Mar 3, 2012

Spring Marches On

Spring Peeper, one of the earliest and smallest 
frogs to breed in Virginia. 
Photo from US Geological Service.
I finally heard the Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) calling, although not on the property where I live. Reports had come to me from several people in my county and to the south that the chorusing had started, but I hadn't heard the chorusing anywhere in my hollow here in Rappahannock County.

When it got up to 70 degrees a few days ago, I joined a friend at a local cafe for coffee. On the way home through my hollow, I drove really slowly with my windows down and radio off. Sure enough, I heard a full chorus about a mile into the hollow, where there's a pretty extensive wetland, so I wasn't surprised but was a little relieved. It had been so quiet at my place, except for the increasing birdsong as migrants came back to claim their territory and the overwintering birds were joining in.

It seems strange that, although we have plenty of what appear to be potential breeding spots on the property where I live, no peepers are in evidence. It may be that it's just still too cold. The sun goes down quickly on this "morning side" of the mountain this time of year. We also haven't had much rain or snow, so the small wetland isn't brimming with vernal pools. I hadn't heard any Wood Frogs, which will only breed in vernal pools (a hint of fish, and the females are outta there), anywhere in the county but again had gotten a few reports. I had heard reports of them calling in February, and likely their breeding season is over by now.

Last June, when I moved in, and throughout the rest of the breeding season, I only heard and saw Northern Green Frogs down at the pond. The Northern Green Frog, Lithobates clamitans melanota, is a subspecies of Green Frog and also listed as Rana clamitans melanota in the evolving frog taxonomy, It is the most abundant frog species in Virginia and is common throughout much of northeastern North America. Further south is its cousin, the Southern Green Frog (a.k.a Bronze Frog), Rana clamitans clamitans. Green Frogs are not picky about where they breed, which is probably why they are so common.
Female Northern Green Frog. 
Photo by Matt Reinbold, licensed under the Creative Commons
I'll be listening more closely down around the ponds this year and am even thinking of participating in the FrogWatch USA monitoring program again, now that I'm on property that does have frog habitat. The last house was on a dry ridge, so I could only hear most species from a distance. FrogWatch, now managed by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, is an easy citizen-science program in which to participate. Here in Virginia, we only have to learn a few calls, and sound files of those are available from Virginia Herpetological Society and other places.

On the way home from running errands today, I stopped at the pond as I usually do when my dog is onboard. With temperatures hovering in the low 50s and an intermittent breeze, insects were not as prevalent as during the warmer temps of just a few days ago. No sign of amphibian eggs anywhere in or the ponds or few shallow vernal pools.

A bunch of Red-spotted Newts were hanging around in the sunnier shallows of the ponds, looking a bit flirty, and a few minnows swam by, but that was about all the action down there. It's supposed to be even cooler tomorrow but steadily warming in the week ahead, so maybe my herps will get more cranked up. I'd love to hear frogs romancing but am unlikely to hear their calls filling the air until the Green Frogs start their thunking, banjolike mating calls later in the spring.

In the meantime, maples have joined cedars and junipers in spreading pollen, putting a damper on my enjoyment of spring. However, with or without allergies, warming weather always cheers me, and I look forward to more pleasant rambles around the mountain as spring progresses. 

No comments:

Post a Comment