Monday, September 26, 2011

Spring to Winter

March 25, 2009. Spring means one thing to me: birds dancing. Each spring, I listen carefully for the unmistakable sound of my favorite forest-dwelling shorebird, the American woodcock, Scolopax minor. On a recent stroll through the park at dusk, I heard it—a sweet nasal beep coming from the edge of a clearing. Peent.
This was followed by another more insistent peent about five to six seconds later. The distinct outline of a male American woodcock was visible as he cavorted on the snow in the midst of his elaborate mate-attracting dance.
After one more insistent call, I watched the sky above me for his spiraling upward flight. I could hear the twitter of his wings as he climbed higher and higher into the increasing dusk. As he descended back to earth, the twittering sound increased, complemented by chirping. He zigzagged and dove down to where he started, chirping with fervor. After a brief silence, he began his sky dance again.
Although the American woodcock is elusive the remainder of the year, the males begin their courtship in late March. If temperatures permit, the males will dance for 45 minutes every dawn and dusk until the first week of June, long after the females have nested. If you would like to catch this ritual of spring first-hand, find an open field bordered by trees.
At dusk, sit quietly with binoculars and listen for the distinctive buzzing call and twitter of the male in mid-dance. Although the male may appear unperturbed by your presence, be sure to give him at least 50 yards of space so that you don’t deter the females waiting in the wings.
February 18, 2009. Although winter in Acadia seems long to all those who yearn for spring, it may feel even longer for some frozen fauna. Many animals that frequent the park in winter have unique strategies for survival. While we are all dreaming of more daylight and the first spring flowers, other animals patiently await the spring thaw.
Buried beneath a thin layer of leaf litter and a rime of snow and ice, small wood frogs wait out winter as frog-popsicles. Although they are unable to travel south, burrow beneath the frost line, or make their own heat, wood frogs survive the cold because they are freeze tolerant. Like the spring peeper and chorus frog, wood frogs are land hibernators that overwinter in a frozen state. In early winter, as evening temperatures plummet, wood frogs prepare their own special antifreeze.
Once the wood frog begins to freeze, its liver rapidly converts glycogen to glucose. The nearly frozen frog becomes diabetic. The frog’s heart rate rapidly increases to pump glucose throughout the body. The glucose acts as antifreeze to protect the frog’s cells from bursting from ice crystal formation. The frog’s heart slows, and it snuggles down into the leaf litter to wait out winter.
Once spring arrives, the snow melts, daylight lengthens, and wood frogs, spring peepers, and chorus frogs emerge rapidly from hibernation to begin mating. Within an hour of thawing, the frog’s heart resumes beating, and within six hours, the frog begins its spring-time chorus.
For now, the wood frog remains frozen under a blanket of ice, dreaming of spring. As you explore Acadia’s winter landscape, think of the wood frog-popsicles waiting nearby.
November 14, 2008. Howdy. My name is Todd Edgar, and I'm the graphics and technology ranger at Acadia National Park. Welcome to Acadia's winter blog. As winter sets in, you'll find blog entries from different staff members who will share some of the interesting things they see and do.
As we make the transition from fall to winter, the leaves have fallen from the trees, and the temperature is beginning to drop. I've noticed some of the wildlife in Acadia also undergoing changes with the season. A loon on Jordan Pond was sporting its winter plumage. On a recent early morning drive to park headquarters, I spotted a fox that felt comfortable cruising along the edge of the Park Loop Road, as there is a lot less traffic during this time of year. And park visitors are sporting their stocking caps as they gear up for winter, too.
Through this blog, we hope to share what winter is like in the park, as well as the activities you can do in the winter season. Stay tuned for further entries, which we'll try to make each week.
If you aren't a fan of winter, check out Acadia's eCruise, a virtual tour of the park as it is seen from and shaped by the waters surrounding Mount Desert Island. It will remind you of warmer times of the year—and it just won first place at the media awards ceremony at the 2008 National Association of Interpretation national workshop!

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