"Stop," I said to Pamelia. We listened. "Are those the turkeys?" We were on a four-mile walk late this afternoon, on the warmest (mid-50s) day of the year so far here in coastal Down East Maine. We kept going, expecting to find our familiar feathered flock.
But then we neared a roadside vernal pool and realized: Those are wood frogs calling. Spring really is here.
Wood frogs are amazing. As they go through winter buried beneath leaves in shallow forest burrows, they can partially freeze. In fact, they can survive the freezing up to 70 percent of the water in their bodies for up to four weeks. Research has shown that their hearts can start beating normally again even before all the ice inside them has melted.
In doing some wood-frog research I discovered that the Fairfax (Va.) County Public Schools have an ecology website that's pretty good. I loved its simple description of wood frogs and their mating behavior:
"To mate, males call females from the water. When a male sees another frog, he hugs it (called amplexus with frogs). Unfortunately, he can't tell a male from a female until he does. Once he hugs the other frog, he can feel if she is fat with eggs, or if he's grabbed another male. If he grabbed a male, that male will croak loudly, and this will make the first frog let go.
"When the frogs have mated, the female will lay a large egg mass, holding over 1000 eggs into the water. Usually, she attaches it to some sticks or stems of a plant."
Nice job, kids (and teachers). If any of you blog followers want to escape into a Maine spring for one minute, click on this youtube video I made after our walk and just listen. It's quite beautiful. If you look closely you can see the frogs moving in the water.