Frogs Pipe Up After Australian Desert Downpour

Morning Edition visits an ephemeral pond in the Australian desert, where a sudden downpour has flushed out 11 species of frogs. In their chorus, they signal to mates and mark territory. The segment is part of "Wild Sounds," a series of short, sound-rich stories from remote parts of the planet that are home to rare animals.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Get a little rain in a desert, and all sorts of things can happen - like frogs. In our series "Sounds Wild", NPR is collecting the voices of animals. Today we've got a mob of frogs recorded in the Australian desert after a sudden rain shower. David Stewart made the recording. He chases down animals in the outback with a microphone.

(Soundbite of frogs calling)

Mr. DAVID STEWART (Producer, Nature Sounds): A little bit inland in Queensland, we were driving through very dry country, and I heard this incredible chorus of frogs in a pond beside the railway line. And I thought, wow, this is good.

(Soundbite of frogs calling)

Mr. STEWART: There are 11 species in this recording, and the bigger frogs have the deeper sound, and the smaller frogs have a higher pitched sound. It's interesting how you can sort of single out the different sounds, if you listen carefully, to let you know that quite a number of species are calling.

(Soundbite of frogs calling)

Mr. STEWART: A lot of people are not aware that only the males call, not the female. The female only calls when she's distressed and she's about to be eaten, or something like that. But all the sounds you hear of frogs are only the male. They're just adverting for their mate, and they're letting other frogs know nearby that this is my territory. So it's very competitive. So when you get a large chorus of frogs, that's what's happening.

(Soundbite of frogs calling)

MONTAGNE: The human voice was that of David Stewart. Our sounds come from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. And thanks to NPR's Christopher Joyce for tracking them down. You can see and hear more about our series at npr.org.

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