I was laying in bed a few weeks ago, trying to fall asleep as the wind drove the rain against the side of my house, when I suddenly heard something. A sound I had been waiting for weeks to hear. I sat up in bed listening, not sure that I actually heard it, when suddenly, I heard it again. The clear, high-pitched “PEEP!” coming from a male treefrog known as the Spring Peeper singing by my pond just outside my window. Despite the cold front that was moving in, I knew that winter had finally lost its grip. How did I know this? Because these little frogs are the harbingers of Spring!
Here in Missouri, and in much of the northern part of their range, Spring Peepers are the first frogs to emerge from hibernation, and they start singing during the first warm rains of the season. On warm nights (I’m not a fan of being cold), I like to go out and look for them! I’m sure my neighbors have wondered, on more than one occasion, what the heck I was doing as I hovered by my pond armed with my camera and a headlamp strapped to my forehead! These little guys are hard to spot though and I usually have to stand really still until one of them starts singing again and betrays his location. Even then, I’ve spent many nights hearing them but not being able to find them.
Spring Peepers prefer shallow pools of water (or in my case, my 4×6-foot prefabricated pond) surrounded by lots of low-growing vegetation so they can hide from any predators. They are small frogs, only 3/4 – 1 1/4 inches, which may surprise you given the loud volume of their calls. As the nights get warmer, their calls get louder, to the point where they can often be deafening. They are different shades of brown, gray or olive and are identified by the dark cross on their back resembling an “X”. This coloring allows them to blend in easily with the dead plant debris leftover from the previous season, making them a challenge to find.
Whether I see them or not, I enjoy listening to these little amphibians. To me, they’re announcing that winter is finally over and warmer days are on the way!
What signs of Spring do you look for each year?