The ice went out only a few days ago in western Maine, but as is their tradition, the frogs took no time in making their presence known. Have you heard them? The wruck wruck wruck of the wood frogs?
Over the years wood frogs have taught me so many lessons, the major one being patience–to stand still beside the pond and wait because eventually they will resurface. What strikes me is that there is more action this year than last year and last year there was more action that the previous five years. Why is that given that the pool seems to dry up so soon and I always worry that the tadpoles don’t have time to finish morphing into adults and hopping toward upland habitats. Do some mature before I realize it? That would be great news.
Otherwise I have to wonder how so many return each year and within a day or two of the ice melting, lay masses of eggs in colonial form.
Of course, as I watch, mistakes are made and males so eager grab others of the same sex only to realize moments later that it’s not worth the effort.
And then there’s that ear-shattering harmonic symphony produced by the spring peepers, one which typically comes to a complete rest when I approach. But late this afternoon there was just enough breeze to disguise my footsteps and sing on they did.
I couldn’t believe my good luck in spying the peeper on the stalk, but to notice the one below added icing to the cake.
As I watched, the second tiny frog began to climb onto the first.
Theirs was one of frog versus frog as they volleyed for the highest spot on the stem.
Occasionally for a mere second they paused.
But really, there was no break in their behavior as they sang on and on in a manner more aggressive and vied for superior achievement.
One must remember that spring peepers are much tinier that their wood frog cousins and measure about the size of a quarter all told.
The X on their backs provides for their scientific name: Pseudacris crucifer, or cross bearer.
And bear a cross did they as they competed for that best spot.
Like brothers they tangled, each in hopes of gaining the upper frog leg.
Really though, it’s the male peeper’s ability to generate his seductive and ear-splitting peep by closing his nostrils, and pushing air over his vocal chords into that amazing throat sac, that acts as a resonator at vernal pools each spring and gains him an upper position in the pool heirarchy.
The frogs that chirp the fastest are the ones with the greatest stamina and so chirp quickly they do in hopes of achieving a mate.
Wruck on. Chirp on. Before you hop on. The season has begun. There’s such competition and what I don’t understand is how a vernal pool that dries up so soon these past few years continues to produce but it does. The mystery of life continues.