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If you’re lucky enough to live someplace in Maine where there is water nearby, you have probably heard the sound.
The repetitive chittering sound can be heard echoing from all around you in a virtual symphony of incessant calls.
Today, we’re lucky to have an awesome video that shows us which of Maine’s common forest creatures is responsible for what some might even consider an annoying racket.
James Treadwell of Cumberland was kind enough to share the video of a gray tree frog, which he encountered not far from his home. He admits it’s a sight that many people have not had the opportunity to witness.
“I know people hear them and either they don’t really know what they are or they get misidentified as a bird or an insect,” said Treadwell, a middle school art teacher for 34 years at MSAD 51, which includes Cumberland and Yarmouth.
“True to their name, they’re a tree frog, so they spend a lot of time calling from up in the trees and that’s not where people think to look when they’re looking for frogs,” he said.
Treadwell said the cacophony of spring sound in which this particular tree frog is participating — which the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife refers to as a melodic trill — is simply the amphibian’s mating call.
Along with spring peepers, whose appearance and calls are recognized as a sure sign of spring, gray tree frogs are another vocal creature on the landscape. The second part of the video shows a peeper amid its impassioned ritual.
Capturing the video required a base of tree frog knowledge, stealth and a little luck. Treadwell has a keen interest in nature and even has experience in the frog realm.
For six years, he participated as a citizen scientist in a U.S. Geological Survey research project that studied amphibians in Maine and across the country.
“They’d give you an amphibian route that you’d follow, four to five times every spring, and you’d hit 10 locations,” Treadwell said.
At each stop, he recorded information such as the time, temperature and weather conditions before listening for frog sounds and then explaining their frequency and intensity.
Treadwell admits because of his interests he was torn during his college days about whether to pursue a career as a science teacher. He settled on art instead, but still enjoys getting out and about as an amateur naturalist.
Treadwell said most people don’t get a good look at tree frogs because of their small size and the habitat they occupy. Gray tree frogs are only 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length.
“They’re super reclusive and during the day they’re extremely well camouflaged,” Treadwell said. “You just never see them. You walk right past them all the time, sitting on a tree or shrub, and you never know it.”
In fact, when approached, the frogs tend to go silent and wait for intruders to pass by before resuming their song.
In this case, Treadwell crept up on the tree frog slowly and carefully to get into position. He said that because of the number of frogs chorusing, there are many more potential targets.
This specimen was located on a low branch.
“Once I get there, I’ll put my headlamp on and they largely ignore you,” he said. “They just keep going about their business, as you saw.”
Treadwell theorizes that with the frogs’ hormones raging and the desire to find a mate strong, they’re willing to overlook being in the spotlight.
DIF&W said gray tree frogs are often confused with spring peepers, Maine’s only other tree-dwelling frog. However, peepers are only an eighth-inch to 1 1/2 inches long and have a distinctive dark “X” on their back.
Peepers also make a different high-pitched sound, one which does not include the trilling of the brown tree frog.
“They’re a little harder to find, because they’re miniscule,” he said of the peepers.
Our thanks to James Treadwell for sharing his videos and his considerable expertise to help Bangor Daily News readers better understand the unmistakable sounds of Maine’s spring tree frogs.