What’s a ribbit, peep, or croak worth? For the sake of my sanity, I wouldn’t dare calculate the amount of money I’ve spent over twenty-five years, chasing after myriad frogs and toads, documenting their calls. But there is one rather unusual frog that I will account for here, a remarkable amphibian that eluded me for years—the timid Crawfish Frog, a chunky, dark-spotted species named for its habit of taking refuge in abandoned crawfish burrows (see range map below). Crawfish Frogs are explosive breeders and can be heard for only a week or so in early spring. Their mating call is a deep gagging snore, a sonorous croak that I absolutely had to snag for my collection.
It was early spring of 2007. I had enlisted the help of John John MacGregor, Kentucky’s state herpetologist. On March 20, John e-mailed me that the weather looked good (rainy and warm) and urged me to meet him in western Kentucky the next afternoon. That evening I threw everything in my car and drove like a mad-man, covering 900 miles from Ithaca, New York, to western Kentucky, so I could rally with John at the appointed hour.
Shortly after dark, we homed-in on a calling group in a wetland in a grassy prairie that had been reclaimed from surface-mining. To my dismay, Spring Peepers were calling so loudly that it was impossible to record. For the next few hours, we drove all over the place, stopping and listening, but to no avail. Then, just when we were ready to give up, a friend of John’s (zoologist Brainard Palmer-Ball) called and informed us that had located a small calling group in a farm pond not far away. We drove to investigate.
The situation was perfect. Several Crawfish Frogs were clustered along one edge of the pond, calling intermittently. Other species (American Toad, Spring Peeper, Upland Chorus Frog, and Southern Leopard Frog) could be heard calling, but they in no way interfered. I was able to get some pretty decent recordings, though not entirely up to my standard. So I stayed in the area for two more nights, searching for other choruses (this included a foray into southern Illinois in hopes of finding Illinois Chorus Frog, but that didn’t work out). The night before I was to return home, I headed back to the little farm pond, and this time struck gold, capturing my best recording of all:
Crawfish Frogs snoring away in a small farm pond, with aggressive stuttered calls. 1am, 24 March 2007, near Princeton, KY. Recording © Lang Elliott.
Granted, my adventure was a clear success in terms of getting a great recording, but how much did it all cost? My trip lasted five days. I drove over 2000 miles (in my gas-guzzling Isuzu Trooper). I stayed in two motels. I ate lots of junk food. The final tally? Well, if I take into account the wear-and-tear on my car, the whole affair cost me at least a thousand bucks, perhaps considerably more.
So there you have it! Thousand Dollar Croaks! OMG! Such is the business of frog and toad recording! Gas guzzling, money guzzling, and time guzzling. But would I do it all over again? YOU BETCHA! I consider myself one lucky man for having recorded those awesome croaks. I only wish my bank account was in better shape. To remedy this situation, I suggest that all of you send your donations to The Frog Recordist Reclamation Fund, PO Box 1000 Bucks, Herpetoillogica, NY. Thank you in advance for your generosity!
Crawfish Frog Range Map