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In Praise of the Chorus Frog

They’re calling! Have you heard it? I’ve heard it, the chorus of tiny voices trilling from the woodland edges near my home. Every year as the snow melts, I hold my breath each time I step outside and strain my ears to catch their magical announcement on the wind: spring is here at last.

Chorus frogs, though less well-known by name than spring peepers (even if they are likely to be more frequently heard) are usually the first frogs to begin calling in the spring. Their call is similar to the sound of a fingernail being run down the teeth of a plastic comb, whereas the peepers actually say, “peep peep peep.” Both of these frog species are tiny, maxing out at about an inch from snout to vent, but their calls can be heard over vast distances.

Perhaps the most fascinating adaptation of the chorus frog is its ability to survive having much of its body water actually freeze in the winter. Like several other frogs that breed in the early spring, this freeze tolerance allows these guys to spend the winter near the surface of the soil, sheltering in leaf litter or just underground, close to the ephemeral wetlands where they will breed once the water returns in the spring. This is also why they emerge before all the other frogs—as soon as the ground begins to thaw, they thaw with it!

Year after year, my heart skips a beat when my ears first pick out the treasured notes of that long-awaited music. And no matter how old I get, I’ll never be able to resist the impulse to crouch silently by the chorus frog pools and wait for them to get used to my presence and begin singing again. The water ripples out around their throat pouches as they trill, and eventually, my eyes remember how to pick through their camouflage to spot the little maestros themselves. Each sighting is just as exciting as the very first one I saw as a child. All my worries melt away as I return to that long-ago moment year after year, and a new feeling takes their place: an electrifying excitement. After all, Mother Nature is listening to the frogs too, and she knows now that it’s time. She’s drawing in one last breath before she unleashes all the green, all the vibrant growth, all the brand-new life of a breathtaking spring.

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