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From the pond to the small screen, Big Run Peeper watcher getting his big break

March 6, 2011

Big Run resident “Peeper Watcher” John London shows off the first ceramic frog that was displayed at the first Peepers Banquet in 1993. (Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

BIG RUN — The legendary Big Run “Peeper Watcher” John London will appear on either Discovery Channel or Animal Planet at a date and time that is yet to be determined.

London said he was surprised when the TV crew that was taping Groundhog Day activities showed up on his doorstep to do an interview last month.
The spring peeper is a small treefrog that makes high-pitched peeping sounds and can be heard just after the spring thaw — hence this frog's name.

"I don't want the peepers to be all about me — there are others who are involved with this too," London said. "The only reason that I'm known as the ‘Peeper Watcher’ is because I've kept track and wrote down the information when they announced that spring has arrived all these years."
London said he has not yet been informed as to which channel and when his segment would appear on television.

Meanwhile, London said he was hopeful that the tiny frogs would begin to peep before March 20, the night of the annual Peepers Banquet.

London said that the pattern of winter weather residents experienced in Western Pennsylvania has yet to break enough to wake the tiny frogs from their winter hibernation in the Big Run swamp.

The timing of when the peepers first announce the arrival of spring often depends on how much sun hits the swamp to wake the tiny frogs from their deep sleep as the ice melts, according to London.

The earliest they've peeped was March 2, 1979 and the latest was April 1, 1978, 1999 and 2001.

London said the old saying goes that "spring is not officially here until the frogs see through glass (ice) three times."

The first time you hear them peep, spring has only started, London said, adding that the frogs have to look through the ice three times before spring has officially arrived.

London said he grew up hearing the legend of the tiny frogs, which are only the size of a fingernail.

"When I venture out into the swamp when there's a chorus of peeping occurring, I can't seem to get any closer to them than 30 yards, and then they quit," he said.

London said he has no idea how many of the tiny frogs make their home in the swamp.

"It's almost impossible to find out. I don't know how you could do it," he said.

The annual banquet that first began in 1993 is planned for 6 p.m. Sunday, March 20, at the Big Run War Memorial, with the social hour starting at 5 p.m.

This year's speaker is Jefferson County President Judge John H. Foradora.

The meal will be catered once again by Shannon Shaffer. Tickets are available at Big Run Carpet, Peace's Farm Supply and Wachob's Market.
London said the other committee members include Joe and Rose Buterbaugh, Josie and Chuck McElwain and Chuck and Sara D. Fox.

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