The Pond Diary 2007
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2 February - A bright, sunny morning brought the first sight of a 'bundle' of male frogs competing for the privilege of being the one to join a female frog in amplexus - ten days earlier than last year (when it was preceded by a period of cold weather).
We were continuing work on house renovations and I had gone outside with some rubbish. I could hear the croaking as soon as I stepped out of the back door.
3 February - After yesterday's scrum there was no daytime activity seen or heard today -an early morning frost wouldn't have helped, although there was no ice on the ponds (I must get the thermometer fixed or replaced).
Today I bought a new net with an extending handle to skim off some of the duckweed and starwort growth that is covering the big pond. While they have been flourishing in there, the small pond had few plants, so I have transferred some of the plants to it.
6 February - No news - While temperatures have hovered just a few degrees above freezing, visible activity has come almost to a stop in the big pond. Today I could see just one frog and no newts. Mind you, in the shallow water at the end of the big pond the Tubifex worms continued to wave about their tails above the mud.
With snow forecast for tomorrow morning we could see the ponds, and everything else with a covering of at least several inches.
However, while the temperature dipped below freezing briefly late yesterday evening, it crept back up before the snow arrived. As a consequence, when the snow did fall (as this picture shows), it didn't produce the blanket that I had expected over the ponds.
In fact, as this second picture shows, the existing ice layer had become very fragile. Here, water dripping from the Hawthorn's branches was 'punching holes through the slush layer to the water below.
By 3pm areas of the big pond were ice free once again, helped by rain showers during the afternoon.
Three days ago (the 10th) it was some 9C there was obvious frog activity all day, and when I checked the pond in the evening I counted 39 frogs (and five newts), but since then the temperature has tended to be a couple of degrees cooler and frog activity has declined again.
Today it was difficult to find more than a few in sight.
During the day there were a dozen or so individuals gazing out of the pond,
but when I looked again at just before 7pm I could see 27 frogs, including three couples in a gentle amplexus. There was no sign of any any male frogs interested in competing over a female.
18 February - A daytime temperature of 10C yesterday helped boost frogs activity again. The croaking could be heard as soon as you stepped out of the back door. Although there were certainly quite a few frogs, it wasn't possible to do a head count during the day as many of them dived as I approached the pond.
However, a count after dark was more successful, confirming the presence of at least 52 frogs, with numerous pairs coupled up and two balls of frogs rolling around in the water.
I have had a look this morning, and can't see any frog spawn as yet. The temperature at 8.30am is 7.6C, so I would expect to see even more activity today.
19 February - Yesterday, the daytime temperature didn't make it to 8C and the pond was much quieter. Today it almost reached 10C again, but although the sounds of croaking were emanating from the ponds, activity was far less than two days again - no spawn so far.
The frogs are very sensitive to movement at the moment, and I cannot get close enough to count them before they panic and disappear under the weeds. This one was an exception as it made its way between the two ponds.
21 February - No spawn yet - Yesterday, in overcast conditions, with drizzle and rain, the ponds were their 'busiest' yet, with over eighty frogs visible. When I looked during the morning most of the frogs took no notice of me, and I was able to count 82 of them, but in the afternoon they reverted to their state of mass panic again.
Despite the large numbers (and the loud croaking) I only saw a couple of pairs in amplexus.
23 February - The first Frog Spawn of the Year.
This morning many of them are just as nervous, and I'm not able to do any counting, but nevertheless, the first spawn has been deposited.
24 February - Spawning continues, with one one new batch appearing overnight.
The frogs were croaking loudly all through the day, but as happened yesterday, I wasn't able to count them - although they do seem to be getting used to having me moving around at the side of the pond, and tending not to dive so quickly.
It wasn't until the late afternoon that I spotted new deposits of spawn, and by the late evening there were several more.
The spawn acts as a magnet for other frogs, and they gather around it, and clamber all over it, presumably looking for females that are ready to spawn.
25 February - Spawning moved up a gear today, with the most deposited so far, and I can confirm 90+ frogs present - there are still some who choose to hide!
With all the water to use, some frogs still insist on spawning right out of the water.
Here you can see it piled up in the background while a group of frogs indulge in a loose scrum, reminiscent of play in this weekend's international rugby matches.
While these scrums go on around the spawn, most frogs seem to be waiting for something to happen.
With others dashing about around them, some manage to hang on to another frog without competition,
and the existing spawn acts as a convenient resting place!
At this stage, whichever way you look in the big pond there is a photograph waiting to be taken.
Unfortunately, I was away from home for a few hours this morning, and this afternoon there were lots of showers, so opportunities to take those photos were rather restricted. Better weather is forecast for tomorrow.
Finally, a picture that suggests that one frog has a problem. I'm used to seeing frogs that have lost the use of one eye, but the upper frog in this photograph appears to have lost a front foot with what seems to be a very 'neat' cut. What would have done that?
I didn't spot the problem until I looked at the image on the computer monitor. I shall be looking out for this frog in the days to come in order to get another image that can confirm the injury.
26 February - Just a brief entry today as I had lots of things to do and had 'run out of steam' by the late afternoon!
With spawning well under way, spawn now extends over much of the shallow end of the pond, as this picture shows.
Tonight, frog activity seems to have diminished somewhat, so perhaps the peak of activity may have passed.
27 February - (I will add the large images tomorrow) Well, after yesterday's comment, this evening I counted 108 frogs, and at the end of a damp day, with the temperature just under 10C at 9pm the pond is full of frogs chasing everything that moves.
In this image I've counted 43 frogs.
I spent a short while searching without success for the frog without a foot - a case of looking for the pattern of spots on its back.
It is always interesting to note the variety of colour and pattern exhibited by the frogs.
This area has no spawn yet, but the frogs seemed to be attracted to it tonight. I'll be checking it again in the morning.
28 February - No pictures today, but at 9pm the pond is a busy, and noisy place once again after a day that saw the ponds being filled to overflowing in heavy showers, and the frogs being assaulted by hail this afternoon. For a while even the piled up spawn was under water!
Click on images to see larger versions