Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Peeper

The sound of spring peepers rings across the valley from a nearby pond.  With the chorus of tiny voices, you might think it would be easy to see and photograph one.  Until Saturday, they had consistently eluded my camera.  Each step I would take toward a peeper pond seemed to silence another peeper so that once I was ten feet away they all become silent.  Ground based creatures seem to be intimidated by things from above.

Since spring peepers are the size of my index fingernail, and Barb hasn't approved my requisition for a 100mm macro lens (and the camera to use it with), distance is a big problem.  In the absence of technology I would have to use stealth.

This time I chose a pond with a six foot high dam so I could approach the water unseen.  The chorus was in full voice by 4:45 while the low lying sun was still reaching the pond surface.  I crawled up the side on my belly like Uncle Sam taught me, discovering in the process that my belly wasn't the same one I had used in 1967.

I reached the top and peered over and saw....nothing!  There was the water, dead leaves and floating sticks with even a few mushrooms, but no frogs.  The cacophony continued unabated, scattered voices from all around the pond edges.  Finally I made out a tiny bump that seemed to vibrate on a log to my left.  Crawling six feet to the left and then peeking over the edge I was face to face with a singing peeper.  He (only males call) watched me closely as I ever so slowly brought out my pocket camera.  I waited several minutes with my arms outstretched until it again joined the chorus.  The next 10 minutes I continued to film it, pausing when it became suspicious and stopped singing at intervals.  Mission accomplished, and with this video!

Spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) spend the winter in torpor, hiding in leaves and under logs.  So how do these apparently soft and tender amphibians survive the winter?
"The spring peeper produces glucose, or sugar, and "freezes" itself for the winter. In winter, peepers' bodies freeze--but their cells don't rupture because of the concentrated sugars in them. These sugars act as a kind of natural anti-freeze.
Like many of the chorus frogs, the spring peeper is often heard, but not seen. It gets its name from its call, which consists of a single clear note or peep, occurring once a second. Only the males sing, calling from shrubs and trees standing in or overhanging water.
The faster and louder a male sings, the more likely he is to attract a mate. A male peeper may also give a lower-pitched trilled whistle, usually when another male has moved too close to its calling site. During the daytime, peepers often call during light rains or in cloudy weather."  Maryland DNR
A final confession.  I broke the rule of "Take nothing but pictures leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time."  When I got home I discovered I had taken a number of ticks from the pond dam. You can guess the killing part.

More pictures are available at fcps.edu.

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