Prothonotary Warbler setting up a breeding territory at The Beanery. [Photo by Sam Galick].
In many ways, most birds act as a model of exceptional parental care. The same cannot be said for our other abundantly obvious wildlife this time of year: frogs. The frogs found around Cape May take a much more laissez faire attitude when it comes to taking care of their young (though to be fair, this is hardly the case for all frogs). Males relentless call for mates, and I stress mates for polygyny runs rampant in frog society. The male awkwardly grapples onto the female and the pair will lay and fertilize hundreds of eggs, only to then part ways, never to be seen again by each other or their young. Tadpoles hatch out and find themselves in a harsh, tadpole-eat-tadpole world with no protection from the seemingly endless predators and no watchful parents. All this is leading up to a major metamorphosis where they must survive an entire overhaul to their anatomy and physiology. Maybe this is the bigger picture Kermit was referring to when he claimed, “It’s not easy being green.”
Fowler’s Toads in amplexus. [Photo by Bob Ferguson].
Though the frogs’ style of parenting (or lack there of) may seem harsh, they have a point. As any parent could tell you, raising young is exhausting and taxing, not only on your body but also on your mental state. In fact, there have been multiple ornithological studies that show the number of young raised one year directly affects a bird’s ability to lay eggs and raise young in subsequent years. As parents, birds give a piece of themselves to their young, not just genetically, but through their efforts and dedication. So as you explore your local park, backyard, or even our habitats here in Cape May, take a moment to find animal breeding activity. For whether it’s a highly publicized Bald Eagle nest cam or the American Robin nest in your backyard, we all love to be a witness to the magic of spring and the new life it brings.--Margeaux Maerz, George Myers Naturalist
Osprey carrying nesting material in Jarvis Sound. [Photo by Sam Galick].