This tiny frog can be heard calling any month of the year in Ohio if conditions are right. This usually means rain and temperatures above freezing. Even in late Fall or Winter it is not unusual for me to hear a lone frog calling when on a hike.
Though an individual can be heard “peeping” at this time of year, this frog’s “claim to fame” is being a harbinger of Spring. Large groups of these amphibians often gather and and call – in some cases producing very loud choruses of sound.
For some, seeing an American Robin is an indication of the coming of Spring. For fans of amphibians, hearing many of these tiny frogs calling indicates that Winter is loosening its icy grip on the landscape. The fact that this little creature functions at low temperatures is amazing to me.
Found in wooded areas and grassy lowlands near ponds and swamps in the central and eastern parts of Canada and the United States, these miniature, well-camouflaged amphibians are rarely seen. But the mid-March crescendo of nighttime calling from males is a sign that warmer days are just around the corner.
Spring Peepers are tan or brown and have at least some ability to change color. They only grow to about 1-1/2 inches and have toe pads for climbing, though they are more at home amid the loose leaves on the forest floor than in trees.
A distinctive “X” on their back is a good indentfication characteristic. This marking accounts for their Latin species name, crucifer, which translates as “one who bears a cross.”
These frogs breed in freshwater ponds or pools and prefers to use waterways where there are no fish. They often use temporary ponds that dry up after their tadpoles have transformed into adult frogs and left the water.
The Spring Peeper mainly eats small insects, including ants, beetles and flies. It will also consume spiders. It is believed that food is chosen more by availability and size than by actual preference for a certain item.
Third Eye Herp
I never thought I’d see the day, but today it happened. Don’t believe me? Then read on.
Alison and I took a boy named Evan out to see some signs of spring (which officially is only a week away). We heard frogs calling from woodland pools, so we stopped to check it out.
All those ripples and swirls are from Wood Frogs swimming around, looking for mates.
There were a few Wood Frogs on land too, heading for the water. This one was pretty colorful.
So we caught it, to check it out more closely. These amphibians can be easily identified by their “robber’s mask.”
Evan decided that further investigations were in order.
A bit of log turning revealed a Spotted Salamander.
They spend most of their life underground, but head to the pools in March to lay eggs. Then they return back to the woods.
Of course Evan would hold it, but the big question was would Alison hold it?
Third Eye Herp
How do you know that spring has arrived? Some would say it’s when they see their first Red-winged Blackbird. Some would say that it’s when a particular flower starts to bloom. But that’s all nonsense. Spring is officially here when Spring Peepers start calling. But before they do that, they must wake up from hibernation and migrate to woodland pools, where they lay their eggs. In these parts, Wood Frogs, Spotted Salamanders and Jefferson’s Salamanders often join them.
It rained pretty heavily until early afternoon, but then it stopped. But it still turned out to be a very good night for seeing amphibians. Wood Frogs were everywhere. I’ve never seen so many in one night (we only stayed for an hour).
Here’s a female heavy with eggs. Unfortunately they didn’t close the road like they usually do, so there were quite a few casualties. We called a ranger and he stopped by shortly thereafter to close it.
Although the Wood Frogs were calling in full force, there weren’t many Spring Peepers calling yet. Only two were seen on the road.
Salamanders tend to start crossing a bit later at night, but eventually they made their presence known. Here’s the first of many Spotted Salamanders.
One with relatively few spots.
But the Wood Frogs kept coming too. Sometimes I’d be photographing one and two or three would hop right on by.
A few were orange and a few were pink.
A hybrid/intergrade salamander that no one can quite figure out.
This spotted was just chillin’ in a roadside puddle after making it across the street.
And this one successfully crossed the “finish line” too.
Hey, that’s a spotted salamander, but it’s not a Spotted Salamander. This newt was probably looking to cash in on some tasty amphibian eggs.
Gray is my favorite color, and this Jefferson’s Salamander certainly was a fine sight to see.
It was quite a night!
Third Eye Herp