Well, at least we THINK we solved the mystery.
A little backstory:
About four years ago we were suddenly plagued by this extremely loud chirping/croaking sound coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the backyard and only at night. It seemed like it was coming from the trees, and each night we’d go out and gaze up into the canopy of our fig tree and our neighbor’s trees for whatever bird was making such a racket, but to no avail.
I researched bird sounds of Southern California and could find nothing that matched the sound I was hearing. For a week I poured over websites and listened to recordings of dozens of birdsongs. I finally gave up, reaching no conclusions.
Then, oddly, I heard the sound once during the day. I leapt from my desk, hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever it was now that it couldn’t hide in the shadows. Instead of coming from the trees, however, it sounded like it was coming from the pool, and the sound was echoing up into the air.
And then I spotted him. A tiny frog, no bigger than a quarter, clinging to the side of the pool, singing his little heart out.
My instinct was to squash him because he was SO. DAMN. LOUD. But I reconsidered, and called hubs outside so he could see the devil for himself.
Adam was instantly smitten and gave him a name – Ferdinand. Well, shit, once you name something it’s really hard to kill it.
So, that first summer, every night Ferdinand came out and sang his lonely song, looking for a mate. Sometimes he’d jump into the pool and swim alongside us. Mostly he kept out of sight. We couldn’t figure out how he’d arrived at our house. It is very dry in the Valley, and not hospitable to frogs in any way, really. We figured he hitched a ride with the pool man.
In the fall, his song stopped, and we thought that was the end of that. We surmised he’d probably gotten eaten by a cat or a bird or a squirrel or something.
But the following spring, he started up his song again. A little online research uncovered that frogs hibernate. Who knew? He sang his lonesome song again that summer, pining for a mate that would never come. I imagined him as a lonely traveler, with nothing but his banjo to keep him company. A little something like this:
Or perhaps even this:
This went on for three or four summers, I can’t quite remember. We came to love his sound, signaling the beginning of warm weather and leisurely nights swimming in the pool. It was always fun to spot him, and we got one really good picture of him, clinging to the side of our Jacuzzi.
But he went quiet in the middle of last summer, and we haven’t heard his call this spring, so we’re pretty sure he’s in froggy heaven now. And we never did figure out what kind of frog he was or where he came from.
Hubs happened to see an article yesterday about an invasive species of frog from Puerto Rico – the coqui frog – that is suddenly making an appearance in Southern California. They’ve hitched rides in the nursery containers of tropical plants. Which reminded me that I once saw a tiny frog in a nursery pot at the Home Depot in Signal Hill….
Hmmmmm…could Ferdie have been a coqui? If you listen to recordings of their call, they sound an awful like what I remember Ferdinand sounding like.
Here’s a recording of a coqui:
And in this (poor quality) video you can hear Ferdi in the background:
And he resembles the coqui in both size and coloring.
What do you think?
Do you think our little Ferdie was the scourge known as the coqui frog? Apparently, they’ve been a very unwelcome addition to the nightscape of Hawaii, which is usually quiet and peaceful. But in Puerto Rico they are loved. I guess it’s like the difference between a flower and weed – it’s really up to the interpretation of the person dealing with it.
Nonetheless, we’ve alerted the people in SoCal who are keeping track of this frog’s proliferation into the Los Angeles area. I think we might be their first instance of a coqui frog spotting in the San Fernando Valley.
So, the mystery of Ferdinand the Frog is most likely solved. We still miss the little bugger. We really grew to love his sound, and how he connected us with the wildness of our own backyard. Even here in the depths of suburbia, we have so many species of birds, insects, plants and amphibians to marvel at. Learning about them is a joy – it makes me feel more connected to the world and reminds me how we’re all just sharing it together.