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It's the last week of February in southern Illinois, and the frogs are calling. Choruses from various species of anurans emanate from every swamp, ditch, pool, puddle, and flooded field, giving all who hear it the feeling that spring cannot be too far off. But why all the commotion? What are these frogs that are emerging from hibernation doing? Getting ready to breed of course, as these two Spring Peepers are doing:

Pseudacris crucifer crucifer

Heres a lone Peeper from Alexander County

Another early bird to emerge in late winter is perhaps the most common frog in Illinois, the Western Chorus Frog, whose calls signal to many the start of spring.

Pseudacris triseriata triseriata

The southern cousin to the Western Chorus frog, is the Upland Chorus frog, whose appearance is very similar to its cousin, but can be easily distinguished by the difference in their call. It sounds similar, but the call of an upland is much slower than that of the Western Chorus Frog.

An Upland
Pseudacris f. feriarum

Another type of amphibian that is just starting to show themselves is the Spotted Salamander. These caudates love it when it rains, and can easily be seen crossing roads in the Shawnee Hills during the first rains of late winter and early spring.

Ambystoma maculatum



Also with the first warm days of the year comes a more secretive frog, which can only be found in sandy areas at a few scattered localities across Illinois and Missouri. This species had eluded me on two prior occasions, but this year I was determined to locate and photograph the beautiful Illinois Chorus Frog. Mike Steffen and I traveled into the sandy habitat that we know the frog inhabits, and at about dark we heard the distinctive chorus of illinoensis that we had hoped for. We found the most tactical spot to walk to the pond they were calling from, which was in the middle of a farm field, and came with the risk of being shot at for tresspassing. So Navy Seal style we high tailed it across the field and to the pond, where of course the chorus of frogs ceased to fill their vocal sacks and let out the noise which attracts female frogs. We waited for a half hour or so, and scoured the pond with flashlights, all the while trying to be stealthy. Luck was not on our side, and we retreated to the car, and went home, defeated.

Well I wasnt going to let that unsuccessful trip go for long. A couple nights later I made a solo trip to the same pond, and this time asked for permission to go there from the land owner. He abliged and before long I was in the midst of the pond, with the sun setting and the frogs I was looking for beginning to call. Heres what the pond looked like as the sun hid behind the horizon.


Frogs are starting to call.


Before too long, I finally spotted one, an Illinois Chorus Frog! After the first, many more showed themselves, and before long I had seen 10 or 15 individuals.

Peeking up

Pseudacris illinoensis



I couldn't get enough of these little guys, did I mention they were a lifer?



That was a great way to start off the 2007 season, and I am excited about what else there is to find in southern Illinois. My next target?... the Wood Frog.

dsc_0037.jpg

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