This past weekend, I woke to the sound of two spring peepers calling from amphibian ponds at Owls' Knob. Their constant peeping is a comforting sound to me in spring, but in December it is somewhat troubling. I recall having heard peepers in autumn but this is very late in the year for them to be calling.
These small chorus frogs hibernate under leaf litter in winter. They do not dig deep enough to prevent freezing so their cold blooded body drops below freezing temperatures. Their bodily functions shut down and their body partially freezes. To avoid exploding they force water out of their cells so it turns to ice in between the individual cell walls. They also create glucose, from energy reserves, that serves as a natural anti-freeze. With these adaptations their core temperature can drop to only 21 degrees Fahrenheit!
However, this December has had highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's. So the spring peepers are not retreating under logs, rocks, and leaf litter, but instead singing at the edges of ponds. I worry that they will use up precious energy reserves and not have enough glucose in their system to last the winter, (if winter indeed comes this year.) Hopefully these frogs are fat and just happy to be hopping on a warm winter day.
- Roslyn Imrie
- I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.