Andy Schafermeyer’s Adventures Afield: ‘Chirps’ aren’t the only interesting thing about wood frogs

IT IS OBVIOUS to everyone but me that early spring in New Hampshire is far too cold to sleep with the windows open. Unlike the thrill experienced in a tent on a fishing trip, seeing one’s foggy breath in the pre-dawn hours brings pleasure to no one in my household but me.

As such, I am forced to take early-morning walks with hot coffee in hand while I listen for those sounds of nature that are blocked by closed windows. When robins send their “cheerio chirps” back and forth, my body and mind are reminded that winter is over and warm days lie ahead.

My favorite nighttime sounds are those that come from peepers, wood frogs and the occasional whip-poor-will. Also serving as a signal of change, these are among my favorite lullabies and bring a comfort to my sleep like no other condition.

Most of the vocalizations made in the spring are related to reproduction. Animals of all types make strange, unique sounds to find a mate, advertise their availability, warn competitors and sometimes just to impress the world with their song.

Lately, wood frogs seem to be the dominant sound, and their quack-like annunciations fill the night with noise. The sounds often heard in great numbers, the chorus sounds like a constant waterfall of chirps and burps.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by prime frog habitat and our coexistence is never more obvious than it is in April. Wet, swampy areas and significant standing water provide all that is necessary for wood frogs during their breeding season. Well-camouflaged, they are almost impossible to find in the summer. Currently, their predictable locations and near-constant vocalizing allow me to locate them with ease.

It takes a unique perspective to describe the physical appearance of a frog in flattering terms, yet I am fortunate to have one — which is only intensified by finding or photographing one. Wood frogs are generally brown and tan with a black mask-like covering over their eyes, which suggests incorrectly and only to me, a mischievous existence in the cold, April puddles.

Like most organisms, each wood frog is different with shades of dark green outlining light bellies and long, dark legs. My first glimpse of one is often as it leaps with an impressive bound from a hiding place.

As wood frogs settle under the surface of water with exposed eyes, my appreciation deepens as they calculate my risk and ponder the next move.

For such small creatures, their home range and migration is impressive with vast opportunities for travel and breeding. This represents an adaptability to tolerate the extreme weather conditions of early spring in New England. There are many warm nights when I observe them by sight and sound only to wake up to snow or below-freezing temperatures. Like many frogs, physiological conditions in their blood and organs prevent them from freezing and allow their life cycle to continue. I have seen many of them peeking at me through the snow with a calm but quizzical stare.

It is crucial for wood frogs to breed in early spring as the eggs and offspring require an underwater existence for development, growth and survival. All of these life stages much be reached before pools and puddles dry up and become forest again. From there, I will wait another year before enjoying the unique existence of the wood frog again.

#model #modeling selected by Livio Acerbo – original source here

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