The Pond Diary 2007
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1 March - What a difference a day can make! A similar picture last night included over forty frogs, but tonight there isn't a single one in sight, just a layer of spawn covering the shallow end of the pond.
The picture at least shows why I clear this area before the frogs arrive each Spring.
There was some frog activity during the day, and there has been some new spawn laid, but while the peak may now have passed, I think the weather is a big factor in this evening's disappearing act.
First thing this morning, cloudless skies helped the temperature to dip to around 4C, and although it crept up to nearly 9C for a short time this afternoon, a cold wind must have had a chilling effect on the frogs' wet skin (it certainly chilled me as I worked at the top of a ladder! - see nestbox diary). Tonight the skies have cleared again, and the temperature at 6.45pm is 6C and falling.
2 March - No pictures today, just a confirmation that spawning appears to be over, with a surprising suddenness. There was absolutely no activity in the shallow end at all, and each time I checked the pond during the day I saw a maximum of five frogs!
There was a touch of frost first thing this morning, although there was no sign of ice on the ponds, so the spawn should be safe. By lunchtime the air temperature was over 11C in bright sunshine. As dusk approaches it is still over 8C and it has begun to rain, with a promised very wet night to come. The pond should be full to overflowing by the morning.
4 March - Sunshine yesterday afternoon encouraged around 30 frogs to be active in the pond, including amongst the spawn, but a check this morning revealed no new deposits. Today we have had a lot of rain, so the pond is full again, but I could see just one frog in sight when I went down the garden at just before 4pm.
5 March - After the temperature dipping to below 5C this morning, it peaked at 11C around noon. During the day it was difficult to find frogs, but we did see six, hidden amongst the vegetation. There has been one additional clump of spawn laid.
Tonight the weather has turned very wet (weather warning issued for us) but I took a quick look at the pond just before 9pm. Shining a torch at the pond makes the frogs' white chins show up very clearly.
In addition to this pair I could see seven more amongst the spawn, and as many as twenty in other parts of the pond.
6 March - Even a balmy temperature of 14C didn't encourage any more spawning today, although there were more frogs to be seen and heard, with a definite increase in the numbers seen in the small pond.
All were acting as individuals, ignoring the others, and for the most part were gazing towards the banks of the pond. In some cases, they stayed in the same positions for hours.
A few made their way to the spawn, but even there they seemed to ignore each other!
In contrast to last week when spawning was in progress, one frog's movement drew no interest what-so-ever from others around it.
19 March - It seems terrible that I've not made an entry in this diary for thirteen days!
Today's entry is largely thanks to the appearance of the first flower on the Marsh Marigold, over three weeks earlier that in 2006, and there are plenty of other flower buds close to opening.
The frog spawn has now transformed into small tadpoles, largely massed together in groups like this one.
Perhaps it's because the tadpoles are a bit earlier this year, but over the last few nights when I've checked on them I have seen none of the predation by newts that I witnessed last year.
26 March - A beautiful, sunny day brought many of the frogs out of hiding, and you could hear croaking from the pond for much of the morning and afternoon.
I have often seen these spiders scrambling across the surface film of the pond water, but this is the first time that I have been able to record why they are doing so. A close look reveals that this spider has caught one of the many Shore-flies that populate the surface of the pond.
I missed the chance to photograph the first wasp queen that I've seen coming to drink from the pond this year.
A couple of days ago I took the following photographs for the diary, but didn't get round to writing an entry to go with them -
At the moment there are groups of young cockles out in the open at the shallow end of the bog pond. The photographs were taken after dark - they seem to be less visible during the day.
Most measure just 1-2mm across at the moment and pose no threat to the tails of the tadpoles that feed all around them.
This picture illustrates the variation in colour exhibited by the tadpoles.
While there are newts active in the big pond, there is still no sign of them feeding on the tadpoles, and I have yet to see any juveniles with gills, something that I expect to see at this time.
We are still waiting for a second Marsh Marigold flower bud to open.
28 March - (large picture to be added tomorrow) - Having photographed a spider taking advantage of the water's surface film, yesterday I spotted the real expert in the form of the first Pond Skater of the year, and I could still only see the one today.
Click on images to see larger versions
31 March - (large images to follow) - Today I spotted the first evidence that the newts have started egg-laying -
This newt spent at least five minutes in this position before disappearing back under the plants.
Whenever I get down close to the pond I can be pretty sure that I'll see something going on, and today was no exception. Just a short distance from the newt this mini-drama was underway.
An Owl-midge had died, and as hairs, shed from the fly's body spread across the water, the shore-flies were gathering for a meal. The Shore-flies measure some 1.5mm in length, with their wings extending back another 0.75mm.
Several of the flies travelled as much as twenty centimetres to reach the Owl-midge.
They spend much of their time walking about on the surface film of the water, so I suspect that they were able to find the Owl-midge by detecting chemicals spreading out from it across the film.
This second image tries to show how a Shore-fly would use a leg to ward off any competitor that tried to get too close while it was feeding.
While watching the Shore-flies, I almost missed another insect that was crossing the water. This small rove-beetle was moving across the surface film with hardly an impression made by its feet.
I didn't get the chance to measure it, but I estimate its length to be something like 7-9mm.
Finally, the edge of the pond inevitably has a 'strand-line' of duckweed that was washed up during rain (which we had yesterday). This afternoon I spotted this spider tackling an aphid amongst that debris.
The aphid's body is about 2mm long, and the spider 3mm.