In the Know: What makes night noise in Naples sounding like woodpeckers on steroids?

TIM ATEN
A cane toad is seen outside Becky Speer's Lake Park home last September in Naples.

Photo by COREY PERRINE // Buy this photo

A cane toad is seen outside Becky Speer's Lake Park home last September in Naples.

A cane toad, also known as a giant toad or marine toad.

Photo by Marco Eagle file

A cane toad, also known as a giant toad or marine toad.

Q: We live in a community off of Livingston Road near Royal Palm Academy. It used to be that once in a while at night — usually beginning around 8 or 9 p.m. — we would hear noises that truly sound like woodpeckers on steroids! Originally, we thought it was “whining” from the electrical wires that run along Livingston. The noise usually stopped by 10 or 11 p.m. Lately, it has been happening every night, and it recently was still happening at 2 a.m. It is loud enough that we need to turn the TV up louder so we don’t hear it and there is no way we can leave our windows open at night. Can you solve this mystery? Thanks.

— Betsy D., North Naples

A: While it is difficult to know for sure, I immediately thought that the sounds most likely came from frogs or toads. Not only can the mating calls of male amphibians be deafening at times, but they can sound similar to all kinds of animals and objects, from birds to squeaky shoes to even jackhammers.

I first called John Cassani, the deputy director of the Lee County Hyacinth Control District who founded Frog Watch, the Southwest Florida Amphibian Monitoring Network. Can frogs or toads sound like woodpeckers on steroids?

“It’s a possibility, but without hearing it, it’s hard to say,” Cassani said. “It’s kind of an unusual time of the year to hear frogs call. It could be cricket frogs, which make a sound like ball bearings knocking together.”

The local wildlife expert also said these night sounds could be made by screech owls or crickets.

“It could be almost anything — insects and amphibians,” Cassani said. “You hear all kinds of things at night. There are some tree crickets that are pretty loud this time of year.”

Frog Watch volunteer Becky Speer, a naturalist at the Naples Preserve, said the local noise could be the call of a cane toad. The species Bufo marinus, also known as a giant toad or marine toad, makes what Speer described as a drumming or woodpecker sound.

“If there are lakes there, that’s what it could be. I live in Lake Park and I’ve heard them recently calling in lakes out here.”

While Speer agrees that the local frog season usually begins when rains start in June, she said recent rain has triggered calls from amphibians.

“I’ve heard them when we got rain and when it was cold out. I was surprised,” she said.

The University of Florida’s wildlife extension describes the call of the giant toad as a low-pitched trill with a chorus that sounds like an idling diesel engine. But, even Speer could not definitely say that the late-night sounds recently heard were from this widespread exotic species.

“I’m not saying that’s what it was for sure. It’s kind of hard not hearing it,” she said. “If the sound came from the ground, it’s not a woodpecker.”

Speer is the speaker for “Frogs of Collier County,” a free nature talk at 11 a.m. April 9 in the Hedges Family Eco-Center at the Naples Preserve, 1690 U.S. 41 N., on the corner of Fleischmann Boulevard. Attendees will receive a handout and a CD of frog sounds, said Speer, who plays recordings of frog calls and has participants write down what they hear.

“Everyone hears something different,” she said. “It depends on life experiences.”

Clips of various calls from frogs and toads:

Call of cane toad or giant toad

Calls of cricket frog

Frog calls on Animal Diversity Web

USGS Frog Call Lookup

Herping with Dylan: Frog calls video

Woodpecker on steroids call

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Radar detectors legal?

Q: Are radar detectors illegal in Florida?

— J.K., Bonita Springs

A: Radar detectors are legal in the Sunshine State unless the motorist is operating a commercial vehicle that weighs more than 10,000 pounds, said Lt. Jeff Frost, a public affairs officer for the Florida Highway Patrol.

Basically, the electronic devices pick up radio signals and notify the motorist that radar is in use ahead.

Although radar detectors may be used, attaching them to a vehicle’s windshield would violate Florida Statute 316.2952 (2). A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.

The only devices permitted to be attached to windshields in Florida are electronic toll payment equipment, such as SunPass, or a global positioning system device.

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Have a local question? Email it with your name and city of residence to intheknow@naplesnews.com.

"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.

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