By Gabrielle L. Wheeler
It’s official! Spring has arrived! While it is forecasted that temperatures will drop again, as I am writing this post, my children are outside playing in short sleeves and the crocuses have blossomed. Another exciting sign of spring happened yesterday: we heard the first peepers. The calls of these little frogs always mark the beginning of spring for me, just as it does for many.
Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) are small frogs that measure only about an inch in length. During the winter, they hibernate in the soft mud around ponds, in the bark of trees, or under logs, surviving the freezing temperatures by producing antifreeze in their bodies. In the spring, as the temperatures warm and cool, they slowly defrost. And then, all of a sudden it seems, a whole group is making their customary peeping call one warmish day.
Male spring peepers are the singers and can repeat their call about 20 times per minute. This is done to attract mates and a male’s chances of attracting a mate increases with his ability to sing faster and louder. Frogs sing by inflating and deflating the air sac below their mouths, which resonates to amplify the sound. According to information provided by the National Wildlife Federation, male peepers “Often congregate near water and sing in trios, with the deepest-voiced frog starting the call.” Their songs are so loud that depending on background noise, wind direction, and the number of frogs calling, the sound can be heard from a mile away – or even further.
Once a female chooses her preferred mate, she will lay between 750-1200 eggs in a vernal pool while the male externally fertilizes them. Vernal pools can be anything between a shallow puddle in the woods to part of a wetland complex but are characterized by their fleeting duration and lack of fish, which predate on eggs and tadpoles. Peeper eggs hatch within 6-12 days and then the tadpoles quickly develop and disperse over the following six to twelve weeks.
While I enjoy summer and autumn and don’t even mind winter, I love the spring – especially April when the first signs of the season awaken and bring some hope for change. I am reminded of one evening when I was driving home with the kids in the car last year. With the windows open, we neared the spot where the peepers always call and my son said, “Mommy, turn down the radio, I want to hear the peepers.” When natures music is more beautiful than the noise on the radio.