My Turn: Tiny tenors of Portales

We desert-dwellers obsessed with precipitation have many markers to measure moisture — certain roads that become impassable, a playa that finally fills, a concrete porch step that sings with the splatter of raindrops.

Betty Williamson

Betty Williamson

But none of these hold a candle to the raucous “Hallelujahs!” belted out by a thousand thirsty amphibians after a torrential downpour.

I called my biologist friend Robert Martin to ask him to settle an age-old question: Are we hearing frogs or toads? His answer: It depends.

Martin says it is not uncommon to hear a mix of three to five species in the “chorus” (yes, that’s the biological term for it) that follows a rain event. Around here, many of the tiny tenors are New Mexico spadefoot toads, which Martin explained are actually not “true toads” or “true frogs” — the line is blurry.

But the sound? Oh, the sound is nothing short of glorious!

Last weekend’s 5-inch deluge brought out the full choir for two deafening nights at our house. After several years spent deep under the earth protected by a mucous coating (sounds appealing, doesn’t it?), these critters were ready to come out and party.

While most of the thousand or more eggs laid by each female end up as protein for predators, a lucky few will survive to star in the next performance.

I can’t wait to hear how they’ll sound.

Betty Williamson loves choral music, especially after summer thunderstorms. You may reach her at:

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