A group of newly minted FrogWatch volunteers met one evening in Wheaton for a field FrogWatch training. We set off in a line after dark to a spot by a large stormwater management pond and set our smart phones for the required 3 minute period of frog monitoring. Unfortunately it was only 45 degrees Fahrenheit so no frogs were interested in calling, but we did get to see beavers swimming in the pond!
I first learned about the Montgomery County FrogWatch Chapter in a Gazette article discussing a training session and the goals of FrogWatch. I was intrigued and emailed the contact person mentioned in the article. I was quickly informed there was another training session scheduled in Rockville. I attended and met Virginia Vassalotti, the enthusiastic leader of the training class. She introduced the group to the FrogWatch program, goals and protocols. She gave us helpful handouts and websites.
We were sent home with homework to learn the calls of the frogs and toads of Montgomery County from the DEP website, a great resource. (I also am a volunteer for an elementary school hiking club and I entertained a group of 4th grade hikers with the website frog calls when we were rained out of hiking.) The training gave us helpful hints on identifying different calls—the Green Frog sounds like a banjo string, one like a geiger counter and the Northern Cricket Frog like marbles hitting each other.
I started listening to my two monitoring sites – one is on Park land by a small stream and wetland conveniently located right behind my deck (!) and another is at a large stormwater management pond built in the 70’s for our development. I have enjoyed observing the differences between my two sites and have noticed that the large pond has more variety of frogs, with Spring Peepers, Bullfrogs, Green Frogs and Gray Treefrogs.
I find myself listening more intently to the evening sounds now, hoping to hear a new or familiar call. I am so glad to have the opportunity to help provide data to evaluate how our amphibian friends are faring in Montgomery County. We should all be concerned if there are fewer frogs and toads around, as this tells us that something has changed in their environment that is making it harder to survive. The more citizen scientists we have collecting data, the better the scientists can analyze what is happening to our amphibian friends.
By Maura McMullen, FrogWatch Volunteer