Sounds of a new season
Posted by Miqe on March 19, 2007
The snow has melted and our forests, yards, fields and anywhere able to hold water are potential habitat for our amphibian friends.In particular — the vocal amphibians — frogs and toads, are ready to start their chanting in our local wetlands and ephemeral ponds.
If you get enough spring peepers together and singing, it may remind you of Christmas time.
Thousands of these nickel-sized frogs all singing together sound like “jingle-bells.”
Isolate one, and it is a singular “peep”, a very loud one for such a small creature.
Scientifically known as Hyla crucifer, an X-shaped cross on its back is partly responsible for its name. It is classified with the tree frogs, however, you’ll nary see one above ankle level.
Spring peepers are found statewide and are very common in nearly every open wetland type.
Put on the rubber boots and take a flashlight with you and walk the edge or even wade in (carefully, of course). Hold the flashlight next to your head, pointing the beam in the direction of sight.
Look for little eyeballs reflecting back at you. You’ll be amazed at how many peepers can fit in such a small area.
Get your glimpse early, because, once the female lays her 1,000-plus eggs, they hunker down, quit vocalizing, and are rarely seen for the rest of the year. They are also one of the few species that can survive the partial freezing of their body fluids.
A good characteristic to have if you live in a northern climate.
From a distance, you would swear you were hearing a dabble of ducks quacking away on a far-off pond.
Upon further investigation, you’ll see small, brown bobbing frogs scurrying across the water’s surface desperately trying to attract a mate.
About two inches in length, the wood frog is as widespread as the spring peeper but not as common. They will frequent the same habitat in the spring, but migrate into local woodlands to spend their summers foraging for small invertebrates.
Similar in appearance to the wood frog, the chorus frog is about half the size and emits a sound reminiscent of running your thumb down the teeth of a comb.
There are two subspecies of chorus frog, the western and boreal.
The western chorus frog lives entirely in the Lower Peninsula.The Upper Peninsula is devoid of chorus frogs. However, Isle Royale is home to the western variety.
Usually the first frog to sing in the spring, it may be due to the fact they hibernate in the same areas where they sing.
A female can lay as many as 1,500 eggs in mid-April, and tadpoles will metamorphose into adults in about six weeks.
Worldwide, amphibians are disappearing.
It is suspected that more than 100 species have disappeared in the past century.
Although extinctions are infamously complicated to confirm, 34 have been confirmed as extinct since 1,500 and 113 have not been seen since 1980.
According to the World Conservation Union, one third of all amphibian species have a 10 percent or greater chance of becoming extinct in the next 100 years.
By far, habitat destruction and degradation is the number one direct cause.
Mysteriously, there are many species that have just disappeared in the most pristine areas of earth.
Until of late scientists have not been able to precisely pinpoint the reasons behind this decline.
However, a strong correlation has been developed between the introduction of the exotic chytrid fungus and decline of frogs since the 1980’s.
A simple thing you can do is limiting the amount of harsh chemicals entering local bodies of water. Eliminate the use of harsh fertilizers and pesticides in your yard, especially if you live along a lake, stream, or wetland.
Don’t purchase wild caught amphibians as pets and don’t keep native ones as pets, either.
Let’s respect these small creatures for their contribution to our fauna and providing a natural concert throughout the spring and summer months.
Thomas Funke is a free lance writer. He has heard or seen all of Michigan’s 14 frog species and subspecies.