River talk

Early songs of spring

By SCOTT RANDO
Posted 4/8/22

About mid-March, when a couple of mild days arrived, I started hearing one of the first sounds that tell of the impending arrival of spring and warmer days ahead. I visited some vernal ponds, and on …

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River talk

Early songs of spring

Posted

About mid-March, when a couple of mild days arrived, I started hearing one of the first sounds that tell of the impending arrival of spring and warmer days ahead. I visited some vernal ponds, and on the 18th I heard the first quack-like calls of wood frogs.

There were only a couple at first; one pond was still half-covered with ice, and the calling frogs were congregated over on the sunnier side of the pond, which had open water.

Another vernal pond, near GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center, had many calling wood frogs; I ended up leading an impromptu “frog walk” with several children and adult volunteers.

The spring calling of male wood frogs signals an adaptation of nature that allows the wood frog to survive and thrive in its habitat. Soon after emerging from hibernation, wood frogs make their way to their breeding pond; they are usually the first frog to be heard in the region. They are usually heard before the spring peepers. Ponds may still be partially covered with ice when wood frogs start to breed.

Wood frogs are known as “explosive breeders.” This means that they tend to breed rather quickly, with no more than a week or two between the first calls to the last eggs being deposited. Each female can lay 1,000 to 3,000 eggs, which hatch nine to 30 days later. Adults then leave the pond for the forest habitat, where they spend the rest of the year before hibernating in the fall.

Metamorphosis occurs after two to three months. The surviving small wood frogs leave the pond and join the adults. Vernal ponds may dry up completely with the arrival of hot summer weather, but because the wood frogs breed so early, that point is usually reached after the wood frog young have already metamorphosed into frogs and left the pond. The fact that vernal ponds dry up frequently works to the wood frog’s advantage—they are not going to be eaten by fish.

If you see wood frogs during the summer, they are usually solitary and in forested areas, hunting for insects. Unlike green frogs and other species that prefer lakes or ponds, wood frogs prefer areas away from water, except during the spring breeding season. In summer, they frequently blend in well with the forest floor and may be hard to spot. Like spring peepers, wood frogs are not very vocal during summer; now is the time to hear the spring song of both species.

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