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I should have been alerted to Spring's arrival when I bought the pussy willows and mayflowers at a Halifax market almost a month ago. Maybe I should have clued in when the crocuses bloomed, or when I noticed robins tapping about the sunflower bed. Even when Easter came and went, I was oblivious. Maybe the white noise of the city outside my office window had something to do with it. Or maybe I was lost in thoughts of web site design, or the price of lobster this season. Maybe Spring just kind of snuck in during those brief periods of intermittent sun over the last month. Whatever the reason, I realized that winter was really behind us when I heard a sound that took me back to childhood in the country, where you don't have to look for signs of Spring's arrival. In the country, Spring rushes out to meet you with an abundance of audiovisuals that you just don't see in the city.

The Green Gables convenience store on Main Street seems an unlikely place to herald the arrival of a new season. There must be a swamp behind the store, but I've never seen it. That's a place I go only at night when the urgency of monitor munchies hits the hardest. But there was no mistaking the high pitched trilling of Spring Peepers a few nights ago. I listened for a bit, and then something must have startled them, for they suddenly fell silent. I waited, but they didn't return to their happy chirping again. Photo Courtesy of the Province of Nova ScotiaThe contrast was too eery, so I left. As I drove away, I thought about these small frogs, living in the city, where a boardroom decision can destroy their habitat with a few pushes of a bulldozer. I was reminded of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring , written as a grim warning in 1962 and voted in l996 as the most influential book in 50 years.

Later, lurking on the local naturalists' newsgroups, I read through countless messages about who saw what migratory bird, and when and where, and what kind of caterpillar has a certain stripe. And then something caught my eye... Nova Scotia has an avid group of people devoted to frog watching. Frogwatch Nova Scotia is part of a national ecowatch co-operative effort by all the provinces and territories, the Canadian Nature Federation, and Environment Canada's Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN). While our little Spring Peepers aren't on the endangered species list yet, they were the star performers in l996, the year of the first Frog Watch.

According to EMANS, "Frogs and toads are a part of local biodiversity - the amazing variety of life around us. Conserving biodiversity is essential to the health of the planet and the welfare of humankind." Frogs are being monitored globally as well because they are considered an 'indicator species' due to their vulnerability to changes in the atmosphere and habitat. Tracking changes in the geographic range, the beginning and ending of the calling season, and the population of frogs and toads in Nova Scotia can help us understand changes occurring in the environment. More than just a harbinger of spring, the Peeper has become a vital link to survival of the human species.

Volunteers are needed to monitor Nova Scotia frogs. Here's how to become involved. First of all, learn the mating calls of the province's 8 distinct species of frogs. Locate a swampy or marshy location and once or twice a week between April and July, hunker down for a bit of observation. Then, record the date and what you hear and see on the special Frog Watch form and email or fax it off.

Now maybe you don't like the idea of becoming a mosquitoes' banquet on the edge of a bog, but if you can pause for a few minutes on your way into Green Gables, there's something about the sound of Peepers that speaks to our sense of living, like breathing air that smells of pine cones and tastes of seaspray. If you feel any responsibility for conserving our natural heritage, send in your EMAN observation form. You'll feel better for it. And if you still don't know the difference between a Spring Peeper and a Bullfrog, maybe it's time you listened up. It may be your last chance.

Your comments on this, or any other Highway7.com article are welcome. Email your Editor at Highway7.com.



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Further Resources:

NS Environment Links
How To Ease The Itch of Insect Bites

Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History
Nova Scotia Frog Sound Files
Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists
Nova Scotia Nature Trust

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Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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