Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wood Frog Woodstock

March 24, 2010
Warren County Bikeway

Can you ever be sure that you have heard
the very first wood frog in the township croak?

Ah! how weather-wise must he be! There is no guessing at the weather with him.
He makes the weather in his degree; he encourages it to be mild.
The weather, what is it but the temperament of the earth? and he is wholly of the earth, sensitive as its skin in which he lives and of which he is a part.
His is the very voice of the weather. He rises and falls like quicksilver in the thermometer.
Thoreau's Journal, March 24, 1859

Since a year ago, I have been looking forward to hearing the quacking of the wood frogs again.
They come from their forest hideaways to the very pools where they were born, there to mate and lay eggs. After this short but intense breeding period, they will once again hie to the woods, for the remainder of the year. So this time of year is a great time to actually see them, and witness the groovy wildness of Woodfrog Woodstock.

There’s music, and dancing in the mud,
and good times with someone you just met,
and probably won’t see again (or be able to remember, if you do.)

There is a spot just off a busy local trail where I anticipate their spring frolics. It's wondrous that such a small shallow pool of water can hold hundreds of woodfrogs at this time.

With the weather being unusually warm for this time of year, imagine my surprise when I went to show a friend this spot where the frogs would be – and viola, they already were !

From that day to this, I have returned to their pool many times, knowing that their breeding period only lasts a week or two at the most. Midweek, the weather turned “seasonal” again, which meant several freezing nights.
This cooled their ardor (understandably) but when the air warmed up to 50 degrees again, the frolic continued.
If you read up on them, (places like here) you’ll learn that these frogs can produce a sort of antifreeze in their bodies, enabling them to freeze and thaw without harm.
This ability apparently starts during their egg-hood too, so there was little likelihood that this weather could harm the frogs or their eggs.

Jackie had sent me a link describing a naturalist’s humorous attempts to communicate with these amazing creatures.

Of course, we had to try it too ! So a few days after that, when she visited my neck of the woods, off we went to the frog pool.
It was warmer today, and our little Romeos were quacking, clacking and chuckling away like crazy. At our approach, they got quieter.

After looking over our shoulders (we were sitting within a foot of the sometimes-busy bike trail), we commenced to quacking, trying to get a response.
We sounded more like chickens with whooping cough than woodfrogs.

There was a moment of embarrassed silence from the frog pool.

Then we tried again, really putting some oomph into it (I noticed Jackie was sitting with her legs folded, just like a big frog) – we soon fell to laughing till we cried, at the ridiculousness of it all, wiping tears from our eyes -- and then –
The pool came to life as every male seemed to answer at once !

More laughter, this time in response to the scary realization that we have entered the ranks of People Who Talk To Frogs.

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