No larger than a nickel, Spring Peepers return each Spring to Pequot Swamp Pond to mate and lay their eggs.
Open, marshy areas such as Pequot Swamp Pond are now filled with the sound of Spring Peepers. These frogs are about the size of your thumb, but don’t be fooled by these little guys as they can be quite loud! The males are the only ones that call using a high-pitched “peep” that can be deafening in spring. Many people describe their call as the sound of sleigh bells. Even when I have quietly stood still in a marsh, surrounded by hundreds of calling males, I can rarely spot one. The purpose of their large vocal sac is not to amplify their call, but to make sure it can be heard from all directions. This ventriloquist-trick makes it seem that the calls are coming from everywhere at once. But, the females manage to find them.
Spring peepers are tan or brown in color with a dark X on their back. This cross pattern adds to their Latin name crucifer or cross-bearer. This tiny species has large toe pads for climbing, but is most often found in the leaf litter of the forest floor.
How wonderful that with our saving The Preserve, these little jewels can migrate to and from their breeding sites without the risk of crossing roads, driveways, and chemically treated lawns draining into their breeding grounds.
With temperatures in the single digits this morning, we were wondering why the bare legs of birds like this black-capped chickadee don’t just freeze and fall off! We went to the website of the Cornell Ornithology Lab, and found this answer:
Actually, songbirds do get very cold feet: the surface temperature of their toes may be barely above freezing even as the bird maintains its core body temperature above 100°F (38°C). But most birds don’t succumb to frostbite because there is so little fluid in the cells of their feet, and because their circulation is so fast that blood doesn’t remain in the feet long enough to freeze.
We don’t know if cold feet bother birds like Common Eiders or Snow Buntings. We do know that they have few pain receptors in their feet, and the circulation in their legs and feet is a double shunt— the blood vessels going to and from the feet are very close together, so blood flowing back to the body is warmed by blood flowing to the feet. The newly cooled blood in the feet lowers heat loss from the feet, and the warmed blood flowing back into the body prevents the bird from becoming chilled. For more information, visit www.allaboutbirds.org.
Kate Brown of the Trust for Public Land took this picture of a Red Eft chillaxin’ on an outcrop of cool quartz in The Preserve. What is cool about these little creatures is that they don’t stay red efts. After wandering the forest floor for up to three years, they return to water and change their bodies to an aquatic shape, complete with a flattened tail for better swimming, and a dark green color for better camouflage amongst the water plants, becoming what we call Eastern Newts.
But why the bright red color during the Red Eft stage? The color tells would-be predators that the Red Eft’s beautiful skin is highly poisonous.
How wonderful that these petite princes of the forest don’t have to cross any roads within The Preserve. Let’s keep working together to keep it that way.
More information on Eastern Newts and their Red Eft Life Stage at http://www.aqua.org/explore/animals/eastern-newt