Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Volunteers Enhance Habitat for Spring Peepers.....

....and all the other amphibians in the constructed wetland.

The spring peepers are loving the constructed stormwater wetland in Boone this spring. They have certainly made themselves known through their high-pitched peeping sounds that bring smiles to peoples faces. These tiny well-camouflaged amphibians are rarely seen, but by mid March their crescendo of sound is a sign that spring is here. In the High Country, we have the commonly found Northern Spring Peeper subspecies, Pseudacris crucifer. You can find (most likely hear) Peepers in wetlands, marshes, ponds and even along roadside wet ditches, so long as there are ephemeral water sources that support their eggs and tad poles throughout the spring months.

These tiny frogs, the size of a paper clip, are mainly nocturnal carnivores, perching on lower portions of reeds, grasses and bushes waiting to eat beetles, ants, flies and spiders. Spring Peepers are tan or brown in color with a dark cross that roughly forms an X on their backs (thus the Latin name crucifer, meaning cross-bearer).

Only males make the high pitched singing noises to attract their mates. When the females lay eggs, they don’t mess around, they will lay about 1,000 eggs, which attach to twigs and leaf litter at the waters bottom. Last spring, when the wetland was just finished with construction, one could watch “herds” of tadpoles work their way across the wetland bottom consuming all the algae along the way. It was amazing how much they ate!

You might be wondering what’s going to happen to the Spring Peepers when we get a late spring freeze. Don’t worry about the peepers, they can allow most of their bodies to freeze during winter hibernation and still survive. Their bodies will freeze but their cells don't rupture from freezing. They have a natural sugar (glucose) that serves as a kind of biological antifreeze.

Volunteers are adding seed mixes that were harvested last fall to the bare areas of the wetland to create more habitat for all the “critters” that use the wetland. If you are interested in learning more about the constructed stormwater wetland, email Wendy_Patoprsty@ncsu.edu

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