Here in the heart of Carolina, the high-pitched call of the male spring peeper is as indispensable an element of the soundtrack of early spring as the monotonous hum of the dog-day cicada is to the ambience of late summer.
If you've been out of doors anywhere near a pond or stream or puddle in the past week, you should have heard their calls, and if you were quite close to the water,
you may have had difficulty hearing anything else over the deafening chorus of amphibious courtship.
Seeing these diminutive divas is another matter altogether, however.
They may be in the water, on the bank or in nearby vegetation, and while they are not shy about singing with strangers around,
it can be nearly impossible to pinpoint the source of an individual caller.
They remain resolutely motionless, generally prefer to stay near or under cover, and have wonderfully camouflaged skin. More than one frustrated seeker has been known to abandon the search and settle for the audio-only version, all the while muttering their doubts as to whether the frogs are large enough to be seen by the naked eye.
For the brave and determined soul, however, who's willing to brave the chill of a late winter's eve, and silently make their way to the brink of a local farm pond or ephemeral pool deep in the dark of night,
it is sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of a bold bachelor or two,
belting out their best from a perch in the open, the better to be seen by other amorous amphibians.
And on this particular night, the peepers are so firmly focused on wooing that an early emerging mosquito manages to drink its fill from an unflinching frog, even as the camera flashes bright.
(Note: Several viewers have indicated the mosquitoes are a little difficult to spot. We agree! In the picture below, a mosquito with belly distended by blood is perched on the left rear leg of the frog. In the picture immediately following the one below, the mosquito is perched on the curled leaf surface beside the frog, feeding from its right foreleg.)
In a rather nifty turn of the tables,
we notice other mosquitoes preying upon other hormone-happy hoppers as we make our way around the pool.
Ants, flies and mosquitoes typically comprise a significant portion of the spring peepers' diet, but tonight the mating game apparently takes priority.
As the amphibian chorus reverberates among the towering pines,
a dozen voices are amplified to the volume of hundreds,
and a dozen cross-bearing males wait with bated breath for a mate to appear...
before resuming their peeping again.
As for Hoot Owl Karma, we slip silently back into the darkness, content in the knowledge imparted by our very own eyes.
Spring is here!