A popular music group is back at Magnuson Park and performing daily after sundown.
Pacific chorus frogs range from green to brown with black stripes that run from their eyes to their shoulders. The frogs are about the size of a quarter. They reproduce in temporary ponds that dry up in midsummer, like the habitat in Magnuson Park. Temporary ponds usually attract fewer tadpole-eating predators.
Emily Bishton, the director of nature programs at Magnuson, said the frog population boomed after the park’s wetlands were created in 2009.
“Every year I’m astonished at how many frogs are here,” Bishton said. “It’s a joyful thing for the families I take on nature walks and it’s an unbelievable educational opportunity for the public.”
For three years Woodland Park Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and Seattle Parks and Recreation have teamed up with volunteers to collaborate on a project to monitor amphibians in urban spaces. The volunteers have been documenting native and non-native frog populations in Magnuson Park, Carkeek Park, Camp Long, Discovery Park and other local parks. Washington Fish and Wildlife biologists use the data to understand and protect amphibian habitats.
Last year the teams were made up of Woodland Park Zoo staff and volunteers, students in the zoo’s Advanced Inquiry Program master’s program, ZooCorps teen interns and community members. They monitored 17 sites in King and Snohomish counties and found amphibians at 14. This year, 16 teams are monitoring 19 sites and reporting their findings to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s observations website. Volunteers are trained to ensure that data is reliable.
Lynn Ferguson has been monitoring the frogs at Magnuson Park for more than 10 years, first with Frogwatch USA and now through the zoo. She monitors where the frogs lay their eggs and their reaction to the lights at the nearby ballfields. To gage comfort level, Ferguson notes the frequency and volume of ribbits when the field lights turn off and when they turn on.
“If you want to hear it just drive through the 65th Street entrance to the boat launch parking lot and roll down your windows,” Ferguson said.
Over at Carkeek Park, volunteer Julie Webster said she spends a lot of time educating passersby about the monitoring project. Webster has been monitoring at Carkeek for three years. She is a long-time zoo volunteer. She said the project appealed to the scientist in her and is a hit with her young nephews.
“I really enjoy being out in nature and doing something that requires me to be still and aware,” Webster said. “As I look for amphibian egg masses, and later tadpoles, I notice other things about the park like the diverse vegetation, other animals visiting the pond, the variance in water levels and the impact of storm water overflow.”
Webster said there seems to be an increase in the amphibian population this year, and Bishton believes the frogs are louder than ever. Bishton said she was standing in the park recently around 8:30 p.m. and was taken aback by the sound.
“Here were all these kids playing on the ballfields, the park was packed, and yet I could hear no sound except the wave of frogs –this sound booming out of the wetlands and up the hill to the historic district,” Bishton said. “I was transfixed. It was pulsing. The scene is etched into my mind.”
The frogs can usually be heard throughout the summer, but people who want to hear peak chorus performances are encouraged to head to Magnuson Park before mid-April while the mating season is at its height.