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pinkletinks

Molly-PurvesPinkletinks, pinkletinks. I heard them all over the woods surrounding my house last weekend and they are making me very happy. Earlier last week I heard one or two sporadically or when driving in the car I would become convinced that I heard them (faintly) and I would make everyone be quiet and roll down the windows so I could check and I was pretty sure that I heard them. But now there is a veritable orchestra of them outside our house and they are peeping away day and night. If you had said to me before I moved here that the sound of tiny frogs peeping would become one of my favorite sounds I would have said that you were crazy. After spending several winters here, though, I say, “Of course it is one of my favorite sounds because it truly means that spring is here”.

The town will be having a retirement party for Marjorie Spitz this Friday, April 11. Come by the Old Town Hall at 5:30 pm. Please bring a dish to share. Feel free to bring your best Margie stories as well or just come by and say thank you to Margie for all her years of service to the town as accountant.

In celebration of spring and Easter Elise LeBovit will be holding her annual egg hunt at the Duck Inn on Easter Sunday at 1 pm. You can come to the inn this weekend to help decorate some of the 400 eggs that will get hidden from 1 to 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Juli Vanderhoop apparently has too much free time on her hands as she is running for Selectman. Beverly Wright’s term is up and Juli, after much internal and external debate, is going for it. Good luck, Juli!

There is money from the Community Preservation Committee to upgrade the equipment and perhaps even expand the playground in Aquinnah. Jamie Vanderhoop, Kathy Newman, Derrill Bazzy, Curtis Langer, and I all walked around behind Town Hall to look at space where the playground could be expanded and talked about what kind of equipment we would like to see on the playground. As there has been a baby boom of late, I urge all parents to weigh in on this topic. Jamie is putting together a survey that will be available at the library about what parents would like to see on the town playground.

Skyler Ignacio-Cameron starred as Peter Pan this past weekend at the M.V. Public Charter School’s production of “Peter Pan.” By all accounts he was terrific and really brought the role to life. His brother, Riley, was the stage manager and did a fine job of keeping everything organized and safe backstage. Their mother, Ona, is so proud of them. Aquinnah native, Violet MacPhail was a fairy in the production and her sister, Olive, helped with the snack bar. Riley will be turning 12 this Sunday and he will be celebrating off Island this Friday at a Celtics game.

7a has reopened for the season, and a whole slew of stores and restaurants reopen next month, but right now it is nice to see Nonie and Dan and their hard-working crew back behind the counter.

A fond farewell to Chilmark columnist Katie Carroll. We frequently compared column notes on the Chilmark School playground and let each other know when our columns didn’t come off quite the way we had hoped (or weren’t quite on time). Thank you for all your service to your community, Katie. I will miss reading your thoughts every week.

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For decades, Lambert’s Cove residents have listened for the first pinkletink call of the year.

Also called chorus frogs or tree frogs, peepers can make quite a racket considering they are barely an one inch long. — File photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

You may have heard them, even if you didn’t know it. Spring peepers, known as pinkletinks, are a favorite herald of spring on Martha’s Vineyard, with a chirp that sounds less like a frog than a birdcall, perhaps crossed with a whistle and a fire alarm. As the weather warms, their calls become the soundtrack to rural Island life, a fact noted in published reports.

Whether because of the marshy ecosystem that pinkletinks prefer, or simply because the residents keep a closer ear out than most, the first pinkletink reports of the spring often come from Lambert’s Cove in West Tisbury, where bragging rights are at stake.

“I’ve been in competition with Alex Goethals for years,” said Nancy Abbott of Lambert’s Cove, who holds the honor of this year’s first pinkletink report, called in to The Times at 7:20 pm on March 20.

“Every year I call in an hour after him, or 15 minutes. We’ve been hearing them since my husband and I built our house here in the 80s, but after the papers started publishing the pinkletinks I started seeing Alex’s name in the papers and I thought, I want to beat Alex.”

“I’m surprised to hear about it,” exclaimed Mr. Goethals in a telephone call with the Times. “We’ve never met!”

Nonetheless, he quickly rose to defend his title. “Most years, I report them first. I heard them March 20 this year, right here in the yard, but I was a little slow calling in.”

“Uh huh,” Ms. Abbott chuckled in a subsequent call with the Times. “Sure he did.”

The perfect place, or the perfect listeners?

Thomas Goethals, Alex’s uncle, was once the listener to beat. “I started following the pinkletinks in the 1940s,” he told The Times. “I heard them every year. I’ve moved a little farther away from the ponds, though, so I don’t hear them as much anymore. Nancy lives next to a pond;  that’s probably why she heard them first.”

Ms. Abbott had a similar opinion. “The pinkletinks are probably heard first on Lambert’s Cove because there are a lot of cranberry bogs here that have been let go,” she said. “They’ve become streams and ponds and kettleholes, little wet spots that the pinkletinks like.”

Ms. Abbott’s neighbor, Sandy Fisher, was the second caller to report pinkletinks this year. She hoped the honor would go to her daughter, Connie Toteanu, who heard them on the morning of March 21.

“She came running in shouting, ‘Mom mom mom, pinkletinks!” said Ms. Fisher. “We used to compete with Anthony Silva. He always used to win before he passed away. He was at the top of Seth’s Pond Hill and his whole backyard was a swamp.”

Ms. Fisher had thoughts on why all the calls come from Lambert’s Cove.

“I used to caretake near Felix Neck, and I didn’t hear them there, like here. I couldn’t tell you anything scientific, but we do have a lot of swamp here. We also keep an ear out, though.”

Alex Goethals agreed. “I have a vibrant swamp outside my window, so I can’t avoid them,” he said. “I’ve been paying attention about 10 years, but it’s unavoidable, I can hear them through the walls.”

Folk wisdom is backed by spring peeper ecoscience. Times Wildside columnist Matt Pelikan, a restoration ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, said that the marsh and wetland aspect of Lambert’s Cove certainly contributed. “They can become almost deafening when you’re up close,” he said. “Physically painful.”

Another reason he hypothesized was the lack of fish, which eat pinkletink larvae.

“But I actually have more questions than answers, like whether blackbirds and redwing blackbirds feed on pinkletinks,” he said. “We forget that how we perceive a species is not how other species perceive them. Hey, they’re a good source of protein.”

Finally, he touched on perhaps the heart of the issue.

“Lambert’s Cove is also where people expect to hear them,” he said.

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Seen recently in the vicinity of Lambert's Cove: Pinkletink, aka "Peeper," "Tinkletoes," "Hyla Crucifer." — courtesy U.S. Geodetic Survey

Spring is officially here. At least the randy pinkletinks think so.

We arrived at the office Friday morning to a phone message from Nancy Abbott. Ms. Abbott, of West Tisbury, had called at 7:20 pm on Thursday to report that she had heard, near Lambert’s Cove, that first herald of spring — the amorous crooning of the inch-long Hyla crucifer, a marsh dwelling “chorus” frog, known locally as the pinkletink. Ms. Abbott was the first to report on this harbinger of the new season. Lambert’s Cove has typically been the locus of early pinkletink reports.

Later Friday morning, Sandy Fisher phoned. She wanted to know if anyone had called with a pinkletink report. She was hoping that honors for this year would go to her daughter, Connie Toteanu. Sandy and Connie live off — of course —  Lambert’s Cove Road.

Now we intend to find out why Lambert’s Cove is such a hotbed of pinkletink ardor — so stay tuned. (Initial research into the species revealed that in New Brunswick, northern peepers — yet another moniker — are called “tinkletoes.”)