It sounds less like a “ribbet” and more like a low “krrreck.” Music to your ears, perhaps, even if an announcement of spring is ill conceived in early February. What we’ve been hearing lately is the Pacific chorus frog, the most often seen and heard amphibian on Mayne Island. And while it’s not the full chorus assembling for a choir practice of come-hither mating “ribbets,” the low “krrrecks” are let loose during humid or rainy periods at any time of year – and that tracks with our current weather pattern.
Adult Pacific chorus frogs are 2.5 to 5 cm in length, so not large, given the way their robust voices can carry far from the many unlikely places they are found around homes and gardens. They range in colour from bright green to dark brown, and can be recognized by the distinctive black mask running from nose to ah, frog shoulder. It covers their face.
The Pacific chorus is one of the two frogs on Mayne. The other, the red-legged frog, you are unlikely to hear because they make their sounds underwater. The frogs, together with two salamanders and a newt, make up the native amphibian family on Mayne.
If you’re looking for the location of the Pacific chorus frog choir, ideally it would be in a wetland. Wetlands provide a lot to our island, such as filtration of surface water, but to the frogs, they are ideal for singing and breeding – so both krrrecks and ribbits. In wetlands frogs also grow up to be a meal for a large number of their known predators.
Protecting our wetlands will not keep the Pacific chorus frog out of the mouths of birds or garter snakes, but it will keep them singing. Human activities have dramatically altered the wetlands on Mayne. The Conservancy mapped Mayne’s wetlands in 2015 and continues to actively monitor them and protect the ones it can. The mapping indicates about 90 per cent of the island’s wetlands have been lost to other uses.
Another place to look for the Pacific chorus frog would be in that fallen tree you haven’t dealt with – and don’t. Oh sure, look, but don’t deal with the tree. The frogs need rotting logs and an ecosystem full of logs in different states of decomposition. It’s where the amphibians live in the winter, snuggling under the warm blanket of decaying wood. So, if a tree falls in the forest, let it decompose naturally and provide some good condo living for the choristers. If you like the krrrecking and would like to continue to hear it during our regular rains and throughout the year, reach out to the Conservancy to learn about our Landholder Consultation Program. On-site property visits are free, and among the many information services offered is advice on pond construction and wetland conservation.