Peepers Are a-Peepin’

The ear-piercing and incessant peeping from the spring peeper is the bellwether of the our region’s annual awakening. It’s amazing that a group of frogs, each smaller than two inches in length, can produce a chorus that drowns out even the loudest traffic noise, but it’s always a welcome sign.

Spring Peeper (by Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons)

Spring Peeper (by Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons)

Many of us look forward to their calls because it means the soil is warming and we’ll soon see buds expanding and flowers exploding. While the spring peepers seem to have a consistent early presence in our area, just like many other amphibians, they rely on good water quality to thrive.

Amphibians, which include frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts, absorb oxygen through their skin. They lay their eggs in small puddles or ponds and may be found submerged in water. Many of the ponds and vernal pools in this area can support myriad sensitive critters.

While our spring peepers aren’t endangered or even rare, their populations are generally declining along with lots of other amphibians, largely because of habitat damage or loss.

While the peepers are almost always the first to start singing, their chorus lasts only a few weeks and gradually gives way to other frog and toad calls in many of the same ponds and pools. Each time we drive, walk, or ride a bike through a puddle or a small pool in the woods or fields, their habitat is degraded, however fleeting or minor that disturbance may seem.

Vernal pool in the forest  on Catoctin Mountain

Vernal pool in the forest on Catoctin Mountain

Spring peepers use vernal pools as well as permanent ponds to lay eggs and each time they are disturbed, egg masses might be lost. Because spring peepers don’t require vernal pools, they may not be declining as quickly as some other species, such as wood frogs, that do require those seasonal pools to lay eggs.

As you hear the high-pitched peeping this spring, know that the water they are calling from is good enough to support sensitive frog species. They will continue to call every spring when the soil warms just so, as long as their water is healthy enough to support young peepers.


Click here to listen to 30 seconds of spring peepers (with a few toads trilling in the background).

To watch a male spring peeper do its singing thing, check out this video on the Encyclopedia of Life’s spring peeper web page

More great frog habitat. Known as a "vernal pool," this forest wetland is temporary, holding water in spring, but drying up completely  through the summer and fall.

More great frog habitat. Known as a “vernal pool,” this forest wetland is temporary, holding water in spring, but drying up completely through the summer and fall.