Monday, June 5, 2017

Episode 371 (6-5-17): Amphibians and Reptiles are the Stars of Herp Blitz

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:56).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-2-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 5, 2017.

SOUND – ~ 5 sec

This week, the deep call of a Bullfrog sets the stage for a blitz of mystery sounds, all related to an annual biological kind of blitz.   Have a listen for about 30 seconds, and see if you can guess what two groups of animals are making these sounds.

SOUNDS - 29 sec

If you guessed amphibians and reptiles, you’re right!  Those were the trill of Gray Tree Frogs, the clicking of Northern Cricket Frogs, the baby-cry-like call of Fowler’s Toads, the thunking sound of Green Frogs, and the unmistakable warning signal of a rattlesnake.  Collectively, amphibians and reptiles are called “herps,” and herpetology is the scientific study of these animals.

In Virginia, that study will advance during the 12th annual Herp Blitz on June 10-11, 2017, at Hidden Valley Wildlife Management Area in Washington County.  Herp Blitz is an annual weekend survey conducted by the Virginia Herpetological Society, in which volunteers document all the amphibians and reptiles they can find in an area.  Since its founding in 1958, the Society has been conducting herp-documenting events all over the Commonwealth, from Tidewater swamps to Piedmont forests to mountain streams. In 2017, besides the Herp Blitz the Society organized surveys in Big Woods State Forest and Wildlife Management Area in Sussex County, in Newport News Park, and on Mole Hill in Rockingham County.  Such surveys provide information on the numbers, habitats, and geographic distribution of Virginia’s approximately 150 species and subspecies of amphibians and reptiles—creatures that perform important ecological roles and that enrich the biological diversity of our lands and waters.  The surveys also give herp-curious humans a chance to explore, observe, learn, and contribute.

Thanks to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and to Lang Elliott’s NatureSoundStudio for the Bullfrog sound, and thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the rattlesnake sound.


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463. Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment. Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show. In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This episode updates and replaces Episode 69 (6-20-11), which has been archived.

The American Bullfrog sound was excerpted from “The Calls of Virginia Frogs and Toads” CD, copyright 2008 by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) and Lang Elliott/NatureSoundStudio, used with permission.  The CD is part of the VDGIF’s A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia.  For more information, visit, or contact VDGIF at 4010 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23230; phone: (804) 367-1000 (VTDD); e-mail:  Lang Elliott’s work is available online at the “Music of Nature” Web site,

The rattlesnake sound was taken from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Digital Library, (specifically at

All other sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio, as follows:
Gray Treefrog – in Blacksburg, Va., June 10, 2011;
Northern Cricket Frog – along the Potomac River/C&O Canal Towpath near Boyd’s Landing, Md., July 10, 2010;
Fowler’s Toad – along the James River near Howardsville, Va., July 12, 2009;
Green Frog – in Blacksburg, Va., August 1, 2016.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode. More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at

Three water-related “herps” that inhabit Virginia:
top photo - Shenandoah Salamander, a species known only within Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Photo by Brian Bratwicke, made available for public use on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library, online at;
middle photo - American Toad at Cowbane Prairie Preserve in Augusta County, Va., April 1, 2008;
bottom photo - Snapping Turtle at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island, 2010. Photo by Tom Tetzner, made available for public use on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library, online at


Used in Audio

Bernard S. Martof et al., Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1980.

W. Cullen Sherwood, “A Brief Geological History of Rockingham County/Mole Hill and Other Melted Rocks,” James Madison University Department of Geology and Environmental Studies, online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Hidden Valley,” online at

Virginia Herpetological Society, main Web page at “News/2017 Survey Schedule,” online at (as of 6/1/17).

For More Information about Amphibians and Reptiles

Davidson College (North Carolina) Herpetology Lab, “Amphibians and Reptiles of North Carolina,” online at

John D. Kleopfer and Chris S. Hobson, A Guide to the Frogs and Toads of Virginia, Special Publication Number 3, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 2011.

Donald W. Linzey and Michael J. Clifford, Snakes of Virginia, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 2002; information online at

Maryland Sea Grant, “Diamondback Terrapins, online at

Joseph C. Mitchell, The Reptiles of Virginia, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., and London, England, 1994.

Joseph C. Mitchell, “Snakes of Virginia” (no date indicated), online (as PDF) at

Joseph C. Mitchell and Karen K. Reay, Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles of Virginia, Special Publication No. 1, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, 1999.

National Estuarine Research Reserve System, “Estuary Education” video series, online at, has several short videos on reptiles that live in or near water, including the following: American Alligator; Freshwater Turtles in an Estuary; New Jersey Terrapin Close-up; Texas Alligators Q&A; Totally Turtles; Tracking Turtles; Turtle Hospital; Turtle Tales; and Turtle Trails.

Smithsonian Institution, “Bibliography on the Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles,” online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Fish and Wildlife Information Service,” online at

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, “Virginia Frog & Toad Calling Survey,” online at; part of the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, online at  These programs use the sensitivity of amphibians to water availability and quality as a tool for assessing changes or threats to aquatic systems.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Virginia’s Sea Turtles,” online at

Virginia Wildlife Mapping Web site, online at  This site provides a location for citizens to post their observations about wildlife. The site is a collaboration of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Master Naturalist Program, and

Herbert S. Zim and Hobart M. Smith, Golden Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians, Golden Books, New York, N.Y., 1987.

Virginia Sea Grant, “Terrapin Files,” in the Summer 2012 issue of Virginia Marine Resource Bulletin, online at (this is the Web site for the Bulletin archives).


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above ( Listed below are previous episodes on amphibians or reptiles.

Barking Treefrog – Episode 319, 6/6/16;
Bullfrog – Episode 74, 8/8/11;
Carpenter Frog – Episode 148, 2/11/13;
Eastern Spadefoot – Episode 357, 2/27/17;
Medleys of frog calls – Episode 148, 2/11/13 (American Toad, Bullfrog, Mountain, Carpenter Frog, Chorus Frog, Gray Tree Frog, Green Frog, Northern Cricket Frog, Pickerel Frog, Spring Peeper, Wood Frog); Episode 206, 3/14/14 (American Toad, Spring Peeper, Wood Frog);
Gray Tree Frog – Episode 323, 7/4/16 (July 4 Debate);
Green Frog – Episode 310, 4/4/16;
Hellbender – Episode 185, 10/28/13;
Salamanders generally – Episode 257, 3/16/15;
Spring Peeper – Episode 105, 4/2/12.

American Alligator – Episode 167, 6/24/13;
Diamondback Terrapins – Episode 70, 7/4/11;
Reptiles generally – Episode 123, 8/13/12;
Snakes generally – Episode 151, 3/4/13.


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.
3.6 - ecosystems, communities, populations, shared resources.
5.5 - cell structures and functions, organism classification, and organism traits.
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.4 - organisms’ classification based on features.
LS.10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes, including climate changes and catastrophic disturbances.

Biology Course
BIO.6 - bases for modern classification systems, including structures, biochemistry, and developmental stages.
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at