Spring Peepers

Image copyright Well Tea, Wikimedia


Enjoying the springlike evening air, I paused in my driveway, straining to block out the highway noises so I could focus on the subtle sounds I hoped were not simply my imagination. Could it be one of the earliest sounds of the season: a chorus of thousands of tiny frogs known as Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer)? As my ears became more attuned, I smiled. It was indeed Spring Peepers. These little frogs are easy to hear as the males call to the females, but you must be very lucky to see one. At only 1-1.5 inches long, they are well camouflaged with mottled hues of brown, green and gray. Like all frogs they require water for their eggs and tadpoles so wherever you hear their high-pitched relentless performances you know there are wetlands nearby.

Everyone is Somers is remarking on the mild winter and early spring but is it as unprecedented as memory suggests?  In my nature journal the earliest I noted picking a bouquet of snowdrops was February 1 this year, yet in 1998 my aunt told me it was the warmest spring she recalled in 78 years. In still other years on these same dates we sat beneath several feet of snow.

I have mixed feelings on early springs. Though my heart is lightened by the colorful blossoms and mild weather, this can be a false start placing tender buds and shoots at risk to the ravages of a late snow or ice storm – such as we endured on April Fool’s Day, 1997.

The important point to take away from these swings in weather is that they can only be understood in the context of long-term weather records, far beyond our individual life spans. Such records do show a general warming trend. Recently the US Agricultural Department updated the hardiness zone map that gardeners rely on, saying, “The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States.” So keep your eyes open as more southerly species begin to extend their range into Angle Fly Preserve and elsewhere in Somers.

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