TRR photo by Ed Wesely
We rescued this spring peeper from a nearby road, took a “mug shot,” and placed it the pond it was seeking. (click for larger image)

Spring peepers (Late April). Since mid-April, pulses of high-pitched “peeps” have chorused from spring pools and wetlands, especially on warm evenings. It’s a signal that spring peepers have replaced the earliest frogs and salamanders, which have already deposited fertile eggs and returned to the forest.

Peepers are tiny tree frogs outfitted with minute toe discs that enable them to climb forest vegetation. Most males can fit on a 25-cent piece, with females a little larger. The scientific name, Hyla crucifer, pinpoints two prominent traits.

"Crucifer," in Latin, meant “one who carries a cross,” and applies to “X” shaped marks on the backs of most peepers.

Hylas was a young favorite of the Greek hero Hercules, and is said to have drowned while drawing water at a pond. Ever after, according to one legend (however fat fetched), the cries of Hercules and his companions to summon Hylas have been likened to the chorusing of spring peepers.

Truer to life is a sketch is by the poet Robert Frost, in lines that compare the pulsing of peepers to sleigh bells. One June, as his brook “ran out of song and speed,” Frost recalled how throngs of peepers had “shouted in the mist a month ago / Like ghost of sleigh bells in a ghost of snow.”

TRR photo by Ed Wesely
The picture shows a batch of wood frog eggs (there were dozens) that appeared in our pond in early April. From egg to juvenile frog takes about 85 days. Hatching in temporary “vernal” pools, young frogs are spared encounters with fish and snapping turtles. (click for larger image)

Wood frog eggs. While peepers chorus and mate, wood frog eggs, layed much earlier, are slowly incubating. Scores of small, black eggs, bound in a jelly-like matrix, are generally attached to twigs or stems near the water surface, as in the photograph.

< previous note   |   next note >