SPRING IS A MAGICAL time in the Mogollon Highlands. Trees leaf out overnight, flowers bloom that weren’t even there yesterday. Every plant and animal seems to hurry to take advantage of warmer days. As spring falls into the past and the warm days of summer settle in, some of nature’s creatures are still waiting for something. One day, the small sound of a few raindrops tickle the air. The next, a tentative rasping of a lone cicada rings out from a tree. Finally, one day there is a peal of thunder, a flash of lightening and the rains begin in earnest. The monsoon has arrived and the sounds of summer with it!
The welcome moisture tells the cicadas that it is time to leave their burrows and begin their eerie cacophony. The cicadas in the Central Highlands spend the first few years of their lives underground in a nymph stage. When it is time they climb above ground, shed their final exoskeleton, expand their wings, and being their life’s grand finale — mating and producing offspring.
The life of the adult cicada is short. In a few weeks, they must mate and lay eggs to ensure the survival of the next generation. The noise they make is caused by the male cicada clicking together a pair of hard membranes called a tymbal on his abdomen. Its purpose is solely to attract a female. While many people find the sound of cicadas annoying, it is really a special sound, heard only in the summer and associated with the life-giving monsoonal rains.
In the evening, a different sound begins: the mating call of the tree frogs. It is amazing that such a small creature has such a conspicuous voice! While often mistaken for a cricket or other nighttime insect, their gruff staccato call is a very distinctive.
Two species of treefrogs are found in the Mogollon Highlands—the canyon treefrog (Hyla arenicolor) and the mountain treefrog (Hyla eximia). The small canyon treefrog is found camouflaged in rock niches near streams. While it is brownish grey and lives mostly on the ground, the less common Mountain treefrog is brownish green. While different, both species sing their mating tune between June and August. Oh, what a sound!
As summer monsoons fade, the sounds of summer disappear alongside them. On the shoulders of summer sits the next season, eagerly waiting for its time to shine. I wonder what wonders fall has in store.
Contributed by Sandy Stoeker