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Wetland Explorer
Spring is in the air
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The little northern cricket frog, at no larger than 1 inches long, has a distinctive call, sounding like marbles clicking together. Cricket frog tadpoles take only five to 10 weeks to develop into adults.

By Pam Martin - Kansas Department Wildlife, Parks and Tourism educator
Sandhill plum bushes are blooming, violets have already popped up and opened their buds, and, with the recent rain, toads and frogs should soon be starting their annual spring chorus. It’s a great time to get out and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
Listen carefully the next several nights and you might hear the raspy calls of the western chorus frog. A member of the tree frog family and one of the first frogs to begin singing in this area, chorus frogs grow to only ¾” to 1 ¼” long when mature. Despite their small stature, they produce a loud call with their vocal chords. When a large number gather and begin calling, the sound is overwhelming, reverberating through your head.
Male frogs and toads normally produce the calls heard throughout spring and summer, as they “advertise” for a mate. Both males and females produce alarm, distress and release calls, but it’s the advertising calls that we recognize.
As a child, I caught tree frogs, the kind with large suction cup-type toes and, every spring, tadpoles. I watched the marvelous transformation from legless, gilled tadpole to adult toad or frog, complete with all four legs and lungs. My sisters and I would walk to a pond about half a mile behind the house where bullfrogs and leopard frogs boomed out their voices. We spent many hours catching and releasing them. Mom was pretty tolerant of the creatures we collected but drew the line at keeping them for any great length of time, especially in the house.
We also caught nice fat, warty toads, probably American toads that we kept in shoe boxes for short periods of time. One of the toads did make it into the house however, where it escaped much to Mom’s chagrin.
In this area, two toads are fairly common – the Woodhouse and Great Plains toads. Each has a very distinct call. The Woodhouse is a screamer, with a sound that can raise the hair on the back of your neck. Fortunately for the male Woodhouse toads, the females find the call alluring. The Great Plains toad emits a metallic trill, sounding completely different than its cousin.
The little Plains spadefoot toad is a snorer, giving voice to a call that sounds just like grandfather snoring in his recliner. Named for a small extension on its back toe, the spadefoot toad is rarely seen because it spends most of the day underground, coming out to hunt insects at night.
Another tree frog, the northern cricket frog, makes quite a racket when the males get together. Sounding like marbles or china clanking together, their call rate increases as the air warms.
Although Cheyenne Bottoms is a great place to listen to frog and toad calls, they can be found at local ponds and low areas that remain flooded for two to three months – time enough for tadpoles to develop into adults. Find a warm, spring evening to explore that wetland and see how many frogs and toads you can identify.