April 4, 2013

Something extraordinary happened on the first spring day up in the country (the Hudson Valley in New York State). Not the first day of spring (that’s March 21st) but the first day that feels like spring, which can be any day from early March to mid April. Well, we had a day like that last week and naturally we went looking for early signs of spring like spring peepers. So we were visiting pond after pond but most of them showed no signs of spring. Many of the ponds were still partly frozen and even those that had no ice still showed no signs of frogs, frog eggs, or tadpoles.

 

All that changed when we drove past a small spring pond with the car windows open and heard a deafening chorus of what sounded like a mixture of peepers and birds honking. We immediately stopped the car and got out to look. In addition to the usual high pitched chirping of the tiny spring peepers, the pond was alive with honking sounds and large, thrashing frogs. The sounds were deafening. The water looked alive with frogs leaping and grasping and showing sudden bursts of speed. I had never seen anything like it before. I had binoculars and a camera but the frogs were too far away from where we stood to really identify them. It was only after I got home and did some research that I found out what kind of frogs they were and what was happening.

I went to my computer, opened up the Google Search, and typed in "Frogs Quacking like Ducks". Sure enough, the answer popped right up.

 

The frogs were wood frogs, a small (1 to 3 inches long) blacked masked frog that lives in the eastern United States from Georgia all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It is the only frog known to live north of the Arctic Circle. Usually they live in wet grasslands or moist woodlands. But they hibernate during the winter and as soon as they thaw out in spring, they head for temporary ponds formed by spring rains and snow melt.

The wood frogs use these ponds to make and lay eggs. The male frogs call to the females with duck-like quacks. The females lay their eggs and the males fertilize them in huge masses that contain 1000-2000 eggs. The females move the floating egg mass into the shallow ends of the pond in a large raft of other egg masses. Then all the frogs leave the pond leaving the eggs to survive on their own. The eggs are even able to withstand freezing weather and ice formations. The eggs hatch in a few weeks as tadpoles and the tadpoles take about six weeks to develop into frogs. Another amazing story of the natural world!

I recorded some of the scene using the video setting on my camera. Click play below to hear (you may have to wait up to one minute for the video to load, depending on the speed of your connection. Be patient - it’s worth it!). The wind is blowing, which makes it a little noisy. But, listen past the gusty wind. The first thing you’ll hear are the high-pitched peepers. Listen more closely, and you’ll hear quacking, as if there was a flock of geese flying by. That is the sound of the wood frogs, and it was even louder in person!

Wood Frogs: Spring Pond Frenzy

Posted by: Seymour Simon

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