Spring is here in New Jersey and that means many critters are finally coming out of hibernation. Starting in early March you will begin to see turtles basking on logs, the rare dragonfly (YES dragonfly) buzzing around and you should be able to catch the high-pitched call of Northern Spring Peepers at night. And these can be LOUD.
It sounds crazy since, according to the old timey gardeners’ calendar, New Jersey’s frost date is May 15th, the date after which we are safe from frost. How do they do it? Nature has that figured out. For the peepers, as the temps drop, sugars begin to concentrate inside the cells of the little froggies and form a kind of natural antifreeze. As the car fanatics out there know, car anti-freeze is ethylene glycol, which is in itself an alcohol sugar. That’s why it is essential to keep antifreeze from collecting under a leaky engine as it forms a nasty and potentially lethal trap for any animal with a sweet tooth.
The turtles handle the cold in a different way. As the air cools at night, the ponds hold their heat to a great extent; shedding only a few degrees overnight and heating back up during the day. From just after the sun hits the pond surface to just before sunset, turtles bask in the sun above the water surface. During any other time, they will be submerged. Turtles bask more during the spring and fall than they do during the summer. In summer there is less need to bask as the water temperatures hover around the same ranges as those required by these animals. Due to their lower core body temperatures during Spring, turtles also move slower so get out and catch sight of them before they dive back in!