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'Nature's symphony' readies for spring

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POSTED: February 28, 2013 3:30 p.m.
DNR photo/

The call of the spring peeper frog is widespread and common this time of year, according to John Jenson, wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

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Officially, spring is three weeks away, but in Coastal Georgia, the sounds of spring are in the air every afternoon and evening. By sunset each day, frogs, toads, crickets and various song birds are warming up their voices and “wing bows” for a spring concert.
According to allaboutfrogs.org, toads actually are frogs, although their physical features are slightly different. The website notes that frogs usually have smooth, moist skin and lay their eggs in clusters. Toads have rough, “warty” skin and lay their eggs in long chains. Male frogs and toads both are known for their melodious voices, which they only raise when breeding.
“It’s only males that are calling, and they’re calling to attract a female,” explained John Jenson, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Different frogs are active at different times of the year. Most of the frogs you hear now are probably winter breeding frogs that have come out after recent rains and temperatures staying above 55 degrees.”
According to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, some of the most common toads in this area are the Southern toad and the Eastern spadefoot toad. The lab’s website said the Southern toad, which can be fairly large, makes a cricket-like sound. The Eastern spadefood toad, which also can grow pretty big, makes sort of “waah” sound, almost like a burp.
According to the website, the bird-voiced tree frog is a common tree frog heard in this area. As its name implies, its vocal sacs produce a sound much like a bird whistling. Another tree frog, the squirrel tree frog, also called a rain frog, has a voice like a duck with a head cold. Those who live near swampy areas or ponds are likely to have heard the deep bellowing of a bullfrog and grunting of a pig frog. Jensen said the most widespread frog calling this time of year in Georgia is the spring peeper.
He said there are 32 native species and two non-native species of frogs and toads in this area of Georgia. Both non-native species come from the Caribbean, he said. The greenhouse frog is unusual in that it lays its eggs in the moist soil around tropical plants. Often, the plants are shipped to this area where the eggs hatch. The Cuban tree frog, which is much larger, clings to the sides of boats and have thus found their way to Georgia.
Jensen, an Auburn University graduate who has served with DNR since 1996, said his office is in Forsyth, but he works all over the state.
“I work with reptiles and amphibians,” Jensen said. “I take part in population surveys of particular species and conduct workshops throughout the state.”
He said one of Georgia’s endangered frog species is found on Fort Stewart and 10 other areas. The gopher frog is in trouble because of habitat loss, rather than some kind of environment contamination, he said. It only breeds in isolated wetlands of the sandhills. The ponds they breed in have to pop up after heavy rains and cannot contain any fish, which would eat their tadpoles. He added the gopher frog often lives in the underground dens of the gopher tortoise, which also is a threatened species.
Jensen said other participants in nature’s spring serenade often include crickets, which play their “fiddles” by rubbing their front wings together, and song birds such as doves and whippoorwills. Later, as summer draws near, other “singers” will include katydids, owls, night hawks and flying squirrels.
Those interested in learning more about Georgia’s natural symphony or other information about Georgia wildlife can call DNR at 478-994-1438 or go to the DNR’s website at www.ga.dnr.org.

 

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