The Peepers Are Calling ~ It’s Spring!

Listening for peepers under last night’s nearly full moon – Image (c) JMcCT, 2017 all rights reserved

By Abby Hafer

In New England, one of the surest signs of spring is not a sight, but a sound.  The sound of peepers.  Groundhog Day is such a non-starter for us as an indicator of spring that it borders on hilarious. In fact, I have often recovered my February 2 newspaper from a melting snow bank some months later.  Early flowers like snowdrops and crocuses, welcome though they are, are completely unreliable as signs of spring as they too often get buried in snow.  But by the time that the sound of peepers fills the air, we are on our way.

Another frog we hear from around the same time is the wood frog or Rana sylvatica.  While the peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) make that cheerful high peeping sound, the wood frog makes staccato quacks.  These frogs lay their eggs in vernal pools which usually dry up as summer progresses.  So the wood frogs have to start breeding as soon as it is likely that their offspring will not freeze.  That way, the new frogs will most likely have grown legs before their pond dries up, which is a good thing.

So when we hear the high peeping frogs and their staccato accompaniment, we know that our neighborhood frogs have thrown the evolutionary dice and decided that it’s spring, or close enough to it to be worth the risk. It may still be cold and the landscape is neither green nor floral, but by golly when we hear peepers and their friends we know that it has been warm enough for long enough that the frogs have decided that it’s time to breed.  They let other frogs know of their intentions and we hear about it and are glad.

About the Author: Abby Hafer is a biologist who teaches human anatomy and physiology at Curry College.  She is the author of The Not-So-Intelligent Designer—Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not.

With appreciation to Audubon Guides for the following YouTube video


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