Hopping Down the Wood Frog Trail

We explored a new trail system on Easter Sunday, the Oak Hill Trails in Concord, NH.

OakHillTrailsmap

It’s seven miles of looping and intersecting paths through the woods, with moderate ascents and descents (my Fitbit recorded 51 “flights,” i.e., uphills), punctuated by wetlands — vernal pools, swampy areas, small ponds — and some long views.

trails entrance
trails entrance

trailtreessunlightOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016

straighttrailOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016 swampleavesOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016 swamppeninsulamossreflectionsOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016 trailmarkerssunlightOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016 viewSwopeSlopevistaOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016

trails were well-marked
trails were well-marked

Due to time constraints, we didn’t go the terminus, the fire tower, but walked most of the Tower Trail, with side trips down the Dancing Bear Trail and the Krupa Loop, where we came upon the wood frogs!

Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica or Lithobates sylvatica), once you have heard them, are easy to detect: they sound like quacking ducks. They and the smaller spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), both widespread in New Hampshire, are the earliest frogs to vocalise here (mating calls of the male), right after they rise from their hibernation and right before the females lay thousands of eggs in globular masses in the vernal pools. In winter, wood frogs hibernate on the forest floor under logs or leaf litter. They stop breathing and their hearts stop pumping. Mary Holland (Naturally Curious) wrote about them today (her posts are often keenly synced with local phenological events): “Prior to hibernation they convert glycogen in their bodies into glucose, a form of antifreeze that helps prevent the water within their cells from freezing, which would kill them. However, the water outside their cells does freeze. Amazingly, wood frogs can survive having up to 65% of this water frozen, yet when warm weather arrives, they thaw and move about in a matter of hours.” And so they did on Sunday, amphibians resurrected from their long, dark winter.

wood frog wetland
wood frog wetland
wood frog (from a distance)
wood frog (from a distance)

Two years ago, we unwittingly stumbled on some wood frogs along a rail trail, but in our eagerness to see what was making that quacking sound, we made so much noise that they abruptly stopped, as though a conductor had slashed a baton through the air. Though we stood stock still and waited quietly for 15 minutes, we never heard another quack from that pool. This Sunday, we knew immediately when we heard the faint quacking that it was the frogs and we crept quietly toward their mating calls. This two-minute video records their chorus, as well as the sounds of our walking in leaves (turn up the sound, as there is not much to see).

There were other surprises along the trail, like the sight of trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), almost ready to bloom.

EpigaeaRepensTrailingArbutusbudshairsonleavesOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016

And some lovely lichens on a boulder, interesting tree formations, rocky rooted trails … and perched on a signpost, a plastic football egg, with jellybeans inside.

leafylichencloseboulderOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016 treerootslikecreepyhandOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016 treetrunksecretworldOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016

rocksrootstrailOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016

TowerTrailsignfootballplasticeggOakHillTrailsConcord27March2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: