It’s late spring and the toads have returned. Every April thousands of breeding-obsessed amphibians invade our neighborhood for an extended game of Where’s-the-tadpole? These fat little lumps, better known as the American Toad, a.k.a., Bufo americanus, seek water for their epic mating rituals. Unfortunately, we have not one, but TWO ponds in our backyard. Translated, we are the Studio 54 of the Houston toad community, though a more accurate description might be Plato’s Retreat.
This late night hump-a-thon lasts for about week and is an absolute sonic wonder, an atonal chorus of propositions and rebuttals loud enough to be heard from the space station Mir (oh wait: vacuum in space. No sound). At the very least, it’s audible throughout our house, down the street, at the grocery store…everywhere. It really is enough to drive you insane. I decided to make the best of it though by recording it. An audio photograph, which could prove useful against future enemies later.
At around 1am, I snuck outside with my digital recorder. As expected, my arrival at the pond’s edge caused the deafening shrill to go silent. But then, a lone toad started up again, then another, and another until they were all happily barking away again. I had been forgotten. By this point I could see as many as I could hear, most of them floating in the pond. It was like watching some absinthe-induced Esther Williams sequence. Then something slimy landed on my bare foot. My brief career as a field recording naturalist had ended.
Compare to the scientific sample captured by some nice academics:
And here’s a related blog story about Stephanie and our Heights pond written by our friend Sara: