Nighttime can be noisy in spring.
“That sound is going to make me crazy,” I told my husband the first spring spent in our house. “What is it?” I couldn’t imagine what big scary animals lurked in the woods and around the pond nearby.
“Peepers,” my brother-in-law told us on his next visit. “You’ll get used to it.”
Learning the loud “peep” would die down in summer made it a bit easier to endure. Plus, now that we had a name for the animal making the sound, we were curious about what it looked like.
It was a perfect opportunity for a nature lesson. The best part was that my then elementary school-aged girls didn’t even realize they were learning. We jumped online and did a quick Google search for “spring peeper.”
Turns out peepers aren’t big, scary animals after all. They’re small tree frogs, about ¾ to 1½ inches long. Their single, high-pitched “peep” – a sound they make roughly 15 to 25 times a minute – is a mating call made by the males. They “peep” during breeding season, which generally lasts from March through May. It’s a pretty loud sound for one tiny frog. Put a whole bunch of tiny frogs together and you’ve got a really big sound.
We learned a lot of interesting information that day. These amphibians are usually green or brown in color and have a dark “X” mark on their backs. They live around ponds and in marshy areas. Their feet have sticky toe pads that allow them to cling to trees and plants. Despite the fact that they are good climbers, they tend to live lower to the ground in thick grass or on bushes.
Spring peepers hunt for food at night – they eat small insects such as ants and flies – and hide in the daytime. Of course, being so small they’re not much of a temptation for larger animals. Their biggest threat comes from ground snakes.
The recent return of the peeping reminded us that there are little lessons in nature all around us – particularly in spring when nature is revealing itself in magical ways as flowers bloom, trees burst with leaves and baby animals begin to emerge.
The peepers have become a welcome sign of spring for me, frequently accompanied by a chorus of bullfrogs. However, not everyone in my house is quite as excited about the “peeping.”
My son called me from his bedroom the other night, where he was trying to sleep with his window open. “What is that noise?” he asked, a quizzical look on his 7-year-old face.
“Peepers,” I said. “You’ll get used to it.”
For other ideas for spring nature lessons, check out Nature Rocks, a website that has tons of ideas for discovering nature where in your backyard and beyond.
Also visit Nature Detectives by Woodland Trust, a UK-based company that offers lots of downloads and ideas.