Rouge Frog and Toad Survey to jump into metro Detroit

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published January 26, 2018

 A bullfrog is one of eight species of frogs and toads — seven frog species and one toad species — that have been found in the Rouge River watershed.

A bullfrog is one of eight species of frogs and toads — seven frog species and one toad species — that have been found in the Rouge River watershed.

Photo provided by the Friends of the Rouge

 An eastern gray tree frog is one of two species of tree frogs found in southeast Michigan, according to the Friends of the Rouge.

An eastern gray tree frog is one of two species of tree frogs found in southeast Michigan, according to the Friends of the Rouge.

Photo provided by the Friends of the Rouge

 A northern leopard frog was seen in Canton during the annual Rouge River Watershed Frog and Toad Survey.

A northern leopard frog was seen in Canton during the annual Rouge River Watershed Frog and Toad Survey.

Photo provided by the Friends of the Rouge

FARMINGTON HILLS — In a world where dogs are man’s best friend and cats rule the internet, it’s about time to focus on the little guys — amphibians, that is.

Frogs and toads in the community are getting a little love too through the 21st annual Rouge River Watershed Frog and Toad Survey.

The survey is a volunteer listening survey that requires volunteers to distinguish the breeding calls of eight types of frogs and toads found in the watershed. 

Sally Petrella, volunteer monitoring program manager for the Friends of the Rouge, said in a press release that the survey is a great way for residents to get to know more about local wildlife and wetlands while contributing to the long-term study.

Surveyors select a quarter-square-mile area within the watershed to survey periodically when it is dark outside.

They then complete forms detailing their observations and send them to the Friends of the Rouge, who compile, map and report on the data.

“This year there will also be an online form that can be filled out in the field on a smartphone or tablet,” Petrella said in an email.

Frogs and toads are used as indicators of wetland vitality, and the animals disappear from the wetlands when the habitat becomes too polluted, according to the press release.  

The Friends of the Rouge are looking for volunteers to sign up for a training workshop to assist with the survey at various places. Training workshops will be held 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 17 at Canton Summit on the Park, 46000 Summit Parkway in Canton; 10 a.m.-noon March 10 at Farmington Hills City Hall, 31555 W. 11 Mile Road; and 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 18 at the Livonia Civic Center Library, 32777 Five Mile Road in Livonia.

Farmington resident Michael Kapps and his wife, Sue, participated in last year’s survey. They surveyed Heritage Park from May until July.

“We found that area seemed to develop a little bit later than many of the other areas,” he said, adding that he and his wife heard green frogs, American toads, tree frogs and more. 

“One of the most interesting things is learning all the different sounds of all the kinds of frogs and toads,” Sue said, adding that the tree frogs they heard last year sounded like birds.

“Had we been walking anywhere, previously we would have thought that they were birds — it is interesting to learn that that was a frog,” she said.

Michael added that they missed out on hearing the spring peeper frogs — “the earliest ones you can hear.”

“Just because that area (Heritage Park) is not a good area where the spring peepers tend to reproduce,” he said, adding that Heritage Park remains wet in many places over the course of spring and summer from thawed snow.

The duo plan to participate in this year’s survey.

“It was a great learning experience; we love to be outdoors anyway,” Michael said, adding that the survey gave them permission to go to Heritage Park after dark. “We certainly suggest anybody that likes to go (for) a walk at night (participate in the survey).”

Redford resident Scot Martin — who lives a two-minute walk from the banks of the Upper Rouge — said in an email that in addition to surveying the frogs and toads, he serves on the Friends of the Rouge board. He is, to his knowledge, Redford’s only amphibian advocate.

“(I) have led students and volunteers in clearing Lola Valley Park (in Redford Township) of invasive plant species,” he said in the email, adding that he has participated in the survey about three times. “The best parts are learning the calls of all of Michigan’s frog and toad species, and then listening for them in your neighborhood. Keeping tabs on native creatures is a way to love your neighbor.”

The Rouge River, whose upper branch runs through Heritage Park, has four main branches — the main, the upper, the middle and the lower — that comprise 126 river miles.

The Rouge River drains through 467 miles in three counties and 48 municipalities in metro Detroit. The watershed communities are also home to nearly 1.35 million people, according to www.therouge.org.

Petrella said there are a total of 13 species of frogs and toads in the state, and the Friends of the Rouge have identified eight of them in the Rouge River watershed.

According to the press release, the Friends of the Rouge began the survey in 1998 to allow local residents to collect data about the health of Rouge River wetlands. 

Interested volunteers need to pre-register for one of the three training sessions. Volunteers are assigned to survey blocks within the Rouge River watershed and are required to visit them several times a month from March through June on damp, warm nights, according to the press release. 

Martin said that while he wants to see more kinds of frogs and toads in his town, he won’t be greedy.

“While I’d like to see more diversity among amphibians in Redford, when I was growing up in Ferndale in the ’70s and ’80s, we had zero amphibian presence,” he said. “So the lowly toad is a welcome addition to my neighborhood. I’m glad to share the ecosystem with them.”

Pre-register for the workshop by calling the Friends of the Rouge at (313) 792-9900.