I know I have said it several times in this column, spring is here, even though the weather seems to be saying otherwise. I am here to tell you, it is definitely spring. Disregard the snow that that keeps appearing please, as I have proof that spring is here! The Eastern towhee is back eating at my bird feeders. The male American goldfinches are slowing changing into their brilliant yellow summer color. The six kit foxes living in the groundhog holes on my road have moved out, and I am hearing spring peepers, my favorite spring sound. Who needs a meteorologist to determine when the seasons change, just watch our local wildlife.
We use our eyes to know what’s going on around us; however, with spring peepers it is their sound that grabs our attention. These diminutive amphibians make a monstrous noise, a sound I dearly love. There is a section of the Kokosing Gap Trail in Knox County where their song is so loud that they drown out humans conversing, even when walking side by side. That sound is music to my ears, telling me that spring has definitely sprung.
The northern spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) is a frog that ranges in size from three-quarters of an inch to one-and-one-quarter inches in length – small enough to fit on a dime! Like other frogs, they can vary in color depending on temperature and other conditions of their surroundings. They have a distinctive dark X on their back, dark bands on their legs, and slightly webbed feet with noticeable disks on their fingers and toes.
These frogs make their appearance quite early in the year, just as the winter ice is melting. They are found in marshy woods, non-wooded lowlands, and near ponds and wetlands. They are good climbers but usually prefer to be on the ground or burrowed into the soil. They breed in permanent or temporary water so they need pools in their habitat. They breed from early spring through June, but most occurs in April with females laying between 740 to 1,300 eggs in small clusters, often attached to submerged vegetation. The eggs hatch into tadpoles in about four to 15 days, feed on algae or decaying plant material, and go through metamorphosis somewhere around 45 to 90 days old. From there, they begin their lives on land with no parental involvement, preying on ants, beetles, flies, ticks, mites, pillbugs, caterpillars, springtails, and spiders. Not much is known about the life span of the spring peeper, but it is unlikely that many live longer than three years. Large aquatic insects, snakes, larger frogs, fish, and birds find the spring peeper to be a satisfying meal.
You can keep your Buckeye Chuck or Punxsutawney Phil for forecasting spring. I am going to continue depending on the northern spring peeper to boost my spirits with its wonderful call that tells me spring has arrived. If you want to hear the sound, visit www.ohioamphibians.com/frogs/spring_peepers.html. And even better, join Preservation Parks of Delaware County’s Save the Frogs Weekend at Deer Haven Park on April 28, 2018. Check it out at www.preservationparks.com/events.
Please visit our website at www.delawareswcd.org for information about a variety of conservation programs we will be offering this spring and summer at www.delawareswcd.org.
Bonnie Dailey is deputy director of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to www.delawareswcd.org.