14 April 2006

And then there were peepers...

I feel genuinely sorry for those who live in a place where they can’t hear peepers at night—whether because they live in a highrise in a downtown metropolis, or merely in an area where these little darlings don’t sing their alluring nightsongs. Because once you’ve heard the call of the spring peepers, you know that spring IS here, and that all is right with the world. More or less.

What’s a spring peeper? Pseudacris crucifer, a tiny frog with a delightful voice…I think of them as vocal fireflies, peep peep peeping their bellike voices as soon as spring weather warms up a bit. They’re nocturnal, usually less than an inch to an inch and a half in length, and they have these delightful pads on their toes that look like suction cups, and are actually used to grip and hold onto plants as they are climbing. Peepers range in colour from grey through beige to brown, but they can be easily recognized by a marking shaped like an X on their backs.

Last night was the first night we’ve heard the peepers call; the green frogs have been singing their hearts out for over a week now, but earlier this evening, I went out to take down a windchime that was trying to blow away in the current Bay breeze. And despite the gale—of warm air, to be sure—I caught that distinctive sound out by the pond. Just a few tonight. Tonight, there are many, many more, and the songs will go on until late June or early July, when all the mating is finished (because it’s the males who are sending out this siren song, not the females!). This is the most perfect sound of spring that we know of.

Another sign that spring has arrived in Scotts Bay is the arrival of ‘da fog’. We get fog occasionally during the winter but spring heralds the start of the foggy season in earnest. I happen to like fog, most of the time; it keeps our gardens and grass green when people only a mile or two above the fogline are having to water; it swathes us in cool, soothing moisture when the Valley floor shimmers with heat. It’a actually amusing to watch people drive over from the Valley, in their tee shirts and halter tops and convertible tops down, drive into the fog about at our property line, and suddenly decide they’d better put on more clothes or put the top up. It can be ten degrees cooler here, and while there are times when the fog is irritating, for the most part I wouldn’t trade it for the sweltering heat of the Valley, thank you very much.

The gardens are starting to leap forward in earnest, as there have been several rainshowers as well as unseasonably warm weather the past few days. If I were feeling better, I’d be outside dividing perennials now, potting them up to share with friends or donate to plant sales locally, but alas, the flu I eluded all winter caught up with me and knocked me flatter than a snow-covered juniper, so all I can do for a few days is look outside and watch things grow. And this really IS a time to watch things grow; even from the office window I can see the perennials pushing up out of the ground, the fuzz of shoots starting on some of the earlier shrubs; there are a few tiny flowers of forsythia on the big shrub on the south side of the house, and there’s a rose in the greenhouse that has sprouted up with new shoots. I’m hoping it’s one of the old fashioned yellow roses I rescued from an old farmhouse in Canning, either Harison’s Yellow or Persian Yellow. (There’s certainly something to be said for labeling plants when I collect them…that’s going to happen this year, thanks to the great copper plant tags I got from Lee Valley!)

We have crocus, iris reticulata, puschkinia, scilla, glory-of-the-snow, snowdrops and snowflakes (Leucojum) in bloom in various patches, while the first few daffodils on the hillside coming up the mountain to the Lookoff have also begun to bloom. I’m still a little bit leery of this weather; after all, three Easters ago we had a vicious cold snap that killed off a lot of things, with temperatures in the minus double digits with chillfactor…but that would be highly erratic given the winter and spring we’ve had so far.

Despite being seriously under the weather, I sneaked out this afternoon for about half an hour, with my dearly beloved making me wrap up like it was 40 below, and we walked around and looked at the gardens, then sat on the little deck way out back and listened to the symphony. The green frogs were playing their banjos and a few early starting peepers were tuning up, plus we had a lovely counterpointing melody from assorted songbirds; robins, redwinged blackbirds, chickadees, juncos, goldfinches, and one mournful sounding dove, wondering “who who who who” ate all the birdseed? Two of the cats were chasing flies in the pasture, then parading over to us to collapse in exhaustion and recount their hunting battles to us. And we sat and marveled yet again at this place of ours, and were grateful to be stewards of the land around us.

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