Laughing all the way: Hyla regilla vs. anas platyrhynchos

April 1, 2011

By Pat Detmer

BWhen we moved to Newcastle more than 20 years ago, one of the compelling reasons was the treed catch basin behind our house, our very own seasonal pond. I remember parking near the house one dark and quiet night as we considered our potential purchase. We were talking about whether or not to make the leap when I held up a quieting hand.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“That” was the chirping of the hyla regilla, also known as the Pacific tree frog. I found it enchanting, and had I had the mortgage paperwork in front of me at that moment, I would have signed on the dotted line without another thought.

For years we delighted in their spring-announcing choruses. Some years they were so loud that it was actually a bit frightening. We would find them clinging to our windows and doors, and sometimes had to chase them out of the house. But when some trees went down in a windstorm, it opened the pond to the sky, and the anas platyrhynchos started spiraling into our personal Discovery channel.

At first we found the new visitors — ducks, in case you’re not up on your Latin — a fun addition. The baby ducklings were darling. Unfortunately, they were loud to the point of rudeness, especially at night, but we’re bird lovers as well as frog lovers and believed that all was well and that nature knew best.

As more and more ducks made the pond their home, I began to wonder what they were eating. My heart cringed when research revealed that they were likely feeding on our beloved frogs and their tadpole offspring.

This year, save for incessant quacking as the ducks jockey for nesting space, our pond is silent. By now we should have enjoyed a froggie chorus or two, but have heard no more than a single, feeble “creeeek” one evening. Cartoonist Dana and his wife also live by a greenbelt pond, and he expressed his concerns with their own silent spring. I asked if they had ducks, and he confirmed a mallard infestation.

Newcastle Niece, on the other hand, who lives above swampy land too treed for duck landings, called us one evening and held her phone outside her door. It was deafening.

This begs some questions that might best be answered by city of Newcastle officials or the Olympus Homeowners’ Association, to wit:

- What’s the penalty for discharging a rifle within the city limits?

- When exactly is duck hunting season?

- If I want to build a duck blind on my property, will it have to pass city inspection and/or be subject to approval by the homeowners’ association?

- Does anybody have a good recipe for duck l’orange?

You can reach Pat Detmer — who is out buying decoys, camo clothing and a retriever — at patdetmer@aol.com.

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