Monday, April 15, 2013

More Phenology 2013: Tiny Peepers and Other Little Ditties

Today (April 15th) marked the first time I've heard Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) this year.  Much like their congener the Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata), Peepers are one of the earlier frogs to call in our region.

The species name "crucifer" is in reference to the X-shaped mark (or cross) on their backs.

Like most amphibians, the Peeper must lay its eggs in water, which is the reason why the males call around wetlands this time of year (i.e., to attract females for reproduction).  Although many larger frog species around here lay their eggs in large gelatinous "masses", the Peeper is alittle different.  They lay their eggs singly, or in small clumps, attached to vegetation in the water.
The tadpoles are also small and mostly non-descript to the unfamiliar eye.  In general, tadpoles of frogs in the "Treefrog" group (Family Hylidae), which includes the Gray Treefrog, Cope's Gray Treefrog, Chorus Frog and Spring Peeper in our fine state, have a deep tail.  Peeper tadpoles don't get as large as the Treefrog tads....but are similar in size to the Chorus Frog tads....which makes them hard to ID as tadpoles.

Otherwise, it's been for the birds.....

A Pair O' Canada Geese (Branta canadensis)

Goosey, Goosey Gander laying down the law.....

....and Fido turning the tables on Goosey......

Also, a confused Sandhill Crane....

Some other firsts for the year:
April 3: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (yard)
April 7: Eastern bluebird (prairie on campus)
April 7: Goldfinch (yard)
April 15: Tree Swallow (prairie on campus)

I should also point out that recently I attended the National Council of Undergraduate Research to support some of my students that were presenting data from our research projects (where I also saw Alyssa doing a very nice job of presenting some of her research).  This conference is the reason why I took a week off of the blog.  There were about 11 total ecology students from my institution attending the conference and as a group we took a small field trip to a neighboring marsh (~2 hr hike).  While there, we saw a variety of birds, despite the short time frame.

Here's a hasty species list, based on what I can recall:

The aquatic birds were particularly obvious:
American Coot
Pied-Billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Scaup (couldn't tell if it was Lesser or Greater)
Ringneck Duck
Blue-Winged Teal
American Black Duck
American Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler

There were a few Raptors
American Kestrel
Bald Eagle (Juvenile)

A few odds 'n' ends, and I'm sure we heard more that I couldn't identify (my bird call ID is rusty!)....
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Belted Kingfisher

Then there were the common ones....the Red-winged Blackbirds, the Common Grackles, the European Starlings, the North American Robins, and such.....

Overall, it was a good experience for the students and an enjoyable for me to watch them mature as professionals.


  1. That's a great shot of the developing eggs.

  2. Thanks, JK!

    I was fortunate awhile back to have coordinated with a colleague whom had peepers he was holding in a tank. He was holding them specifically so they would spawn and he could snap shots of the eggs. otherwise, it would be pretty hard to find the eggs to get these pics!