The Osprey are back. The Bluebirds have built their nests. The adorable, chubby fox kits roll and chase each other around their den. A Carpenter Bee stared me in the eye yesterday as I walked out my door. (He said, “You know, there’s not much left here. I think it’s time you built a new house. Wood, please. No concrete blocks.”)
While I love seeing these seasonal residents return, my favorite sign of spring isn’t a sight. It’s a sound.
Spring peepers are about the length of a paper clip but have the range of Kelly Clarkson. They are the rock stars of the spring. These prolific little frogs live in wet areas (our backyard pond is their Merriweather Post Pavilion) but their brownish-tannish-olive coloring allows them to blend so completely with their surroundings that they are nearly impossible to spot.
On a warm spring night, you’ll hear one warming up. Then another will jump in. And soon the quiet yard turns into a loud, raucous jam session.
But why do they sing?
During the winter, they freeze. Literally. They don’t burrow to hibernate, choosing instead to find a loose piece of bark or a dead log to crawl under. When temperatures dip below 32 degrees, they produce a glucose anti-freeze which will somehow keep their vital organs alive while the rest of their body turns into a popsicle. Cryogenics on an amphibian scale.
So, after surviving a winter as a popsicle, wouldn’t you sing, too?
They actually sing in hopes of finding true love. The males are the crooners and the faster and louder they sing, the better chance they have at finding a mate. Once mated, the females lay their eggs in freshwater ponds or wetlands lacking fish and the males fertilize them.
These performances are only for a limited time, though. Once mating season is over, in mid to late June, they’ll silence their vocal cords until the following spring thaw.
by Jenifer Adams-Mitchell
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