Sunday 15 March 2009

Action stations

Well, whoever was splashing in the pond has finally scored. Frogspawn in both ponds.
(N.B. They are tiny, converted kitchen sink size!)
It's only a modest amount in each but it's the first time we ever saw spawn in the black pond which is higher off the ground and therefore needs a good leap in and another out.
Many tadpoles have grown up in it, of course, and every autumn we put a piece of plank in to act as a launching pad for little frogs, and leave a strip of long grass around as well.
Anyway, yesterday I actually saw the frogspawn floating to the surface in slow bubbles. Now we must put netting over both ponds so that foxes or birds don't eat it.

Babysitting! Frog's eye view of cameraman

Also, several sightings of our fox, Stringfellow. His tail is indeed mangy as are his haunches, poor thing. Apparently male, white cheek patches rather small, white markings on front legs.
I'm adding mange drops to his food.
Order mange drops from Derbyshire fox rescue, website linked on this page in the list to your right.

I spent a while tidying up the derelict garden today in fine spring weather. Tempting, tantalising, incipient life!

Wednesday 4 March 2009

A sighting.

No foxes have been seen in our garden for quite a while: and my neighbour's garden, that enticing wilderness, remains empty to the eye, at least by daylight.
Nonetheless, something has begun to knock over the compost bucket outside the kitchen door. Bother! I thought they had stopped doing that. What a mess.
I leave food out most nights and it goes.
Today, at midday, one of my sons had a good sighting (I was out). Down the end of our garden a largish, very red fox nosed about and seemed to dig, finding a whitish object. (I'm guessing, the lamb bone from last night.)
My son did not note the tail shape or the tag, but reports that the haunches were in poor shape. Damn. Mange, always attacks the buttocks first, I don't know why. I must start dosing again.
We can still hope that this fox is one of a mated pair, keeping a low profile.
Last week, on one day I noted splashes in my little Belfast-sink pond, and on another day a leap!
So there are things to be looked for yet.


A week ago, on the 23rd of February, I was walking at a Nature Reserve in Co. Wicklow with an old friend. How nice it was to see and hear and smell a touch of Spring, after the very long, very cold winter we have had. (Before it got wintry again this week!)
Towards the end of our rambling, we chanced upon the pond. Splash, rustle, ripple. Frogs were busy here. There we saw a couple together, male over female as frogs do. And as our eyes sharpened on our target, another couple and another. Some single frogs, sizing up the talent, no doubt, hung around the edges. And the merrily mated paddled and swam, clasped together in that strange embrace called "Amplexus".
The word comes from the Latin for "Embrace". The male frog, when woken from his winter stupor, calls from the edge of his pond for a female with his strange mournful cry. When he scores, so to speak, he clasps her from behind, around her waist, and thus linked, they swim together.
They can maintain this posture for long periods: swimming and making those characteristic splashings. The male grips firmly and cannot be loosened or shaken free. Eventually, the female begins to lay her eggs and as they leave her body, the male fertilises them.
Reaching the water, the eggs swell up and are the familiar frogspawn.
Though this was an artificial pond, it has been there for many years and always enjoys spectacular amounts of frog action. Years ago, when I was doing some volunteer work there, tracks could be seen every spring leading from all over the reserve. Up from the river's edge came the otter prints. Foxes left their oval pawmarks. Birds, dogs, everything eats frogspawn!
Spring is always hopeful. I had been sad, anxious over private worries. My friend had listened, as she so often has, patiently and sympathetically, as we walked.
Weather changes, that is its nature. Hope springs, that is nature too. The queer, unthinking, primitive dance of the mating frogs is a powerful strike for optimism.
My heart was as warmed by friendship as our faces were by sunshine, that lovely morning. It's time for the dormant, over-wintering buds to root and grow again.