The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you. Digressions on snails, fish, insects, weather, meteorites, climate, birds and/or flowers, are all worthy additions to the bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located.
Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!
from Dracula by Bram Stoker
A personal favorite night time sound with strong evocative memories from my youth, shown in this archaic video also with strong evocative memories from my youth.
Night sounds are particularly evocative for us humans. In the age in which Stoker wrote urbanization was a more recent phenomenon and far more people would have first hand experience with the sounds of owls, nightjars, and other nocturnal creatures. Much further back in time, night would have been a time of danger for a diurnal ground living primate with poor night vision and weak senses of hearing and smell.
Summer nights in particular are full of sound. Summer nights in the south can be downright cacophonic.
In the moist tropical forests of the Amazon every night is summer. Katydids and crickets call year round. When it has been rainy the frogs call as well. Here is the sound of the 'Smoky Jungle Frog", Leptodactylus pentadactylus, one of the most distinctive forest sounds.
If you get lucky in the Amazon you might hear a Nocturnal Curassow, a secretive but very noisy chicken-like bird. One was calling in the trees near my cabin the last time I was in Ecuador but I never saw it.
If you listen to the sound files above you will notice several other species calling at once. This is typical of the tropical forests at night. At times it can be very loud.
Here in north Florida at my house in a heavily wooded subdivision next to a lake we have our own nocturnal cacophony. Although I have heard all four of our local breeding owl species from our yard at some point they are a minor part of the night chorus. Mostly it is frogs and insects.
One of our most common noisemakers is the Green Tree Frog, Hyla cinerea. They can call just about any time of the year although in the winter calling only occurs during periods that would be both warmer than normal and wet. After heavy rains in the warmer parts of the year vast numbers can be heard. Here is their call. It can be entertaining to stand near the boat ramp in the evening. The sound of a boat motor passing can spur them to call in response.
A number of other frogs call in our neighborhood. Our three species of 'toad' (all in different families and not particularly related to each other) are usually breeding away from the lake and I hear their calls on sporadically. The eastern narrow-mouthed toad, Gastrophryne carolinensis is the most distinctive for its sheeplike call. Pig frogs, Lithobates (formerly Rana) grylio are large relatives of bullfrogs (bullfrogs occur here but are not common) that call in the lake all summer. There pig-like grunting carries a long way. The only sound file I was able to find for them is from a California herps web site (the recordings were made in Texas which makes more sense).
One frog that is apparently not extremely abundant in this area that we hear calling regularly, if not often, is Cope's Gray Treefrog, Hyla chrysocelis. Here is it's call. I heard them calling for the first time this year, last night.
Many insects can be heard calling as well. The chirps and trills of different cricket species can be heard at almost any time of year when the weather is mild, except perhaps the dead of winter. The southeastern field cricket, Gryllus rubens is a common triller while the southern ground cricket, Allonemobius socius is a common chirper. Tree crickets in the genus Oecanthus are particularly conspicuous callers often chorusing in large numbers. A locally common species is the narrow-winged tree cricket, Oecanthus niveus whose call can be heard here.
Throughout the summer and into the early fall the dominant night time sound in our neighborhood is the common true katydid, Pterophylla camelifolia. A call from a local (Liberty County, Florida) population can be heard here. For comparison here are calls typical of the north and Texas. These animals call from high in trees and are seldom seen. Unlike some other katydid species they are not attracted to lights. During peak periods their calls make it difficult to hear any of the other night singers. I heard my first katydid of the summer last night.
Returning to the Dracula theme for the end I will note that I have heard this sound from our house a few times, generally in winter when the other children of the night are less noisy.
Here are a couple of additional quotes from Dracula that do not particularly apply to this diary but are good things for all scientists, including citizen scientists to bear in mind.
We learn from failure, not from success!
Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker