a princely subject

(this is not Prince, but a body double)

There is a small green frog living in the garden surrounding my house. Sometimes he can be found lurking near the rain-barrel pond, beneath the Queen Anne’s lace; other times I have seen him clinging vertically to the house itself, his sticky toe pads gripping the wood siding like an amphibious Spiderman. His name is Prince, and he is a singer—a Pacific chorus frog, in fact.

It was Prince’s singing that first alerted me to his presence, back in May. I wouldn’t actually lay eyes on the reclusive critter until early August—when I flushed him out while watering the phlox—so clearly this was an animal who preferred to be heard, not seen. Calling out a sharp krek-ek in the evenings or stereotypically ribbit-ing the night away, the male chorus frog most often sings to attract a mate. This is termed “advertisement calling”, and it peaks during the breeding season in spring. The frogs congregate in shallow bodies of water, literally screaming over one another for amorous attention—hence the namesake “chorus”. Different situations call for slightly different calls. When a potential mate approaches, the suitor will switch to his “encounter call”, coaxing her closer. When rival croakers encroach on his territory, his call grows louder, shriller, effectively telling the others to fuck off, thanks. When another male has latched onto the singer, perhaps blinded by lust into mistaking him for a fertile female to mount, or perhaps simply in an attempt at asphyxiation, the affronted troubadour squeezes out his “release call”, the amphibian equivalent to “Ouch, bro, cool it—I’m a dude. Thanks for flattering me, though.” Sometimes males will sing seemingly for the hell of it, especially when it rains.

It occurs to me that Prince might be somewhat of a loner, a soloist of the Pacific chorus. Back when I was hearing his solitary calls (and they were always solitary) in the amber twilight, I wondered if maybe he was the only one of his kind within ribbiting distance. There are certainly perks to living in the garden: open to the sunshine, lots of flowers, which meant lots of bugs and spiders to eat, a tiny pond to swim in. But if he is destined to be a froggy bachelor all his life, croaking himself hoarse spring after spring searching in vain for his Pacific Princess…well, I don’t know how he gets up every morning. I wish I could help him out. Soon temperatures will fall, requiring our little Prince to find a nook somewhere to hibernate through the winter. Next spring, if he still has it in him, he will sing anew.

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