A prince of a frog

March 29, 2014 

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DORLING KINDERSLEY — Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley RF

Among the very first of woodland creatures to send forth their songs and voices to brave the chill, rainy and windy days of spring are the tree frogs. They are tiny peepers, mostly less than an inch in length, stark naked, without even a hint of a fur coat to keep the chill wind, rain and icy water at bay. Scientists dub their family as Hyla, suggesting a “double life,” born in water, to live on land in trees.

A remarkable creature, the first of the spring peepers often is trilling his banjo-voiced songs of spring as early as mid-March, seeking to celebrate a bout of spring love-making that can last up to 14 wild hours of romancing per couple. Then they settle down to the family responsibilities of raising little tadpoles and devouring mosquito larvae.

Few critters can compete with the tree frog’s athletic skills. While Sam Clements of folklore fame launched his tall-tale-telling career describing the mighty leaping frog of Calaveras County, Calif., Carolina’s version of the mighty green sprite of spring has repeatedly demonstrated its capability of leaping over 40 times its length in a single hop.

The tree frog also serves as a lesson of tolerance: Folktales tell of a beautiful princess being challenged to kiss a bewitched and ugly frog. A potent kiss which, by some magic power, returns the frog into a handsome prince – and they lived and loved happily ever after.

Perhaps the story of the spring peeper at best is symbolic of March, sometimes known as the ugly month, and the awakening of spring. It serves as a reminder of the ugly frog of March and the magic found with the demonstration of faith and hope. It’s the story of how, when kissed by the sunshine of the April princess, the abomination of an ugly winter frog can be transformed into a handsome and romantic prince of April.

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