One for Wednesday

Anza Borrego 2013 317

The desert is peaceful but it is not quiet. During the day thrashers, ravens, Phainopepla, and Black-throated Sparrows are a-hollerin’ about their worth! But as the sky darkens and the bird song hushes another song rises in the canyons.

Headlamp in hand, I follow the sound. Up the wash I go, to a small pool filled with tall rushes and a few inches of water. Hard as I try, my footsteps crunch on the pebbly sand disturbing the singers. Now the desert is quiet. I dim my light, sit down on the smooth granite stones around the pond and stare up at Orion emerging in the east, rapt in this moment of silence.  But, the silence is short-lived as one loud REEbit, then another loud REEbit, and another, and another, resounds as California tree frogs (Pseudacris cadaverina) call out to their prospective mates. And I smile, still in the dark, listening, enjoying the frogs’ musical ode to the  desert water.

I prefer to ignore their official common name and refer to them using another title – California chorus frog. Their habitat is often woefully lacking of trees; in my thinking, a tree frog should live where trees are more abundant. At home in the small, still pools of water in the dry southern California hills and deserts their song is exuberant and uplifting as the Vienna Boys Choir. Yes, chorus frog is far more suitable a moniker for this tiny little troubadour.

I return to camp but continue listening and their refrain is soon accompanied by another familiar desert tune. Further down the bajada the yipping and yowling of a coyote clan crescendos. Soon, a short aria from a Great Horned Owl, hoo-hoo-hooooooo-hoo-hooing, rises from the rocky canyon walls.  A desert evening is also not quiet, but its nighttime melody soon has me sleeping the most peaceful of sleeps.


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