Spring Peepers have began warming up for their mating choruses along the Beaver pond near my home in Split Rock Wildway. Wood Frogs began singing—if duck-like quacks be song—from vernal pools in the eastern Adirondacks even before the ice was all melted. Gray Treefrogs, color-shifting cousins of the peepers, start their mating whistles soon, and may continue them intermittently well into autumn.
Loud Songs, Elusive Frogs
Here in the Adirondack Park, we are fortunate to live among frogs, yet for all the thousands we hear, we scarcely see more than a few. Spring Peepers’ chorus gets so loud that by mid-spring when my family sits on our porch by the pond, we cannot talk over the glorious din. Yet if I try to find even just one of these tiny songsters, I usually fail, seeming to create a brief wave of silence as I walk along the pond.
Gray Treefrogs do not sound so vast a chorus; but they, too, are much more often heard than seen, their mating calls often emanating from somewhere up in the trees. You can look right at one and not see it, for they change their skin color to match the background, of green leaf, brown ground, or gray bark.
Come summer, amphibian choirs will be enhanced by American Toads, with their many-voice rising trills; and Northern Leopard Frogs, with growl-like mating calls which fit their common name. Green Frogs will pluck like banjos and Bull Frogs will bellow like their namesakes on summer evenings, the males calling for females even after a first generation of pollywogs nears maturation. In colder parts of the Adirondack Park, Mink Frogs are part of the anuran music.
Fragile Frog Song: How Frogs are in Danger
Frogs, by the way, are good neighbors not only for their lovely music but for their habit of eating mosquitoes and leeches and other creatures we find disagreeable. Susceptible to habitat degradation, frogs also betray our environmental transgressions.
Living in the Adirondack woods, frog-song is nearly as much a part of our sonic environment as is bird-song. It is likewise a fragile source of music.
Even as we have diminished songbird populations by fragmenting their forest habitats (on summer breeding grounds where we live, and on winter grounds in Central and South American rainforests), we have reduced and polluted frog habitat by building roads and dams and putting toxic chemicals, sediments, and exotic species into waterways. We too often kill individual frogs when we drive rural roads on warm rainy spring nights, when frogs and salamanders may migrate between pools.
Frog-song makes spring special, and frogs are key players in healthy forest and pond ecosytems. Let’s save wild forests and free-flowing waterways to keep our hopping neighbors healthy.
Note: The content in this blog post was repurposed and a revised version is included in John Davis’s book Split Rock Wildway: Scouting the Adirondack Park’s Most Diverse Wildlife Corridor published by Essex Editions on Nov. 21, 2017. Learn more about the book and where to buy it at essexeditions.com. Watch the book trailer below.
- Jeepers Peepers! How to make an Amphibian Happy (lindenlandgroup.com)
- Moose in the Adirondacks (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Frog Wins Adirondack Life Contest (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)
- Snowy Owl Sighting (www.essexonlakechamplain.com)