The signs are all there, the call of the red-winged blackbird, the emergence of the crocus, the first American robin sighting, all telling me that it is official. The days are getting longer and warmer, and the maple trees are in bloom. Yes, finally, spring has sprung. As I stroll through the landscape, noticing all the nuances of spring: a bud about to burst, birds singing cheerily, dormancy about to bounce back to life, my heart is happy.
The biggest excitement came when I heard the spring peeper frogs chirping just a few nights ago. That, to me, is the ultimate sign that spring has officially arrived. No matter what the calendar tells me, and no matter how many other signs of spring I witness, the chirping of the peeper frogs (Pseudacris crucifer) is the telltale harbinger.
These frogs are among the first in our region to start calling in the spring. Their song can be heard not long after the ice melts, typically between March and June here in their northern range. At this time, the weather is still fickle, and peeper frogs must often endure occasional periods of subfreezing temperatures during the breeding season. However, these fascinating creatures can tolerate the freezing of some of their bodily fluids. I can’t relate, as I certainly wouldn’t tolerate that. I’d much rather cozy up under a blanket on the couch.
Growing up in rural Vermont, I have fond memories of hearing the chorus of the spring peeper frogs. Every evening in spring, we would close our eyes and listen as the males competed with their chirps, hoping to win a female’s affection. Males produce calls when they expand and deflate their vocal sac like a balloon, creating a peeping sound. You would never guess that the loud calls came from tiny frogs, less than two inches in length. But these males have something to prove. The discerning females choose mates based on the song, showing preference to those that voice their chirps the loudest and quickest. With several hundred competing individuals congregating in one spot during the breeding season, the males all have to make their voices heard, creating a loud, dueling chorus of calls. An ensemble that, to me, signifies spring.
And with the onset of spring, I return to the garden. How good it feels to return after what felt like an extensive hiatus. I relish the chores that lay before me at this time of year. Tidying up the existing garden beds, creating new ones, planting seeds both indoors and out, and preparing the garden for the season ahead are all tasks I eagerly, and quite literally, dig into. It can be overwhelming at times, all that needs to be completed in a relatively short amount of time. But, no matter, I plug along because my hands have rejoined the soil, like reuniting with a long-lost friend.
As the birds make their migratory flights back to us, the buds begin to plump and unfurl their leaves or flowers, and the spring peeper frogs sing, I too return. I am joyfully carrying out my gardening chores in preparation for the season to come, all while listening to the lively tunes of nature. Spring has ceremoniously sprung.
Source: Spring Peepers
*All spring peeper frog photos are from BIGSTOCK, as I was unfortunately unable to get a photograph of these shy amphibians.