Sunday, March 26, 2017

Apple #742: Spring Peepers

As faithful Daily Apple readers may have noticed, your Apple Lady has fallen off the ball. This is largely because I have been stumped by the Trump Effect.  All week long, we are beset by news of whatever idiotic thing he's tweeted, whatever racist executive order he's made, whatever selfish and oblivious thing he's done, whatever outlandish lie he has told.  Each weekend, I try to decide what I want to talk about in a Daily Apple, and all I do is flail.

Do I choose some basic fact of science that one of his brainless minions has gotten completely wrong, and explain how and why it's wrong?  Well, it doesn't really matter to this administration whether they are right or wrong, only that they get their way.

Do I choose the latest bit of information about the ever-growing list of connections between Trump and Russian financiers, legitimate and not?  While an illegal financial arrangement is there, I am sure of it, the money dots have not yet been connected, and in the meantime, it's such a swirling pool of individuals, I'm not sure which person or bank is the one to profile at this point, or if I'd only be contributing to the swirl.

And there's the exhaustion of trying to keep up with all the ugliness of this administration.  Do I really want to spend another day of my week talking about that ugliness?  Would it be better to give people a break and talk about some normal thing from everyday life?  But then am I only sticking my head in the sand and ignoring the thing that is in the process of changing all our lives so dramatically.

Without a decision, I post nothing.  And another week passes.

But I think I found an answer it a tiny little thing.

This weekend, I was walking in a park in my city -- a large, many-acre park with lots of trees and some streams and rivers and even a couple ponds.  I took a little-used path deep into the trees, and it comes out to the edge of a pond at the far end of the park, and the air was ringing with the noise of the spring peepers.

I hope the little video I took to record the sound will upload here.  At first, you hear mostly the wind, but then the noise of the spring peepers emerges.  It doesn't seem as loud on my video as it did in real life.  There must have been thousands of them chirping away, super-piercing loudly.  It was almost tactile in my ears, the noisy peeping from all directions.

  • Spring peepers are tree frogs.  They live in trees and shrubs and bushes.  They have little sticky pads on their toes that help them climb.
  • They come down to ponds or swamps or other watery areas to mate and lay their eggs.
  • They could be any number of colors typical to frogs & toads -- brown, gray, green, yellow.
  • Their Latin name is Pseudoacris (false locust, for its call that sounds like the insect but isn't) crucifer (cross, for the X-shaped mark on its back).

Spring peepers are small, usually about 3/4" long.  The biggest they get is an inch and a half long.
(Photo from Yoopers Teez)

It occurred to me, these little peepers have no idea who the president is.  They could care less.  Well, they are certainly aware that the climate has changed and they're dealing with that, but they are getting about their business regardless. It is spring, time to mate, and that is for damn sure what they're doing.

  • It's only the males who peep.  They make the peeping sound to attract and entice the females. 
  • Most sites say they start their peeping at dusk, but every year I hear these peepers going at it in broad daylight.
  • A male frog won't peep until he's about three years old.  Since spring peepers only live to be 3 or 4 at most, they've got to get their peeping right.
  • They force a bunch of air into the vocal sac under their chin, and as that air passes over their vocal chords, it makes a squeak or a peep.
  • A male does this over and over, about 90 times per minute, for four hours in one day.  The next day, they do it all again.  This can go on for 4 to 8 weeks until everybody's got a mate.
  • Scientists theorize that they band together for their peeping because, even though it increases their direct competition with each other, they benefit from the combined volume of their calls.
  • The result is a gigantic chorus of peeping made by hundreds or perhaps thousands of tiny frogs.

Year after year these frogs get together and do their thing.  They put up this marvelous chorus which is unbelievably loud for their individual tiny size.  They've done this for centuries, and they'll keep on doing so for centuries more.

Yes, their habitats are threatened by over-fertilization and climate change and water shortages and everything else we hear about.  But these frogs, like so many other animals and plants around the globe, are keeping on, regardless of who is president, regardless of what idiotic things get said or done in Washington.  I have been coming to this park for I don't know how many years now, and every year, there are these peepers, peeping away like mad.  Come spring, no matter what, as long as they've got life and breath in them, these frogs are going to show up and get to peeping.

  • When one female is especially interested in one mate, she walks up to him ("enters his calling area," as the scientific site puts it) and nudges him.   Sort of like that old Monty Python sketch--nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean--except better.
  • The male climbs on the back of the female nudger and hangs on.  She swims back into the pond and starts laying her eggs, with the male hanging onto her back the whole time.
  • She can lay anywhere from 700 to as many as 1,200 eggs at one go, with Mr. Frog on her back the entire time.  
  • The male fertilizes the eggs after they emerge from the female are laid.
  • Within 6 to 12 days, the eggs hatch and you get tadpoles.
  • That's what it's all about. 

Male spring peeper atop a female. After she lays her eggs, she goes back into the woods. He stays in the water and keeps on singing.
(Photo from Naturally Curious with Mary Holland)

Life goes on, see?  These tiny little frogs, they make sure of it.  So I decided that's what I have to do.  Not, you know, breed like a spring peeper, but keep on.  I can't let some nincompoop with an overlong tie and the stupidest haircut and the most wrongest ideas ever--I can't let a jackass like that stop me.  I have to be like the peepers.  I have to get on with my business.  Help out where I can, do for others when I can, but I have to keep on with my own life too.  Show up and do my Apple thing.  So here I am, Appling.

I hope you're able to find a way to keep on keepin' on too.


Penn State University New Kensington, Virtual Nature Trail, Spring Peeper
National Wildlife Federation, Spring Peeper
Farmers' Almanac, Fun Facts about Spring Peepers
National Geographic, Spring Peeper

1 comment:

  1. Good to have you back! I love your blog because you find such unique and interesting things to think about. - Dannie


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