Buzzards at Breakfast-time

8.00 a.m.: A sparrowhawk flies over the rooftops followed by a loose flock of smaller birds, which appear to be mobbing it. The sparrowhawk swoops down on one of them, but misses out on its breakfast.

On the sunflower heart feeders, a pair of bullfinches are joined by a siskin.

8.45 a.m.: A buzzard circles over farmland beyond the houses. Buzzards are such regulars now but because I first got familiar with them in the Lake District and on Speyside, at a time when they were far less common than they are today, they still conjure up a feeling of wild places for me. It’s great to be able to sit on the sofa with a mug of tea after breakfast and see one soaring in the distance.

First Frogspawn

We had a single clump of frogspawn in the pond yesterday; today there are thirteen.

A Corner of the Pond

frogspawnspawnwinds2.30 p.m., 47ºF, 9ºC: It’s been an April showers day with bright sun alternating with wild lashings of rain. There’s a cool breeze from the south-east but the low cumulus clouds are moving in almost the opposite direction: heading east with a westerly wind behind them.

taddiesOne sixth of the pond in the sunniest northern corner is filled with algae-covered frogspawn which has sunk to a few inches below the surface. The black tadpoles which are each just over a centimetre long have now emerged from the spawn and gathered in three main groups, feeding on the abundant algae.

Smooth Newts

newtsNearby amongst the pondweed, two banner-tailed male smooth newts are closely following a round-tailed female.

newtNear the edge of the pond a newt briefly emerges from the depths to pop a mouthful of air.

Ramshorn Snail & Wolf Spider

ramshorn snailramshorn snailA ramshorn pond snail makes slow progress over the butyl rubber pond liner.

A wolf spider runs across the water surface at the edge of the pond then basks in the sun on the black liner.wolf spider

Frog Fest

frogfrogs1.40 p.m., sunny, 51ºF, 12ºC; I counted twenty-seven clumps of frogspawn yesterday and assumed that was it, the party was over, but today the frogs are back in action.

I sneak up on them with an iPad and attempt to record the sound of them croaking and to film them. I find that the iPad is a bit cumbersome to hold steadily so, without making any sudden movements, I retrace my steps to collect camera, tripod and sketchbook.

Hope to upload the movie later.

A pair of siskins feed on the sunflower hearts, just a few yards from me as I sit sketching the frogs.

Frogfest

frogfestI looked out the other day and there were at least twelve frogs in the pond. Today I counted nine clumps of frogspawn. Usually the spawn is laid at the shallow, sunnier end of the pond. This year it’s all at the overgrown, deeper end, partially shaded by the shed.

Since I wrote this, my neighbour frogspawnJack across the road has offered me a bucket of spawn which he always clears from his tiny pond. I don’t really need any more but I’d rather take it because otherwise he’d put it in the stream, which is fast flowing so it would just get flushed away into the river. I’m trying to work out if I can fit in a mini-pond or two into the odd corner of my garden as I know ponds have been filled in in adjacent gardens and the frog population will soon start struggling.

cafitiereHedgehog Dropping

hedgehog droppingOn a mossy patch of back lawn near the pond there’s a single hedgehog dropping and, a foot or so from that, a clayey fox scat with the typical pointed end.

First Clump

spawning in a previous yearIT MIGHT BE about a month late thanks to the cold, sometimes snowy weather but at last there’s a clump of frogspawn in the pond with at least 14 frogs, most of them gathered around the clump which is on the sunnier, shallower side of the pond.

Frogspawn

IT’S OFTEN NOT recommended to transport frogspawn from one pond to another because of the danger of spreading infection but I feel that I’m safe accepting a couple of clumps from a neighbour across the road whose pond always gets more frogspawn in it than it can accommodate. Our new  pond has plenty of room, although the tadpoles, now hatched but still no more than short black dashes resting on the mass of jelly, are going to be at risk of being gobbled by the Smooth Newts that are already settling in to the new pond.

The tap water has had a week now to lose the small traces of chlorine that it contained so I was keen to add some oxygenating pond weeds. My neighbour saved me the trouble and expense of a trip to the garden centre by letting me have half a bucket of strands from his pond. Now the newts have some vegetation that they can lay their eggs on.