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Jeepers Creepers, It's Peepers!

These tiny frogs are making quite a noise in Greenwich wetlands.

Throughout the wetlands of Greenwich, a persistent sound is coming from a tiny brown frog.

If you have a wetland in your backyard or happen to come across one in your travels, you may hear a very audible, high-pitched crescendo of "peeping" coming from the edge of the water. 

These sounds are the mating call of the male spring peeper, a tiny frog only about less than an inch to 1 1/2  inches in size found in wetlands in the eastern United States and Canada. By wetlands I mean vernal pools (temporary pools of water), swamps, flooded ditches and marshes. The peepers and other amphibians are safer in these waters since they are devoid of fish that could prey upon them or their young.

In areas where there are dense numbers of peepers their sound can resemble jingling bells.

If you were to stand at the edge of the wetland where the din is coming from, you would most likely see nothing that could possibly be making such a loud sound. The frogs are so tiny and so well camoflauged that they can easily go undetected.  They also can go silent when someone approaches too close. 

On the chance you do get to observe one of these fascinating frogs in action you will see the males vocal sac expand and deflate like a balloon as it makes it's peeping sound. The faster and louder he sings, the better chance he has in attracting a female.

Peepers have large toe pads and are good climbers. The males will call from shrubs, small trees, or grasses in or near standing water as they try to get the attention of the females.

As i stated in my previous column, the peeper chorus is a classic sign of spring and one that can easily be recognized. To the novice, the sounds of peepers can sometimes be confused with crickets, but crickets are usually only heard in late summer and early fall.

Greenwich resident Gigi Lombardi told Greenwich Gone Wild, "I live near a pond and at first I thought I was hearing crickets until one day I was told that they were actually frogs." She added, "I couldn't believe frogs could be that loud and high-pitched. I notice they're more vocal at dusk and when you are close to them the sound is almost deafening."

Spring peepers become active at dusk and continue their chorus throughout the night and early morning. They feed on beetles, mites, ticks, ants, flies and spiders.

The frogs mate and the females lay their eggs on underwater sticks, debris and vegetation. They usually lay up to 900 eggs but can lay up to 1,000. In about 12 days the eggs will hatch and the tadpoles will remain and feed on algae and tiny organisms in the water. By mid-summer they will have grown into tiny frogs and will leave the water and retreat into the forest. The young tadpoles must grow up quickly because by late summer many of the wetlands where they were hatched are dried up.

In the winter the peepers will hibernate under logs and behind tree bark where they can allow most of their body fluids to freeze into a state of torpor.

Once the spring thaw begins they will emerge and head to the wetlands once again to begin their spring chorus and create another generation of peepers.

Learn to identify the distinct call of the peeper and you can look forward to their chorus every year and know that spring is here.

Spring peepers are common but can be significantly affected by surface water runoff. Chemicals, herbicides and pesticides that get into their habitats can be deadly to the frogs and their offspring. 

Homeowners and landscapers should always think first before using any herbicides and pesticides especially near wetlands. 

anne martine cook March 25, 2011 at 03:42 PM
Another wonderfully informative and beautifully written article by Brian O'Toole Thank you Brian and Patch Anne Martine Cook
Neil Isford September 30, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Brian...an excellent article. We have a large colony of beeper frogs in the wetlands area across from our house at Hemlock Drive and Oak Street. I've been told by some long term Greenwich residents that this is one of the best places to see them. How rare are these frogs? Thanks, Neil Isford (isford@aol.com)

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