Monday, March 19, 2012
More sounds than sights of spring
Warm weather is starting to bring out new growth in the forest at Roundtop but not very much yet. The ferns haven’t started. I haven’t even seen coltsfoot or bloodroot, both of which are among the earliest blooms. The forest floor still looks brown and bare.
Rain has been is somewhat short supply lately, and I wonder if that’s what’s holding back the burst into spring. The temperatures have been more than adequate to get things moving. The only lack might be rain, and the near constant fog may make the forest seem damper than it is. In fact, the ground is pretty dry and last fall’s leaves still crackle underfoot.
Late March is often a muddy month, caused by the melting of winter’s snow. This year, without snowfall, March feels dry and a bit brittle. April rains usually add to my sense that spring is really little more than an extended season of mud. It’s still early to be thinking about April showers, but the first half of the muddy season isn’t producing any mud. I think April rains will be even more needed than usual this year to hopefully at least partially compensate for the lack of snowmelt.
This weekend I’ve heard gray tree frogs calling further down the mountain. I have to listen closely to tell what the call is, partly because of the distance. To my ear, there’s something about their bubbling call that tells me I’m hearing something else. If I’d heard the call during the day, I might say it’s some bird call that I don’t recognize. At night, the only other option is some species of owl, but even a saw-whet owl, notorious for its odd sounds, doesn’t make a sound like that.
This spring, I apparently have a bumper crop of them, as their sound now outnumbers the spring peepers, at least on Roundtop Mtn. The eastern gray tree frog, the species that lives at Roundtop, is small but not tiny. They are about 2-2.5 inches long, perhaps a little less. They are spotted and sometimes are more greenish than gray, though always with a bright yellow or orange area on the pale underside. They like moist woods, which is typical of the area along Beaver Creek, in the narrow valley between Roundtop Mtn. and neighboring Flat Hill.
What is unusual this year is that I usually hear them after the spring peepers are done with their spring songs. I hear them typically sometime in April, though I confess I don’t keep track of exactly when. This year they are singing in two-part harmony with the peepers—another thing that’s different about this year with no winter. I’m sure that’s just another difference in what will be a long list of oddities.