Hmm, what’s your name? If you were thinking Kermit you wouldnâ€™t be far wrong.
Winter seems to still be with me. The nights are consistently in the low 20s and snow remnants remain on the ground. Mostly on the north sides of hills and buildings, and hiding behind large trees and objects, the white has not completely gone away. Large swaths of lawn and fields are now visible and the remaining strands and patches of snow can look like washing laid out for drying or ice fields in miniature or ocean foam left behind by the surf. I didn’t think I would feel nostalgic for it but I do and will miss it after it’s gone in a week or two.
But the landscape is coming awake and one of the first groups of animals to become active after a winter’s hibernation are the amphibians. I’ve seen tiger salamanders coming out of the woods by a roadside, heading towards shallow waters and ponds, eager to reacquaint themselves with the world and get on with their lives. I like them, as with all of the native wildlife, but my favorites are Rana clamitans (rana=”frog” clamitans=”loud calling”), commonly known as Green Frogs.
Named for their coloring, they are the first of the frogs to start calling, their loud gulps sound like school kids trying to impress their cronies. Even before the sweet chiming of the Spring Peepers, Greens are gulping themselves for attention, seeking to impress and woo mates. Even with these chilly nights, if the days are warm enough, I can hear them.
Beth and I met a group of Greens last year while hiking on nearby State land. The destination was a large beaver pond, unexpectedly carved into a hillside. Two groups of frogs were vocalizing, calling from opposing ends of the pond (very Sharks/Jets, Yankees/Red Sox, or insert your favorite rivalry).
The Peepers were heard but not seen so we headed for the other end. Filled with Greens, they had spaced themselves evenly across the surface, floating with legs extended, so ridiculously open that even I could spot them. They silenced themselves as we approached but the drive to reproduce was too intense and the outlying ones were soon calling, quickly joined by the rest. Those moments added to one of our best hikes ever.
An aquatic-loving frog, Greens are never far from water and noisily splash and dive for cover when alarmed, consistently giving themselves away. It’s a puzzling behavior because if they remained still I would probably overlook them. Large bodies of water aren’t necessary and any shallow waters will do nicely. I reliably find them in a roadside ditch that is amply fed by rains and a seeping spring. A wetlands on a small scale, its only a foot wide, the ditch is also a home for cattails, sedges, and damselflies.
Frogs and other amphibians are not having an easy go of it, trying to survive in an increasingly manmade world. Along with the ongoing destruction and drainage of wetland habitats, climate change and a fatal fungus are devastating their populations. An essential element of spring would be lost without the frogs’ sounds.