Late April is when we reach 14 hours of daylight, with the sun rising at 6 a.m. and setting at 8 p.m. With the pace of spring picking up, there is plenty to see during these hours.
Trees continue their spring response. Now red maples flower, much like those of silver maple earlier. Forsythia add yellow blossoms to the yard. A couple small trees and shrubs begin leafing.
I find consistently that the red elderberry is always first to unfold its new green foliage. This is followed by gooseberry and fly honeysuckle bushes, with lilac and quaking aspen also quick to turn green.
Woodland wildflowers abound in May, but in late April, we can see early ones. Hepatica opens the floral scene, but shortly thereafter are spring beauties and bloodroots. Before the woods get shady, we can find many kinds flowering here. But besides all this to see, there is much to hear as well.
Some of the newly arrived migrant birds now settle into territorial nesting sites and proclaim ownership with songs and sounds. Red-winged blackbirds sing in swamps. Robins and song sparrows sing in yards while hermit thrushes, kinglets and winter wrens announce to the woods. Others speak of territories with varying methods.
Ruffed grouse and woodpeckers both make drumming sounds in quite different ways. Turkeys gobble in the mornings while flights of woodcocks and snipes sound overhead. Geese and loons call from lakes and sandhill cranes loudly proclaim in fields and marshes.
But birds are not the only ones to make mating and territorial noise now.
With the early ice-out this year, I saw that vernal ponds were also open. This meant the waking frogs would soon respond. And yes, the early spring trio of frogs were awake and calling within days of ponds forming.
On April 3, I heard the first quack-like “glucking” sound from wood frogs. The following day, both the creaking sounds of chorus frogs and peeping of spring peepers were added to the vernal singers.
For a couple days and nights, they continued their sounds until cooling weather caused them to pause, only to be continued by mid-month. It is interesting to note that we usually do not see these frogs.
Wood frogs, the first to sing, are often the first to stop since they have a short breeding season, frequently over by the end of April. Chorus frogs and spring peepers will continue their sounds for a few more weeks.
- Northland Nature: Tiny toad time in late July
- Larry Weber column: Tree frogs now go to wetlands to breed
- Weber column: Seeing, hearing gray tree frogs again
Now, in the last week of April, they are often joined by a fourth calling frog; the trio may become a quartet for a while. Not in the vernal ponds — most-likely in nearby swamps — leopard frogs come to the surface and add their calls. Their contribution to the spring vocals sounds like a snore.
While wood frogs, chorus frogs and spring peepers all winter on land, leopard frogs go into the bottom of swamps for the cold season. Of other frogs and toads in the Northland, gray tree frogs and American toads winter on land, and green and mink frogs stay underwater.
Leopard frogs get their name from the spots on the body. Later in the summer, they may be more on land and more green, but now, they are an olive-green color in the spring wetlands.
Males appear to float on the surface as they do their calling. These sounds will continue into next month. But now, in late April, we can expect their snoring calls from swamps, and maybe heard as part of a spring frog quartet.