The Pond Diary 2006
March (part 1)
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1 March - Just a short note to say that the pond was covered with ice this morning. With the air temperature not getting up above 4C on a sunny day, most of the ice was still there at the end of the day.
The rough appearance of the ice in this picture was produced as a result of last night's brief snow shower falling before the ice had hardened.
When I took these photographs at around 8.30am I could see frogs moving about under the ice, although I couldn't get a photograph of the, so instead, I recorded these bubbles of air trapped under the ice.
3 March - Another cold night meant that the pond was frozen over again this morning, although as happened yesterday, bright sunshine helped melt parts of the ice cover during the day. Tonight, those areas are largely coated again.
The southern edge of the pond (at the left of the picture above) has remained frozen since the 1st, and the fall of snow pictured above has given that edge quite a bumpy texture, enough to turn into an abstract this image of two frogs in amplexus.
If you look at the larger image you'll see a second picture taken after they moved in which the second frog is clearer to see!
This second pair was photographed under the thinner ice on the other side of the pond. The bluish colouration around their eyes is due to the third eyelid (nictitating membrane) that is drawn up over the eye to protect it under water.
The 'lumpy' ice described above had me checking the shallow end of the pond very carefully because when a torch is shone at it, it looks remarkably like frogspawn, especially as the duckweed casts small, dark and round shadows!
6 March - The cold spell seems to be over, and today the last ice has disappeared from the big pond - no spawn yet.
With so many frogs submerged, it's not possible to do a head count but There do not seem to be the large numbers that we were seeing at this time last year. The weather is about to turn wet, and milder over the next couple of days, so we may get more arrivals soon.
When I checked the pond at around 8pm I could also see two newts including this one that stayed near the surface long enough to get just this one picture.
When I took a quick look at around 9pm (when the rain had almost stopped) I counted 67 frogs either visible in the water or, like this pair, out on the bank.
We could be getting close to spawning at last if the present mild spell continues.
8 March - Another dull, largely wet day, and mild. The temperature has been rising since lunchtime yesterday, when it was 4C. Overnight it got up to just over 8C at 8am and reached 11C by noon, where it has stayed all afternoon.
These conditions are certainly to the frog's liking, and, with a rough count of over 70 now, they have been splashing about all day. Mind you, we seen to be in the usual situation of a lot of male frogs waiting impatiently for suitable partners to arrive, and ready to grab just about anything that moves.
This picture shows one section of the bank with (presumably) male frogs either looking out from the water, or out on the bank to investigate anything moving in the undergrowth - and they are not interested in food at the moment!
On the other side of the pond where the bank is grassy, and steeper, frogs climb up to peer over the top, like this one, maintaining its vigil for at least a couple of hours this afternoon.
Just occasionally you catch sight of a successful male. This pair have stayed in the same spot for the best part of four hours while other frogs come and go in the water below them. They are not being noticed because they are staying absolutely still.
In the water it's a different story. This group have been rolling around the big pond all day, with other males attempting to also get a grip on the female.
Her 'hands' can be seen from the house, and her abdomen is greatly distended, suggesting that spawning may not be long coming.
9 March - Spawning has started
Looking back through my diaries suggests that spawning should take place in the last few days of February, but is likely to be delayed by the cold snaps that often hit us around that time. The spawning dates recorded so far: 2001 - 6 March; 2002 - 26 Feb; 2003 - 26 Feb; 2004 - 29 Feb false start and then 5 March; 2005 - 12 March.
I've just recorded the event on the Springwatch website, and it's interesting to see how much later spawning is nationally this year compared with 2005.
When I checked the pond at around 10pm last night I counted at least 96 frogs, so I expect the 100 mark to be passed today.
There are grey skies here today. Temperatures dropped to around 3C last night and although they have been up to 8C today, a strong North-Northwesterly wind is making it feel much colder, which is probably why activity is somewhat limited in the ponds this afternoon.
When I checked during the morning there were two groups of frogs, including this one, rolling about in the deeper water.
However, this afternoon, while the other group continues to be 'active', this one now consists of just two frogs which are still together some hours later. The female appears very thin indeed, and I'm wondering if she has already spawned. Also, I suspect that she may be dead so I shall keep checking on the pair.
11 March - With air and water temperatures around 5C, the pond is relatively quiet again today, and I can less than 30 frogs on the surface.
The colour of the water shows how the mud has been churned up in the shallow area where spawning occurs.
I mustn't forget the newts - last night I counted eight.
During the day a few more clumps of spawn have appeared, but tonight the pond is very quiet and there are only around 15 frogs on the surface, with many others visible under water (three in this picture).
While the water temperature is holding up so far, the air temperature has dropped to 3C and a frost is possible by morning. Tomorrow is going to be cold.
12 March - Last night the temperature dropped enough for the birdbath to have an ice covering, but the ponds were not affected. Today, the air temperature hasn't risen above 4C, and tonight it is just above zero. The day has been dry, although I did see just a few snowflakes falling during the morning.
In the pond activity continues to be restricted by the cold conditions. However there are two groups of frogs in amplexus groups. This first, healthy looking group was tucked against the side of the pond.
The day before yesterday I commented about the thin female that I thought was dead. Yesterday, and again today I've checked the pond for her without success, but it now looks as though she has re-appeared.
If you look at the larger image, near the top of the picture you will see her tongue which is hanging out of her mouth into the water, and you can also see her left eye is completely clouded over.
It was very quiet in the pond today. Nevertheless there must be some twenty clumps of spawn now, but we have a long way to go to match the last few Springs.
During the day the air temperature only reached 4C, dropping down to 2C at 9pm, while the water has stayed around 4C. Tonight there are just a few frogs at the surface.
I recovered the dead frog from the bottom of the pond.
15 March - Two days later, and the daytime temperature reached nearly 10C in the early afternoon after an overnight minimum of 2C.
These milder conditions, together with sunshine has brought the pond to life. There was too much activity to start counting, but I think it is safe to say that there were over a hundred frogs moving about and croaking (although not all at the same time!).
One of the things that always amuses me is the way the frogs clamber all over the spawn that is already in place. They crawl over it, through and under it, forcing their way through it, or simply jumping on or off it.
It's a good thing that the jelly sphere is so resilient!
The croaking was at it loudest since the frogs started arriving this year, and I have recorded a sample which I will add to the sounds page this evening.
In the shallow end many were gathering together in large groups. This one is tinged with blue as each frog's wet skin reflects the blue of the sky. At this time they were shuffling about, rather like a crowd waiting excitedly for the performance to begin.
Then, all of a sudden the gathering would turn into a scrum of writhing bodies as each frog struggled to get close to a female that, presumably, was the trigger.
On the other side of the shallow end, another mass of frogs conducted a similar, but more fragmented scrum, involving (I think) at least thirty frogs, with many more coming and going as it continued.
Click on images to see larger versions