After hearing several reports of frogs singing, I finally heard my first Wood Frogs unexpectedly. Unfortunately, they were only heard and not seen, but the delight in their sounds was a shot in the arm. Wood Frogs are the first amphibians to emerge from their overwintering sites to announce their presence and entice female activity. It is the males that "sing", though it is more of a quacking noise. If you can observe them in a small shallow pool, you may see them expand their throat pouches as sound is produced. Sometimes if you net them, they can be stroked to produce the same noise. There may be clumps of them as their sexual activity takes over. All of this happens in a short period of time, so it is wise to go out listening when the afternoon temperatures get in to the fifty degree range. Once the mating takes place and the eggs are laid, these Wood Frogs go back into hiding under leaves and logs for protection if it turns cold. Right now, it has turned cold - down in the teens - and that may have happened. Rest assured, however, since these frogs are very cold tolerant. Their eggs lie in gelatinous masses that give protection if wetlands freeze over. Incidentally, Wood Frogs are marked with a black eye patch, though their size and color may vary.
My spring awareness activities were also enhanced by sighting what I consider to be the first flower of spring. These are those of Coltsfoot, so named since its leaves which appear later are shaped like a colt's foot. The flowers strongly suggest a Dandelion, but a closer look reveals the differences. These yellow flowers arise on a scaly pink stem. You may see them along roadsides pushing up through the remains of winter plowing and sand. The flowers, a compound multi leafed creation, close on cloudy days so spend sunny hours looking for them. They will go on to produce a fuzzy seedhead, and ultimately those green leaves that give them their name.
I took a long walk out to Small Point this past week on a breezy and mild day. This time of year it is quite desolate, but I always enjoy the sounds and sights of raw ocean activity. I found a dead seal on one of the beaches, which had been attacked by hungry birds. It might have been a Harp Seal since the fur was quite white in color. This time last year, I was keeping an eye on a White Sided Dolphin that had washed ashore out there. I am always amazed at the huge logs that land up on the rocks in heavy surf. It makes one realize the force behind the high tide waters in a storm. I walked several beaches and first thought someone had preceded me. It turned out those footprints were those of deer. The tracks were fresh, and made me think these animals had gone down to the water's edge for some salt. I didn't catch sight of them however. The news about deer is that there numbers should be up this year since we've had a relatively mild and snow free winter. I'm sure that makes the hunters happy, but we shall see.
Spring, for me, means finding Coltfoot and hearing the first frog songs. The grass is starting to turn green on lawns, but not on the marshes as yet. There is more bird activity and their songs are also in the air. What does spring mean to you, and what signs turn you on? 3/28/10 Ronnie in a spring rhythm.