The Pond Diary
January - 2003
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1 January 2003 - A happy and peaceful New Year to all of you.
Today really has been a good day for ducks, frogs and anything that likes water! The pond reached its overflow level before dawn, stayed there for much of the day, and way just stabilizing when I took this picture this evening. You can see the duckweed that has been left stranded on plant stalks by the ebbing 'tide'.
The frog is one of our smaller family members - its face is more pointed than that of an older frog and its head measures less than 15mm across. I wonder if he was 'born' in our pond in the Spring of 2001 (too big to be a 2002 baby!).
2 January - No photographs tonight but a couple of notes. Last night there were 28 frogs in sight at 9pm. Tonight there were just 13 (and no small ones) at 9.30pm. The water temperature, at 7.5C is marginally warmer than the air temperature above the water and there is a cold breeze, so perhaps many of the frogs are keeping warm!. Mind you, one of the inhabitants of the small pond was busy croaking as I counted.
3 January - The weather has turned colder, and with low night-time temperatures and snow possible on the forecast for the weekend, it will be interesting to see how the frogs respond. Tonight at 9.30pm the water temperature is still over 6C but the air temperature has dropped to just under 1C - eight (mature) frog snouts were still just visible under the cover of vegetation around the ponds.
4 January - Last night the ponds escaped the threat of ice, but tonight looks as though it will be colder, with ice on the birdbath by 9pm. A check of the ponds revealed just 3 frog snouts breaking the water's surface. The water temperature was about 3C, but the air temperature just above it was -4C.
5 January - Today, with the air temperature just above the pond barely above freezing, there has been a thin film of ice (1-2mm) over the ponds, although the water temperature below it is remaining at just over 2C.
Tonight at 9.25pm I checked the pond and found that the ice covering is now only partial. The water temperature is around 2C and, with some cloud cover the air temperature is hovering around zero. and I spotted two frogs still showing their noses above water.
6 January - With the air temperature down to -5C at 9pm there is now an almost complete ice cover on the ponds, although there are still gaps around the edges. The water temperature is still about 2C under the ice. I only saw one frog tonight, and that was under the ice.
7 January - With the air temperature staying below freezing all day the ice on the ponds must be getting thicker today. Early this morning there was just a sprinkling of snow, giving the ponds a mottled look that has remained in place all day.
At 5.15pm I checked the thermometer by the pond.It is recording an air temperature of -6C, while the water below the ice is still just over 2C.
13 January - Since my last report the ponds have been icebound. A couple of days ago it looked as though a thaw was starting, but yesterday the temperature by the pond did not rise above freezing all day after a sharp frost on Saturday night (-4C).
There is still a layer of ice over most of the pond although it is covered by water and there are some gaps around the edge. I've just noticed a spot cleared of duckweed, suggesting that a frog has already been up to the surface - I shall have to check again later on.
While the pond has been frozen there has been one development to note. One of the reedmace seed heads has 'burst' and has been scattering seed during a sunny afternoon. Last year this did'nt happen until the last week of February, so I'm wondering if it has been helped on its way by a hungry bird.
As I suspected, a check of the ponds at 10pm revealed a trio of frogs back at the surface, including this one that has slipped out from under the ice at a shallow spot.
The right hand image shows that its hind legs are still under the ice. If you look at the enlarged version, there are bubbles and patterns in the thin ice, and you may make out a water louse that was crawling on the underside of the ice, just above the frog's leg.
17 January - It has been a quiet week at the ponds with 9 or 10 frogs being spotted each night, except tonight when the number has dropped to 4!
Yesterday I spent a short time skimming Duckweed from the big pond (and checking it for animals). Numerous ramshorn snails, water lice (Isopods) and a large white/grey flatworm (possibly Dendrocoelum lacteum) were returned to the water. There are now gaps in the surface cover to give me more chance to spot any newts that become active in the pond.
24 January - The past week has been very quiet in the pond, with between 10 and 20 frogs seen each night but no sign of a Spring frenzy starting yet! There was a thin layer of ice on the pond this morning after an early frost, but it soon disappeared.
This morning, in bright sunshine, a second reedmace head has 'exploded', shedding its seeds in the breeze.
At 10.30pm there were 23 frogs in sight in the two ponds, not a great number but eight of them were in 'loose' pairings - the most seen in this situation so far this year.
Today the last two heads started shedding their seeds. This one was pictured against the deep shade at the bottom of the garden as the breeze did its job of scattering the tiny orange coloured seeds - you can see these if you look closely at the large image.
It's amazing how much the whole thing expands once the process starts.
Today, for the first time there have been frogs active on the pond surface during daylight.
26 January - A mild day, with the water temperature up to 7C and the air temperature over 10C has seen increasing activity in the pond with visible frog numbers up to 48 tonight and further initial pairings taking place.
My attention was drawn to this pair by the squeeking that came from one of them.
The mild conditions may be rather misleading as a weather forecast I have just seen suggest possible snow and wind chill of -8C at the middle of the week.
27 January - With the air temperature up over 15C on a bright, sunny day, the first stage of the spawning season is well and truly upon us with this first cluster of frogs writhing about in amongst the Reedmace and Iris plants.
It is a relatively small group but I can make out the 'bits' of at least seven frogs. There were more of them, just out of reach of the camera.
I have been working in the garden this morning and so far the pond is not generating much noise yet. I've heard just a couple of frogs calling so far.
Around the edge of the big pond there are a number of frogs waiting to rush to anything that moves as they wait for mature females to arrive for spawning.
Tonight, at 9.15pm there were 63 frogs in sight in the two ponds, confirming that the great influx is now underway. Last year we didn't see this many frogs until past the middle of February. I wonder whether we will get to pass the 100 mark this year?!
The water temperature was 7.6C and the air temperature over 10C. Now we have to hope that the forecast for later in the week is overly pessimistic.
28 January - The weather is already sliding downhill. It only managed to reach 6C today with a very cold strong wind that did not suit the frogs - I only saw two during the day. By the end of the afternoon the water temperature was back down to 5.3C. At 10pm I could only see ten frogs.
29 January - With a cold wind continuing through the day the pond water temperature is now just above 4C. There was virtually no frog activity during the day and tonight I could only see eight, including two couples. The air temperature at 10pm is 2C.
On the pond it formed a slushy layer which has remained through the morning. Underneath, the water temperature is 3.5C, the air temperature is hovering just above zero and late morning sunshine is doing a little bit to encourage thawing. Needless-to-say, I cannot see any frogs.
Tonight the slush has become a thin crust on the pond. The water below it has remained at the same temperature as earlier, and the air temperature has dropped just below freezing.
31 January - The slush had turned to hard ice overnight and has stayed that way all today.