The lease agreement for this apartment complex/hive is fairly strict when it comes to noise. After 9 pm you need to keep it down. No loud music, no barking dogs no use of jack hammers. I first heard the odd noise about two months ago. It was a distant, monotonous, mechanical trill that sounded as if they were doing road work out on US-41 about 1/2 mile away. I ignored it. It was the type of sustained, drone that I typically require to fall asleep. The noise continued for the next few weeks, occasionally becoming louder, sometimes occurring into the early hours of the morning before dawn. It occurred to us that it might be an animal. A treefrog? an owl? Try making a low, guttural "waaaaaaaaaaaaa" noise and that's pretty much it.
It wasn't an issue until my sister Tara, brother in-law Brian and baby Peyton came for a visit. It has rained all of 1/10th of an inch since I arrived in Fort Myers in January. No sooner did their plane touch down and the rain clouds rolled in, dumping over an inch of much needed rain across the area over the next three days. And then came the ungodly noise. As darkness fell two nights ago, the once unobtrusive noise rose to an unending cacophony of ever loudening, monotonous notes, bombarding every open window. Closing all windows dulled the ever present sound. It was time to find out who the culprit was.
With flashlight in hand, MaLe and I set out around the otter pond in the center of our hive where the sounds seemed to emanate from. The sounds radiated from dozens of points which seemed to be in the trees, in the water, on the buildings. The chorus was singing from every available vantage point and as we drew closer to each individual point, our well-cloaked, mysterious callers would cease, drawing our attention to more remote callers and making pinpointing the culprits all the more difficult. After encircling the pond and spooking a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (aka Quwak, because of the similar noise they make),we spotted one huge hopper along the water's edge. Mystery mostly solved. It's a toad! These softball-sized beasts apparently were taking advantage of the recent rains and calling to every Bufonid from here to the Everglades. The species in particular is the exotic Giant Toad Bufo marinus (aka Marine or Cane Toad). They can weigh more than three pounds and females can lay a string of up to 20,000 eggs. Males have a rudimentary ovary and have the ability to lay eggs if their testes are damaged. (stop giggling little sister) Eggs hatch between 2 and 7 days. Adults eat our native frogs and toads. They can also secrete (or "shoot") a fairly toxic liquid from their skin as a defense which can be fatal to small dogs....I should encourage the owners of the Pomeranian that barks all day to try one. I mean have the dog try one. Oh heck they should all try one.
The chorus had calmed last night to a normal decibel, but the pond monsters are still calling. (click here to hear one) Our little apartment pond is far more productive then I would have ever imagined. Who knows what we'll discover next out there.