Squirrel Treefrogs and Their Nightsong in Ormond Beach, Florida

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Hyla squirella, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (03 July 2014).

One of my favorite features of the southern summer –especially here in Volusia county, Florida– is the cacophony of nightsong performed by a variety and abundance of frogs and toads, not to mention the incalculable array of arthropods that live throughout the region. In fact, when we were living in Alaska from 2007 through 2011, the quietness of the near-Arctic north was damn near jarring. I deeply missed the static, fuzz, and noise of the American south’s nightsong… All that delicious noise pouring through and around the live oaks and spanish moss, sound thick like molasses, almost as thick as the humidity even, especially after the departure of an early evening thunderstorm.

29 June 2014.
29 June 2014.

Another beloved benefit of life in Volusia county –for me– is what we call the “Ormond Loop” — a series of roads that wrap through Tomoka, Bulow Creek, and North Peninsula State Parks around both the mainland and coastal sides of the Halifax River / Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a heavily-canopied stretch of road surrounded in parts by thick wetlands, brackish marshes, and oak/palm forest. The area is lush and seething with life. And at night? Oh my, forget about it… At night there simply isn’t anything better than the nightsong serenading all your senses from all sides as you cruise the Ormond Loop.

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03 July 2014.

Featured on this post is one of the Ormond Loop’s most noticeable and recognized nighttime performers: the Squirrel treefrog, Hyla squirella, a small species of treefrog often confused with the larger, locally less common American green treefrog (Hyla cinerea). Primarily active at night, Squirrel treefrogs spend much of their time carefully hidden atop palm fronds and in other types of foliage. At night, however, it’s a different story. A more active story. A louder story. A slightly more musical story.

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03 July 2014.

I spent some time along the Ormond Loop in late June and early July 2014, trolling about the nocturnal-side of Bulow Creek State Park, searching for its amphibian brethren. More than anything else, it was the Squirrel treefrog that greeted me in both sight and in sound. Seriously, these little frogs can dominate a nightsong, as we’ll soon hear.

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03 July 2014.

Featured below is a soundcloud audio file recorded shortly after midnight on 04 July 2014. the clip is composed of three separate recordings, each subsequent recording made as I approached closer and closer to a rather rowdy and rambunctious little pond absolutely bubbling with nightsong. Here, then, is the sound I’m talking about. This is the sound of Ormond Beach’s nightsong:

The third part is, of course, the most dynamic and loudest. By the third recording, I was standing on the edge of the hidden pond, my feet sunk in about a foot of muck, holding my iPhone out into the thick foliage. Soon after, I started visually tracking down the Squirrel treefrogs (which don’t just call from atop the water, but also from surrounding trees and bushes).

04 July 2014.
04 July 2014.

I walked around for a bit, my sandals sloshing with muck, my head soaking in the humid nightsong, entirely alone, and utterly entrenched by the weight of this thriving community of active organisms.

An interesting thing about Squirrel treefrogs in particular: When you first start to look for them, they can be somewhat difficult to find. Pretty soon, however, your eyes will coordinate better with your ears, and you’ll know what to look for. Soon enough, all you will see (and hear) are these Squirrel treefrogs leading the sonic march through the midnight hours. As if by magic, they will suddenly seem to be everywhere

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04 July 2014.

Not quite finished, I found another nearby pond along the Ormond Loop. It was a larger, slightly more stable pond that had a much, much larger Squirrel treefrog population. Again, I conducted a couple of field recordings (represented below). I can’t quite describe how loud these frogs were in real time. They were nearly deafening, as hinted at in the second half of this recording:

It was amazing. So many Squirrel treefrogs singing together with such intensity, it was all I could do to focus enough to photograph them. It was sheer spectacle of the audio kind.

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04 July 2014.

In Florida, sometimes there’s as much to hear as there is to see, especially at night.

Next on Dust Tracks: Some more Ormond Beach action from Bulow Creek State Park, only of the sunset variety!

Perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated Inkcap, in Flagler county, Florida; 09 July 2014

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Perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated inkcap, photographed in Flagler county, Florida (09 July 2014).

The Word For The Day: PLICATE |ˈplīkāt, -kit | adjective Biology & Geology | folded, crumpled, or corrugated.

And that pretty much sums up the delicate, folded, crumpled, and tiny mushrooms featured here. If my identification is correct, this is perhaps Parasola plicatilis, the Pleated inkcap. I’m the first to admit I can’t really identify this fungi with total certainly. Apparently it’s rather hard to do so without collecting and studying spore samples, and that’s somewhat beyond my pay grade. Unlike most vertebrates and a decent number of other animals, fungi species can be wicked difficult to  distinguish from one another and often require spore sample evaluations. Whereas their biodiversity is immensely expansive, their morphological traits are far too often incredibly similar to one another.

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Tubifera ferruginosa, Red Rasberry Slime Mold, in Flagler county, Florida; 09 July 2014

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Tubifera ferruginosa, the Red raspberry slime mold, photographed in Flagler county, Florida (09 July 2014).

One of my favorite things about stumbling through this mortal coil we call “life” is that I’m constantly bumping into stuff I know very little about. Take for instance the red stuff you see featured here. I found these bright red growths atop a fallen, decaying tree trunk in the woods near the Daytona State College Flagler / Palm Coast campus in Flagler county, Florida:

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The Snake Did Not Kick My Ass; The Frog Did.

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Pantherophis alleghaniensis, the Yellow rat snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (13 July 2014).

THE PROLOGUE: This should be a fun post to write, and I hope it’ll be a fun one to read — despite its length. I’m happy to finally be getting to it. I’ve taken this past week off from writing for a number of reasons. The short version, and somewhat to the point, is this: I’ve been sick and tired. Not sick and tired of the blog, mind you. I’ve just been sick and really, really tired. I haven’t had much energy or inclination to dance my fingers about on the keyboard during this past week, but I believe I’m starting to pull out of my funk. I think. We’ll wax on about health and human biology later, but right now I’ve got to tell you this story. It’s the story of a 40 year old man getting his ass handed to him during his five year old daughter’s early birthday party in Mount Dora, Florida. The story involves a rather tough snake, a fairly robust frog, and, of course, a 40 year old dude. You might think it was the snake who kicked the 40 year old dude’s ass, but it wasn’t. It was the frog. A frog kicked the 40 year old’s ass. My ass. Mine. Kicked solidly by a frog.

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On the Gopher Tortoise in July of 2014: Inhumanity and Violence

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Gopherus polyphemus, the Gopher tortoise, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (23 May 2014).

Originally, this post was slotted to feature a rather rowdy and rambunctious encounter with a Yellow rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) and a Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) in Mount Dora, Florida. As Wednesday 16 July trudged ever-onward, however, an incredibly horrific and offensive story emerged from Orange Park, Florida and spread its tendrils across social media and the internet. This is a long post, and I apologize for that, but it’s weighing very heavily on my heart.

Truly, the story took like brushfire in certain channels of social media, evoking harsh and dramatic calls of violence against two young students at Ridgeview High School who had –for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension– decided it would be awesome to record themselves torturing and killing a young Gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and to then post those videos on Facebook. I saw those videos. Both of them. And they were truly horrific for many reasons.

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Storeria victa, the Florida Brown Snake, in Mount Dora, Florida; 13 July 2014

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Storeria victa, the Florida brown snake, photographed in Lake county, Florida (13 July 2014).

On Sunday 13 July, we headed inland to Mount Dora, Florida for an early birthday party with Kid A and her grandparents, my mother and father. Though cake, gifts, and burgers on the grill were the top orders of the day, I –of course– had to duck out to the parents’ backyard to look for snakes when we first arrived. Their property has a long history of being somewhat snake friendly; this day was no exception. Within a few minutes of searching the backyard, I found this lovely Florida brown snake (Storeria victa) bunkered beneath a small concrete plate on the side of the house:

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Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern Black Racer, in Ormond Beach, Florida; 11 July 2014

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Coluber constrictor priapus, the Southern black racer, photographed in Volusia county, Florida (11 July 2014).

It was a fun week on the snake front beginning with this Southern black racer, Coluber constrictor priapus, caught in my backyard on the 11th of July. It wasn’t too long ago, about three months actually, that I got my ass served by an elusive and overly clever racer in the very same backyard. That missed-racer served as a humiliating defeat in my long legacy of interacting with the fast and agile species. Fortunately, I was able to make up for some of that defeat with this individual and its respective catch. I like to think this was exact same snake who foiled me in April, heh. Anyhow, here’s the story…

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words and images by Janson Jones