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peeping chorus; A tiny frog signals the end of winter.

Byline: George Barnes

Peep -- Peep -- Peep -- Peep.

Peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep, peep.

Peep.

Starting at the end of the winter, the chorus of peeping grows and grows, with the sound eventually so loud and so plentiful the calls blend together and have been described as sounding like constantly ringing sleigh bells.

Spring peepers can be deafening at times -- disconcerting, but also comforting to people who hear them as a sign that a seemingly endless winter is over.

This winter was bitterly cold and endlessly snowy, and any sign that it is over is a thrill for many.

Spring peepers are harbingers of the season, normally beginning their chorus around the time of the vernal equinox. They are small but very noisy frogs. They emit a high-pitched call during mating season which is familiar to many people, especially those living near New England swamps, ponds, vernal pools and brooks.

Cindy Dunn, site manager and conservation coordinator for Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary in Princeton, said spring peepers and wood frogs, which also come out in the spring, are now extremely active in the sanctuary's many ponds and wetlands. The sanctuary is a welcoming place for spring peepers with its varied wetlands and surrounding fields and forests.

"They are one of two true tree frogs that live in Massachusetts,'' she said.

The two are spring peepers and the gray tree frog. Tree frogs have sticky toes allowing them to climb trees. Ms. Dunn said they live most of the year in woodlands and move to wetlands to breed and lay eggs.

"The chorus we're hearing is related to breeding,'' she said, adding that the frogs sing for much the same reason that birds sing in the spring -- to attract mates. "The full chorus can be quite remarkable.''

According to The Journey North, a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change, spring peepers can start appearing in the South as early as November and into December, but emerge from hibernation in New England in the spring, mostly between March and June. Males are the noisiest of the species, but females get their peeps in as well. The chorus attracts females to males and also helps warn one male to keep his distance when he is too close to another.

Lynne Brogan of Gardner said the peepers are so loud at their home on Nicholle Terrace in Gardner, they have to shut the windows to dampen the noise. Their home is near Foster Brook and spring peepers have gathered there in droves.

"We can hear them over the TV with the windows closed,'' she said. "Saturday they were making that racket in the middle of the afternoon.''

Mrs. Brogan said the sound is a nice sign of spring, but makes it difficult to sleep some nights.

Cindy Coppolino is not a fan, probably because the frogs take up residence right outside her house on Hunt Road in Oakham. A small pond in her front yard is also swarming with the little noise makers. She said it is deafening, and at times maddening.

"I have to keep the windows closed at night,'' she said. "They definitely interfere with sleep. It probably wouldn't be as bad if it was constant, but they sometimes stop and just as you get used to the quiet, they start up again.''

Mrs. Coppolino said she has lived in other places where she could hear them in the distance and found it pleasant. But the noise in Oakham is too much.

"On a bad night they sound like a shrill alarm clock,'' she said.

Kim Peckham lives on Peach Street in the High Plains section of Barre and she says the peepers are incredibly loud on her street.

"It almost hurts my ears,'' she said, adding, "But I adore it. It's a glorious choir and awe-inspiring to me.''

Ms. Peckham said she does not know how anyone could not enjoy the sound, and she said it does not interfere with her sleep or enjoyment of her home.

"It's easy enough to close your windows and listen to television or music, but I not only open my windows, I go sit outside on my front porch at night to listen to the peepers in all their glory,'' she said. "I love to record the chorus on my iPhone -- it's so loud -- and then text the recording to my now adult children and other family members and friends.''

Ms. Peckham lives near a swampy area off the Ware River where she also sees and hears owls and other birds of prey.

"After such a long winter, with everything so dead seeming and feeling, to me that sound is a reaffirmation of life,'' she said, "And a reminder that everything truly is a circle that goes on and on. I always find hope and promises in nature. Peepers equal spring.''

Michael and Suzanne Faille of Charlton live on Old Worcester Road, less than 100 feet from a small swamp that is swarming with spring peepers. It is so loud, Mr. Faille said, that they can hear it with their windows closed. It can be extremely loud, but after 30 years living there, they still enjoy peeper season.

"I look forward to it every year,'' Mr. Faille said.

The Failles have no trouble sleeping with the noise, but Mr. Faille said when his then future son-in-law Peter Brytowski of Auburn visited one night, it was a different story.

"He's from the city. He'd never heard anything like it,'' he said. "He couldn't sleep all night.''

Contact George Barnes at george.barnes@telegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @georgebarnesTG
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Title Annotation:Local
Author:Barnes, George
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 22, 2015
Words:942
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