Toad Trilling by Moonlight

The nearly full moon last night brought the Barred Owls closer than they’ve been in a while. They were hooting back and forth to each other in the trees on the north side of the house.

It’s been way too hot here — unrelenting sunshine with no deciduous shade to hide in, because the trees aren’t leafing out yet. And no precipitation — well, not enough to talk about. In fact, I’ve given up saying or writing the R word until (please not if) we ever get inch-plus, thirst-quenching precipitation here again.

All that heat combined with dry ground and a potent moon is likely bringing out the night-prowling critters — mice, voles, rats, rabbits — all potential tasty meals for owls. I welcome owl voices to the wetland chorus that grows louder each night as new frog species waken and begin to sing amphibian love songs.  Now my favorite amphibian voice has joined the chorus — the American Toad.

I spent years singing in choirs and choruses, which may make me more sensitive to the harmonic qualities of frog and toad song. Some species — like Spring Peepers — are back-up singers. They provide a constant droning sound against which soloists — Southern Leopard Frogs, for example — can punctuate the night with their stronger, more diverse voices.

But my favorite moment is now, when the high, pure descant of the American Toad joins the nightly serenade. Their song is an uncomplicated trill; the pure soprano beauty of the tone makes my heart beat faster. To my ears, the toadly trills complete the chorus.

Now the harmonies are full, round, and rich. Now the night firmly belongs to spring.

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