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Response John Hay March progresses toward its end, gradually adding to the population . Dark-headed, deep-colored male robins tug at worms on the lawn. Red-winged blackbirds sail low over marshes, or take stations by the edge of a pond, with needy cries. The purple finches sing, along with the shrill braying of the blue jays. White-throated sparrows, quail, jays, and partridges that have been here all winter are more in evidence, especially on sunny days, and begin to be accompanied by newcomers, like the greckles. Myrtle warblers flutter up into the air and down again, catching insects. But the wind blows. It backs and fills. The rain is cold. The turn toward spring is very gradual, hardly perceptible at times. Then a few alewives, a dozen or so, come in out of salt water and show up in Stony Brook, familiar strangers large, pale fish weaving slowly up through the narrow stream. It has begun to be a time of declaration . New patterns, new arrangements are taking place, however much the season seems to lag. On the evening of the twenty-sixth I hear a high, shrill sound, whirring and spinning, suggesting proud activity presence set free. The spring peepers are making it known that a time has arrived, and I take joy in the news, having failed to make any definite assurance of it myself. Their sound embraces all this changing land, rising above the whispered roars of the sea. Now the perpetrator of this chorus is a tiny tan frog with a smudged cross or X on its back, named HyIa crucifier. The male of the species has been speaking up on behalf of spring openings for millions of years. In that capacity it is authoritative enough. Its voice, almost incredibly loud and shrill for an animal that is not much over an inch long, is amplified by means of a large bubble-like pouch which acts as a resonator. This mechanism is put to use after the animal comes out of winter torpor after warm rain, and as the season itself breathes and 153 Ecotone: reimagining place sounds more freely. The peeper moves around with the earth itself and makes a declaration which, it seems to me, does not deserve the term automatic any more than the fiddling of grasshoppers in August. Both are part of the deep and various play of the year. In any case this specialty of voice is something of a marvel in itself. It is not like the eyes of an owl that are so made as to make maximum use of the light, or the wings of a herring gull that can ride like turbulent air currents above water, or like the fins of a fish, the sensitive nose of a dog. The peeper vocal parts are not specialized for environmental use to that degree. Their primary, specific function is to attract the female. Mating and voice are synonymous. But perhaps we could also say that this mating cry, this sometimes bell-like sound, is fitted to the whole environment, that it belongs unerringly to a new earth and a new season. It seems to bring life and place, function and expression together. It is unequivocal. It is perfect. It speaks up reliably on behalf of everything now springing or about to spring. For all their vast population in the bogs, ponds, edges, swamps and other wet areas of the Cape, individual spring peeper are very hard to find. During a cool evening, as the stars begin to declare themselves, I hear the peepers' collective voice rising up around me, passing into the sky. On the banks of Berry's Hole, that deep, swampy hollow nearby, there is a pulsing, piercing, deafening chorus. The wind suddenly blows over in a loud torrent, but the peepers keep on. I walk farther down and they stop; then they begin again, after I sit still for a minute or tow. The banks are wet, after a light afternoon rain, and they must be covered by frogs, judging by the sound; but I search every bit of ground with a flashlight and am unable to find a single one. A wild, moist...


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pp. 153-155
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