The Pond Diary 2004

March(part 2)

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16 March - As I write this at 11.15am it is 14C outside, on a bright and breezy Spring morning.

Two days earlier than last year, I have just had my first sighting of a Pond Skater, patrolling the shallow end over the submerged frogspawn.

There are two new clumps of spawn this morning, but the frogs are very quiet, just the odd croak and the urge to dash about seems to be missing. It really does look as though spawning is over.




17 March - Confirmation today that spawning is over. During the day I saw only two frogs out in the open, although more could be seen hiding amongst the vegetation. There are more out and about in the pond this evening but there is none of the dashing around that has been a feature over the last week, at least not by the frogs - and they are silent.

Tonight the newts are able to move about freely and while it is isn't possible to count them, there must be a couple of dozen or more.

Here I pressed the shutter a moment too soon as one came to the surface to breathe.



I did not see any in the process of egg-laying so far today, but I will be going out to take another look later.

In the meantime, this picture shows an encounter between two males. The newt on the right was the most animated, bending his tail as you can see, and vibrating it furiously before moving on.



18 March - A look into the pond tonight was rewarded by another photo-opportunity when I spotted this Water Scorpion that had captured a Water Louse.





And a closer shot before it moved behind the cover of the pond plants to continue eating its meal.



Another clump of frogspawn appeared this morning, so the mating isn't all over, although today there was no more frog activity than I saw yesterday.



19 March - A wet and windy morning ensured that the pond was topped up today. Daytime temperature was a  degree cooler than yesterday, at 11C briefly when the sun came out this afternoon. The water temperature is around 8C.

The cooler conditions seem to have sent the frogs underwater again.

I couldn't resist a photograph of this one, looking up from a couple of inches under water. The effect of water pressure helps to give it a rather monstrous appearance (I think).

Even the newts seem to be less active tonight and I could only see a few of them.


The female water beetle (Acilius sulcatus) made an appearance again long enough for me to grab a few images of her.

I had spent a bit of time skimming Duckweed of the water surface earlier in the day, but needless to say, there are still enough plants drifting about to guarantee their appearance in nearly every pond picture I take!




20 March - The Spring Equinox, and the new season has started very squally, with more high winds than there were yesterday, but less rain.

There was actually a frog croaking when I checked the pond tonight, but otherwise they were largely out of sight in the vegetation, or under water.

The picture shows the state of development of one of the early clumps of spawn. The first fertilised spawn was produced on 5 March so I would expect to see the first signs of tadpoles emerging now. I shall take another look tomorrow.


As well as seeing the water beetle again, I spotted this smaller beetle moving about in the water plants near the side of the pond.

Measuring about 7mm in length, I think it may be Helophorus aquaticus, which often lives amongst debris at the edge of still water. Unlike the other beetle, this one does not have swimming legs.

The right hand picture shows it 'walking' upside-down under the surface film. The image shows the silvery look that results from a reservoir of air that it carries, trapped amongst the many hairs that coat the insect's underside.



25 March - No entries for the last few days because the pond has become very quiet - the water temperature is around 6.5C and there is hardly a frog to be seen.


The newts are also keeping out of sight for most of the time. with just the occasional chance to get a photograph as one goes hunting near the side of the pond.



The frogspawn has started giving up its tadpoles, although I haven't yet seen any swimming. This picture shows some on the bottom of the shallow end of the pond.




29 March - I have been rather distracted by the activity in the birdbox but I must not overlook the opening of the first flower on the Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris), one day later than in 2003.







31 March - I popped down to the shallow end of the pond tonight to get a couple of shots of the tadpoles as I saw some swimming today. when I shone my torch into the water I found that the tadpoles were not alone - it seems that the newts are taking advantage of an easily available food source.

This image shows one emerging from an algae covered frogspawn mass. You can see the recently emerged tadpoles clinging to the mass.


This image shows  a moment when  newts were gathered together in the open. A close look will reveal that there are not just five adult newts, but also a newtlet (rather orange in colour, centre-left), one of last year's brood, that seems to have joined the feeding party.


This is another one, photographed just after. I have seen newtlets in the pond during the winter in the past but this is the first time I have seen them apparently hunting with the adults.



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