Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
The breakdowns of Presqu'ile |  Ontario Parks

The wait from late winter to spring can be almost painful. I’ve had enough of the cold, snow, and hibernating wildlife. When can I go out without a jacket? The disappearing snow and robins on the grass may be enough for some, but not for me.

Then finally…yes! I hear it: rrrrRRRRRT, rrrrRRRRRT, rrrrRRRRRT!

The panels at Presqu’ile Provincial Park have reappeared with my first real sign of spring: the call of the Chorus Frogs.

A species in decline, but the Presqu’ile pannes have always had a good population.

At least it seems that way.

Every spring, usually starting April 1., the panels fill with the sound of the Chorus Frogs singing. But they are very difficult to see and remain hidden throughout the year. But breads are like that.

Simple, often overlooked, but very special.

A special place

The pannes are low areas between sand dunes, also called dune areas or coastal meadows. To be fair, they don’t look like much; They flood in spring and summer (when most people visit), looking like old, dry fields.

Dry looking field with a variety of flora, including yellow and white flowers, with conifers and deciduous trees in the backgroundBreakdown in September

Most visitors pass by between the gate and the campsite without barely a glance, or perhaps simply to notice the access roads to the beach. But that’s all.

Pannes through the seasons

Fall will bring a splash of color with a unique display of wildflowers, but in late fall and winter they fill the panels with water and freeze until warmer temperatures unlock them again and the frogs sing.

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A brown frog with gray markings, taken from above, on an artificial grass surfaceFrog Choir

This variety of conditions makes it a difficult place to live, and the set of plants that have adapted to live here is quite unique.

In fact, freshwater pannes are so special and rare that the habitat is considered one of the rarest in Ontario. In fact, it is considered rare in the world and is the most globally important habitat of Presqu’ile.

Spring can be when the panels shine the most. Because they dry out each summer, they cannot support fish populations and this is good for several species of frogs and aquatic insects.

Pannes fauna

Fish are voracious predators that eat tadpoles and aquatic insect larvae, so some species simply cannot survive in pools of water with fish.

That’s why vernal pools in forests are so important for some species of frogs, salamanders and insects.

brown frog with spots and two distracting green lines running down its back in shallow waterleopard frog

But while vernal pools can be up to a couple dozen square meters in size, the panels are huge, at hundreds of square meters.

More water = more life.

In April you can hear coral frogs, spring peepers, leopard frogs, gray tree frogs, tree frogs and American toads singing from the pannes.

Most sing at night, but Chorus Frog sings during the day, making it the most notable and favorite sign of spring.

Brave panne predators

Although there are no fish, yes are predators in the pannes. And again, these are small and often overlooked. Predatory diving beetles and dragonfly larvae lurk in spring areas looking for tadpoles and others to eat.

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Brown gray turtle, in shallow water, with head raisedBlanding’s turtle

However, the biggest predators are turtles. They make the journey from the deepest waters of the swamp, where they have spent the winter, to the pannes to feast on the tadpoles. The endangered Blanding’s turtle is a tadpole specialist and loves our pannes!

A major threat to our wildlife in the pannes

The problem here is that to get to the pannes, the turtles must cross our main road. While we have installed tunnels along part of that road to help the turtles, some parts of the road are too low and the panels too flat and wet for the tunnels.

The only solution is for people to be careful when passing through the panels. They are not old and lifeless fields, but unique places in the world, full of life.

turtle crossing signSlow down and watch the wildlife!

So please drive carefully, and if you are ever here in early spring, listen for the first sign of spring’s sweet return: rrrrRRRRRT, rrrrrRRRRRT, rrrrRRRRRT!