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• Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Love is definitely in the air. Has been for some time, but in the last few days, I’m noticing a lot of telltale signs that animals are seeking animals. It started a few weeks ago with the woodfrogs mentioned in the previous post. Now, other frogs and some birds are catching the love bug.

On a recent frog slog with a friend (yes, that is what I do on Friday nights, don’t laugh), we were searching for an elusive, unconfirmed endangered species in Lower Makefield Township called the Northern Leopard Frog. They often share habitat with other amphibians such as bullfrogs, green frogs, pickerel frogs and spring peepers. Slogging through the water and mud in hip waders on a warm spring evening, the peeper singing was so loud, it literally hurt my ears. These little frogs are only the size of a man’s thumb nail, but their calls can be heard about a mile away. You’d think since they are so loud, they’d be easy to find. Not so. They are extremely hard to spot and they are often not at the water’s edge where you’d expect, but in the shrubs.
The males call a high pitched whistle to advertise they are a SPM (Single Peeper Male) ISO SPF. If another SPM comes calling, they add a trill to their whistle and a territory dispute ensues. The more dominant male wins the spot and can wait for a female to come by.

 

If a male and female do “hook up” she deposits eggs and he fertilizes them as they are extruded. The tiny eggs are laid singly and are about as big as of the head of a pin.

 

 

 

 

Some animals have already done their hooking up and are done for a while. My friends’ neighbor just brought me a baby turtle to be identified. Her son had found it walking around their back yard. Since I’m doing a turtle program in a few weeks, he was kind enough to let me hold on to it until then. This baby painted turtle is no larger than a quarter and hatched from an egg laid on land.

 

Other animals looking for love are birds. I’ve been hearing woodpeckers drum against trees for several weeks now. This is the time of year I get calls from friends about dumb woodpeckers pecking on aluminum siding or against the gutters. These amorous males aren’t looking for insects in your gutters. They peck against these things because they make a good noise. Mostly though, I’ve been hearing their drumming against hollow trees. The sound resonates and not only advertises a good territory to ward off competing males, but the girls like it too.

Over the next several weeks, you’ll notice lots of birds singing. Male birds sing to advertise themselves to the females and posture to other males. Get out with your kids and count how many different bird sounds you can hear. Once you get better at identifying a particular song, see if you can hear a competing male a few yards away. You’ll notice they actually “talk” to each other. You may begin to determine how far apart each territory is for each bird. Enjoy nature.

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