Celebrating Spring Peepers! Tiny Frogs with a Mighty Voice
Now that it’s March, it’s almost time for the peepers to usher in spring!
Renowned science writer Carl Safina describes spring peepers so beautifully in his new book The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World. I enjoy reading anything by Safina, who usually writes about the ocean, sea animals, or birds. He’s won many awards for his work, including the MacArthur “genius award.” Safina’s writing reminds me of Rachel Carson’s—very lyrical, yet not sentimental. In this book, he writes mainly about a year he spent in a cabin on Long Island. In the chapter, “March: Out Like a Lamb, ” he writes this about spring peepers:
I open a window to let in the season’s lushest, most delicious sound. It’s from tiny tree frogs that come to water to go a-courting—Spring Peepers. So far, these little amphibians remain abundant. And for as long as they’ve been, and as long as they are, their singing makes the difference between the night of winter and the breath of spring…
Hearing them is easy. Seeing them takes some effort. But even after I step into the shallows as deep as my boots allow, even though I hear calls coming from the half-submerged vegetation right around me—well within the halo of my flashlight—they’re all but invisible. They’re smaller than the tip of your thumb, colored like dead leaves. The majority of my neighbors—even many who were raised here— have never seen one. Many people assume the callers are crickets. But the sound and the season are so different, one might logically assume the moon is just the sun at night.
Safina goes on to describe how as a teenager he taught himself how to find spring peepers by following the sound into the woods at night, but they were very elusive. He finally found one and
…when that tiny movement caught my eye, I saw the littlest frog I’d ever seen, his bubble-gum throat puffed almost as big as his body, calling his heart out. That mighty sound from that tiny body appealed to my teenage sensibilities. His was a strong, clear voice, defiantly undaunted about being so small a soul in so big a world.
Spring peepers Safina writes are a “strong and joyous life-affirming presence” and he would
…gladly suffer a chilly bedroom just to open a window in spring when the peepers are at their peak, and let the exuberant trilling chorus resonate in my chest. “We’re alive,” they seem to say, “and time is short.” No sound in our region is so welcome and welcoming, so revivifying, as peepers in full spring chorus. Or so seemingly unlikely. Out of dust, God is said to have made one man. But here, out of mud, such song!
To celebrate peepers and spring, Susan created a poster for Earth Day 2011, with a wonderful photograph by Richard D. Bartlett. Enjoy!