translucent air sac that makes the water dance.

Calling males were everywhere, but where were the ladies? Perhaps they were on their way; maybe a treefrog chorus has to reach some critical aural mass before the females take interest.

Eventually we had to move on and leave the frog opera behind. It rained again later that night; I like to think the performance was a success, and somewhere in the forest lies a pool filled with Hyla chrysocelis eggs.


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