I drove out to Oakwoods Metropark this evening for a two-fold purpose: I wanted to try to photograph the chorus frogs while I waited to hear and (hopefully) see the dance of the American Woodcock. I had luck on both counts!
I parked at the Nature Center just after 7:30 pm on this unusually-mild (mid-70’s) start to the Easter Weekend and walked the Sky-Come-Down Trail until I came to an open field that looked like good American Woodcock habitat. An Eastern Towhee was singing its ‘drink-your-tea’ song nearby but was hidden from view by the dense brush lining the trail. American Robins and Song Sparrows were also singing and scratching in the leaves.
A nearby stand of trees was flooded and I could hear the deafening ‘creeek’ of the Midland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata), so I quietly treaded toward a large puddle while I waited for darkness to fall. Almost instantaneously the chorus stopped (expectedly) due to my presence, but I knew that it would resume once I took a frozen stance low in the wet, grassy field. As I crouched low to the ground with the Nikon D300 and SB-800 Speedlight and Better Beamer atop the Manfrotto monopod I used to balance myself w/, I strained my eyes to try to spot the thumbnail-sized frogs among the grass, leaves and twigs at my feet.
Within minutes one, then several, chorus frogs started up again, and I was soon surrounded by a deafening noise coming from all directions. I was able to finally spot one little guy about 3 feet away and tried to focus as it inflated its throat and bellowed out its call. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a sharp (although correct) exposure. I tried using the flashlight in my left hand to illuminate the frog and autofocus the camera w/ my right hand and found I got better results. I fired off numerous frames while the frogs wailed away, completely oblivious to the flash.
Here's a short You-Tube video of Western Chorus Frog vocalization. Recently the Midland (along w/ New Jersey and Upland) Chorus Frog was split from the Western Chorus Frog. All three were considered subspecies of the Western but were found to have much more limited ranges. Our Midland is found mainly in Michigan, Illinoise, Ohio, and Southern Ontario.
By the time I had finished I began hearing the loud ‘Peent’ of an American Woodcock nearby. I slowly stood up and headed in the direction of the bird. A second woodcock called out from across the field, but stopped calling after a few minutes.
I attempted to mimick the first bird and found that it would reply almost immediately to my attempts. When I got to within about 15 feet of it I heard the distinct sound of its aerial flight. I was unable to see the bird in flight, but did catch a glimpse of it landing about 30 feet away. After a few minutes it resumed peenting and responding to my attempts at attracting it.
The bird seemed to be moving farther away this time, so I backed off and headed out. By 8:55 pm the calling had stopped and the show seemed to be over. I walked quickly back toward the nature center and exited the park along w/ the last of the day’s visitors.