You’ve heard of bird watching, but what about frog watching? Anyone who revels in nighttime strolls near wetland settings already knows the strange and captivating songs that begin to swell after dusk. Did you know you may be able to log some volunteer time this spring by listening to the night sounds you already love?
You can support the conservation efforts of Frogwatch USA – or other amphibian monitoring studies – by developing an ear for the specific voices of your nearest frog and toad choirs and reporting their occurrences. Frogwatch USA’s recommended volunteer commitment is a minimum of two site visits per week throughout the spring / summer breeding season.
Frogs are frequently called “environmental barometers” because of their sensitivity to their habitats. With some exceptions, many amphibians are on the decline. Tracking the presence (or absence) of frog and toad species provides researchers with data regarding amphibian populations, as well as the environmental health of the waters and lands where they reside. Through data documentation and submission, volunteer frogwatchers around the world expand the pool of valuable data available to researchers.
Frogwatch USA web pages provide everything to get a novice started. To learn which frog and toad species live in your region, access eNature’s field guides via Frogwatch USA’s “Resources & Tools” section (see “your local frogs”). Relevant photos and important species information are helpful to both new and seasoned nature enthusiasts. For example, knowing in advance how not to handle an American Toad reduces the chance of contact with his toxic self-defense secretions (although it is worth mentioning “do not disturb” is considered best practice by conscientious observers, who listen from a distance).
Most intriguing are the crystal-clear frog call WAV files. Recordings of croaks, squeaks, scrapes, peeps, trills and twangs teach volunteers how to connect the songs with their singers. It takes some dedication to master this listening skill, but recognizing a few calls right away is encouraging. Listening practice can draw you in unexpectedly and, at the same time, it can open a new window on the natural world for any kids curious enough to listen with you.
Once you think you have all your new sounds straight, visit the U.S. Geological Survey’s “Public Quiz.” Visitors are challenged to identify specific frog and toad voices mixed into the full ensembles of the night.
While some volunteers are lucky enough to enjoy the convenience of frogwatching on their own properties, all participants must adhere to a specific monitoring protocol and utilize some simple, but essential, equipment. This helps ensure data consistency and accuracy.
Frogwatchers who select sites away from home must additionally confirm their chosen areas are safe for visits – as well as safe for travel to and from – after dark. A public park may be one possibility; private land, with proper permission to visit, may be another. Locating a safe and convenient site will strengthen a volunteer’s ability to successfully fulfill his / her commitment.
Frogwatch USA also encourages thoughtful reading of its eight steps of frogwatching, before registering as a volunteer. In fact, every Frogwatch USA page emphasizes different, important points, which help one fully examine his / her own readiness to commit to field data collection.
You may enjoy comparing Frogwatch USA with other amphibian monitoring projects, like Frogwatch Ontario or Frogwatch Australia (search “Frogwatch” or “frog surveys” to find more). Your state’s Department of Natural Resources can also provide valuable information on springtime volunteer opportunities in your own area.