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A Declaration of Spring

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spring peeper_Jim McCormac

Photo credit to Jim McCormac, outstanding photographer and blogger

A few of my favorite springtime activities include hearing the birds sing their heartfelt tunes, watching our native spring wildflowers begin to bloom, and listening to the spring peepers declare that spring is here. The Northern Spring Peeper, Pseudacris crucifer, is one of our first frogs to start calling in early spring. Their loud ‘peeping’ mating call can be mistaken for a bird at first, but when you draw near, their calls can be ear-splitting. Spring peepers are remarkable at remaining camouflaged with their tannish brown skin color. If you wait long enough, they may be outed by the cartoonish bubble that forms at their throat. It is this vocal sac that helps project such a robust peep. If you’re lucky enough to see a spring peeper up close, they average about one inch and have an ‘X’ on their back. Breeding season is typically March to June, and each female can lay egg masses consisting of up to 1000 eggs in vernal pools or wetlands. The water source must be small enough to lack fish and reduce predators, but big enough to support loads of tadpoles before it dries up. Plenty of predators such as birds, salamanders, and aquatic invertebrates look forward to a tadpole and froglet buffet each spring. The adult spring peepers feed mostly on insects and spiders while the tadpoles feed on algae and detritus (organic matter). At the end of the breeding season, adults voyage back to moist woodlands while tadpoles must fend for themselves until emerging in July. Spring peepers are a type of tree frog but curiously they prefer to inhabit hideouts on the ground such as leaf litter, shrubs, logs, and thickets. I encourage you to try to find a source of water and listen for the shrill peeping of these tiny frogs. They are nocturnal, so although you may hear them during the day, your chances are better after dark.