The Mast-Head: Evensong

Tuesday’s downpour and warmer daytime temperatures were enough to draw the peepers from their winter hibernation

   April showers bring May flowers, but March showers bring peepers. These tiny frogs are rarely seen but heard every evening from now until late summer. They begin as a thin chorus, gradually growing into a stunningly loud, high-pitched din by the peak of breeding season.
    In past years, when the peepers reached their orgiastic crescendo I would phone my friend Todd Osborn in Seattle and, saying nothing, not even hello, just let the frogs do their thing while he listened. Todd died last year from cancer, so this season’s frog-song carries for me a mournful note amid all the hope and amphibian lustfulness and biological imperative it signifies. I will be thinking of him as the frogs rave on.
    Tuesday’s downpour and warmer daytime temperatures were enough to draw the peepers from their winter hibernation, and a knot of them could be heard calling just after dark from the marsh near the driveway. It was too wet to stand outside and give their song a good listen, but comforting that the sound signaled the end of winter as I walked in from the driveway after work.
    As I do each year, I wrote the date of the peepers’ arrival on a basement wall in pencil. Ten and 12 years ago, the peepers would not be heard until the week of March 20 or later. This may be too short a time sample to mean anything, though the trend toward earlier appearances is clear from my basement record.
    From the day the frogs first sing there is no turning back. Osprey will soon appear overhead, joining the red-winged­ blackbirds, house wrens, and other early arrivals on the South Fork. Striped bass season opens tomorrow. It’s difficult to believe: Just a week ago, we were shoveling out and groaning under yet another dump of snow.