Frog Watch USA

Frog Watch USA is program sponsored by The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) which monitors the diversity and distribution of frogs and toads in the U.S.  It utilizes local volunteers interested in the environmental health of their communities.  These volunteers become trained Citizen Scientists who do the actual field work.

In 2013, Laura Gogola & Laurine Cybulski volunteered to be Citizen Scientists, and document the presence (or absence) of amphibians in Tenhave Woods. To prepare, they attended workshops in frog watching at the Detroit Zoo, held by the staff of the National Amphibian Conservation Center.  They learned to identify the calls of the 13 native frogs of Michigan, and how to complete the protocol (including temperature, precipitation, wind speed) of the area that was being observed.  These weekly observations were sent to the Conservation Center.  Six different species of frog have been identified by their call at Dragonfly Pond, some more prevalent than others.

Laura & Laurine’s first year at Dragonfly Pond was a true adventure.  In April, the Spring Peepers could be heard from the Lexington/Marais parking lot outside the Woods. They were not, however, prepared for the attack of the American Toads.  These animals had been observed by others during the day, but truly come into their own by dark. Their call does not carry like the Peepers.  It is long and musical. That first spring the American Toads were so thick on the path we had to use sticks to encourage them to get out of our way.  A most delightful discovery midway through that first year was to hear the Western Chorus Frog. Where had they been up to now?  They were not seen until a year or two later. It, too, has a distinctive call, rising in pitch, like running your finger over a comb.

The work of the Citizen Scientist is critical to the documentation of species in our environment. They are the trained eyes and ears of the research scientist, enabling a much broader observation of what changes are occurring in the natural world around us.  After the 2017 season, Laura & Laurine retired from the program.  They suggest if you think you might be interested in becoming a “Frog Watcher”, please contact the Detroit Zoo.  The Detroit Zoo offers free Frog Watch training to anyone interested beginning at the end of January up thru the middle of March.

Kim Crame has always loved to learn about nature.  She had heard about the Frog Watch monitoring by a couple of Nature Society volunteers that had started at Tenhave Woods’ Dragonfly Pond several years back and she wanted to see if she could assist with this effort.  She took one of the Frog Watch training classes in March of 2019, passed the test and spent time on the Internet further honing her frog listening skills.  Then in April, it was time to let the monitoring begin!  Monitoring occurs at least a half hour after sunset, and only takes about five minutes to complete.  Since it is dark, she always goes with someone else, and often just stands outside the park fence, next to Dragonfly Pond.  Kim suggests that it is also a good idea to let the police department know you are going to be at the park monitoring amphibians after it has closed.

Kim never knew one frog call before this class, and now everywhere she goes where frogs are calling, she is listening and identifying the species!  She says that it has been fun to have this new area of nature open-up to her

She monitored the pond in 2019 about 2-3 times a month, so it is possible that she may have missed some frogs that may have passed through or have shorter breeding seasons. 

Kim would encourage anyone interested in learning more about nature to consider taking a free Frog Watch training class at the Detroit Zoo.  You can gather more data points at Dragonfly Pond or could even expand the monitoring to Cummingston Park or another area.


 Spring Peeper:

2013: very active from early April through early May & then less active thru early June

2014: active for most of April & somewhat active 

2015: active for most of April & May  

2016: active for most of April & for much of May 

2017: very active in April & active in May

2018: there was no one available to do Frog Watch observations at Dragonfly Pond.

2019: very active from early April to late May

Spring Peeper’s status is generally common in Michigan.  It inhabits temporary and permanent ponds, marshes, flooded areas, and ditches during breeding season, after which will disperse into woodlands, old fields, and shrubby areas.  Voice is a high pitched “peep” about once per second. May also voice a low-pitched whistle which is likely a territorial response to another male encroaching on its calling site. Voice:

American Toad: 

2013: active between end of April & early May

2014: no report of activity

2015: active in early May

2016: no report of activity

2017: active in the 2nd half of April

2018: there was no one available to do Frog Watch observations at Dragonfly Pond.

2019: active mid-April to early May

American Toad’s status is generally common in Michigan. It has experienced recent declines in parts of its Great Lakes range.  It can be found in open woodlands and forest edges, prairies, meadows, marshes, suburban areas, and agricultural land.  Its voice is a high-pitched trill that can last more than 30 seconds.    Voice: 

 Gray Tree Frog: 

2013: active in early May

2014: moderate activity from mid-May to early June

2015: moderate activity in early May and very active at the end of May to early June

2016: very active from mid-May to mid-June

2017: moderately active from mid-May to early June

2018: There was no one available to do Frog Watch observations at Dragonfly Pond.

2019: active from mid-May to early June

Copes Gray Tree Frog: 

2013: Moderate activity in the 2nd half of May

Both tree frogs are found in deciduous or mixed forests, farm woodlots, swamps, old fields, and well-vegetated yards or suburban areas. Will inhabit areas where suitable breeding ponds are located near trees or shrubs.  The calls of these two species is the main distinguishing characteristic.

The Eastern Gray Treefrog has a loud, musical trill lasting from ½ to 3 seconds     Eastern Tree Frog voice:

The Cope’s Grey Treefrog has a faster, harsher, more nasal trill.   Cope’s Tree Frog voice:,

Western Chorus Frog:

2013: somewhat active in early April

2014: active in April

2015: somewhat active in April

2016: active mid-April to mid-May

2017: active early April to early May

2018: There was no one available to do Frog Watch observations at Dragonfly Pond.

2019: No report of activity

The Western Chorus Frog can be common to abundant locally, but many populations have recently declined, particularly in suburban and agricultural areas.  It prefers marshes, meadows, swales, and other open habitats.  It also may be found in wet woods or wooded swampy areas. Will largely be found under refuges such as logs, rocks, and leaf litter.  Voice is short scratchy “cree-ee-ee-ee-eek” that rises in pitch. Similar to the sound of a pocket comb being strummed with a fingernail.    Voice:

Green Frog:

2016: somewhat active the first half of June

The Green Frog is one of the most abundant frogs throughout the Great Lakes region.  It will inhabit ponds, lakes, swamps, sloughs, impoundments, and slow streams. More tolerant of open, sparsely vegetated areas than other frogs (notably Bullfrogs). Usually avoid shallow and temporary bodies of water.  Voice is one or a series of short, descending, metallic notes, similar to plucking strings on a banjo. Sometimes a low growl is emitted during territorial aggressive behavior.   Voice: