7 May found me observing ... A little Fowler's Toad is making a big sound, braying his hoarse three-second trill into the night on the Lake Erie shore at Point Abino Ontario. Oblivious of my headlamp he's eager and confident, changing his orientation a little every few calls to broadcast his love song in every direction, advertising his perfect spot to the females that we passed on the wave-wet sand, and who even now are hopping toward these rocky pools to lay their eggs.
He's just shifted position again. I can see his sides expand as he fills his lungs. Then they press in and suddenly his throat pouch appears, round and shiny like a balloon as the vibrating shout begins. How the air can make sound both while filling the pouch and without a pause, also while exiting the pouch is amazing! The pouch, becoming smaller, forces all of its air past his vocal cords, so he actually makes his sound both on the exhale and on the inhale - rather like Inuit throat singing - and the sound is amplified in the taut throat pouch. I marvel that this little toad's song is so loud - one of the miracles of springtime! Encyclopedia Britannica says: Unlike vocalization processes of many other vertebrates, frogs broadcast sound without expelling air. Air does not exit the mouth; rather, it cycles back and forth between the buccal cavity and lungs.
These toads are found strung out along the Lake Erie shore of the Niagara Penninsula. They are crowded out both by upland habitat and humanity, and no-one knows how the disruption of summering and wintering habitats planned near here at Crystal Beach will impact on the population's continuity and long term health and sustainability.