By Cindy Olsen
If you’ve taken a walk down Leatherstocking Trail in the past couple of weeks and have come across an area that is booming with a chirping sound; then you have likely come across a very special time for our Spring Peeper frogs.
Many mistake the sound for crickets, but the crickets have not yet emerged from the winter. These frogs spend most of their time living in the debris of the forest floor. However, when the Spring rains begin and the daylight grows, they all meet up in the vernal pools (a temporary pool of water that fills with the rising water table of Fall, or with the runoff of winter snowmelt and spring rain) of the forest to mate and lay their eggs. We like to refer to it as Spring Break for the Peepers.
Despite the fact you can hear hundreds croaking, it is very difficult to spot a peeper. For starters, they are about the size of your fingertip and wonderfully camouflaged in their habitat. Also, the mere sound of you approaching will alert that a potential predator is nearby and their sound will scare them into silent hiding. If you are lucky enough to come across a peeper, you can identify them by the “X” on their back, as shown in the following photo.
These little guys are superheroes of winter. They simply bury themselves in some leaves and let their bodies freeze. Their blood has a special form of antifreeze that keeps them from freezing solid. When the spring temperatures begin to warm, they simply thaw out and begin making their way to the vernal pools. A female will lay nearly 1000 eggs on the vegetation floating in the wetlands. Because there are no fish in the pools, they have one less predator to worry about.
They are nocturnal. Their main predators are owls, other birds, snakes, salamanders and large spiders. Their favorite foods include beetle fingers, macaroni and ants, fly pizza and spider nuggets. That last bit was inspired by my 5-year-old.
Let us know if you’ve heard the Spring Peepers and if you can snap a photo, we have a prize in store for you!