Anxiously awaiting the sound of spring in Queensborough

A peeper: these little frogs make quite a racket on an early-spring evening – but it is a lovely racket to hear.

A peeper: these little frogs make quite a racket on an early-spring evening – but it is a lovely racket to hear.

According to local naturalist Terry Sprague, who writes a weekly column in the Tweed News, it won’t be long until we experience a true sign of spring: the sound of the peepers, or little frogs, in wetlands and marshy areas. In fact, Terry’s Feb. 20 column, which you can read here, said to expect the sound about a month hence, which is almost – now. The column noted that, as with so many things, climate change seems to be having an effect on the frogs, and encouraging them to come out earlier than they used to:

“The Marsh Monitoring Program, an important monitoring tool administered by Bird Studies Canada, and used by the Bay of Quinte Remedial Action Plan to determine the health of the bay, routinely has chosen April 15th as the start date for frog monitoring. (But f)or the past three springs, chorus frogs have been calling away in vernal ponds and roadside ditches by late March, and were all but finished singing before the monitoring season even began. Last spring, while {I was) on a hike on the north side of Frontenac Provincial Park, some 40 km north of Kingston, five species of frogs were croaking away in collective happiness on March 21st.”

Climate change is a very scary thing, but I have to admit I am happy to hear the peepers as early as possible, because it means the long cold winter is over and soon everything will be fresh and green again. And today, as we are going through yet another cold spell in Montreal, with more below-zero temperatures and snow in the forecast, I could sure use a dose – or even a hope – of spring.

The sound of the peepers in the marshy areas near the Manse is inextricably bound up with my memories of growing up in Queensborough. To hear them again (as perhaps I will next weekend), in the same place, after all these years, is – well, magical.

11 thoughts on “Anxiously awaiting the sound of spring in Queensborough

  1. While we are enjoying 20 degree weather today, it has been colder than normal in South Carolina this winter. I don’t mind because we know this means great syrup weather in Canada! While we love it here, we are looking forward to hearing the spring peepers up north. My grandfather’s bit of pioneer lore was this every year when we heard the first frogs, “They have to freeze up three times before spring is really here.” As a matter of interest, we will be heading for New Brunswick for Easter to see our twin grandsons. On our way, we will be passing very close to Lowell Mass., where a friend’s family lives!! Thinking of you guys as we head north…GnG

    • Gracious, a three-time freeze-up sounds awfully hard on the frogs! But Nature can be cruel… At any rate, that is an interesting bit of pioneer lore, and when/if I’m in a position to be around the frogs full-time for a spring or two, I will observe to see if that’s how it works. (Mind you, as Graham points out in a separate comment, there don’t seem to be nearly as many frogs as there once were. Doubtless another worrisome effect of climate change.)

      Enjoy your trip through New England to visit the twins! (Gayle, if you have time, I recommend the newly opened Merrimack Premium Outlets mall in Merrimack, N.H., not that far north of Lowell; we found more than enough things to buy there one visit last fall!)

  2. This is the first March Break in a long time wherein the snow has NOT melted from the lawns & fields. In fact, this past week has been rather cool. Last year at this time, many were considering planting their gardens…it was so warm.

    As for frogs, I encountered just 2 bull frogs on my 4 acres beside the Black River [800′ waterfrontage]. A decade or so ago, I would have encountered upwards of a hundred.

    • Well, as Gayle and Grant noted in another comment, the good news about the cold is that it will prolong the maple-syrup season and make for good syrup, so there is that. As for the snow that lingers – well, the snow in general this winter makes one feel good for the groundwater situation, especially after last summer’s dreadful drought. When I look out at the Manse lawn and see the snow packed around our new elm and maple trees I think of how happy their little roots are going to be when it melts.

      I believe I have read that the frogs are getting scarcer because of climate change, which is sad and worrisome. I do hope the peepers are in sufficient quantity to put on a good (audio) show in Queensborough this spring…

    • I will, Sandra – and because I pay extra to the nice folks at WordPress so as to be able to post audio on Meanwhile, at the Manse, perhaps I will be able to record a a bit of it and post it for you!

  3. Another interesting factoid — most of the attractive “frog” sounds in the spring are actually made by toads! [I had to memorize amphibian sounds for a herpetology course at U of Guelph.]

  4. The chirp of the peepers is one of my favourite sounds, right up there with the patter of rain on a tin rooftop and the lonely whistle of a distant train.
    If I were a poet I’d try to rhyme “peepers” with “sleepers” because the sound of those little froggies knocks me right out (as does rain falling on a roof). Like you, Katherine, I grew up near marshland, plus a hockey-rink-sized farmer’s pond next to our house, so whenever I hear the spring peepers I’m immediately catapulted back to the Georgian Bay area a half-century ago.
    Wife Winnie, on the other hand, is a city girl, having growing up in Hong Kong and downtown Montreal, but she’s come to appreciate that magical springtime peepers’ love call. I think she was won over when, a decade ago, I took her to the annual Frog Call at the Ecomuseum in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, which I highly recommend. Very informative and very noisy. Cheep, cheep, chirp, chirp, croak, croak … Never let it be said that I don’t know how to show a lady a good time.

    • Jim, you and I have the same favourite sounds!There’s nothing like the sound of rain on the roof to put one to sleep, is there? Meanwhile, thank you for the information on the Ecomuseum’s Frog Call, which I did not know about. Indeed, sounds like quite the date!

  5. I am so looking forward to the sound of the peepers. Steve and I were just speaking about them earlier in the day and then you posted this post. That was after we had had our perfect day at Riverbend. A trip to the Tweed health food store, a drive to Belleville for new glass for the woodstove and a tour of the Bellevile farmer’s market (jams, honey, maple syrup and baked goods were on display), then a trip to the Book Worm in Madoc where we dropped off 6 boxes of books and ended up buying some more, a trip to O’Hara Maple Sugar Bush to taste the maple syrup (waiting for the amber to buy some), a stop to look at the mill and dame in Queensborough, a discussion about the peepers as we passed where we hear them and then back to Riverbend for a sit by the river to watch the geese. Spring is coming.

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