The Frog and Pond Diary

April - 2001

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1st April - And the shallow end of the pond is the scene of a transformation. The dark shapes, once distributed in the spheres of jelly are now forming seething dark masses of small and very fragile tadpoles. This photograph was taken under gloomy skies, using a polarizing filter to cut through the reflections. The external gills are clear to see on the tadpoles.
Only the occasional glimpse of a frog at the moment.




I thought that the above would be my diary entry for the day until about 9.45pm when I went down the garden to check the pond. I was treated to a sight that I have never witnessed before, a female newt in the process of egg laying..

This first picture (left) shows her inverted at the water surface.

The close-up (right) shows her hind feet wrapped around the leaf under which the egg is being attached.




As I watched, another female started egg laying in the same patch of weed.

I took several photographs of her. In this image you can see the egg in the fold of the leaf between her feet.


2nd April - Today the sunshine for most of the day brought out the frogs. It is curious how in the big pond they remain in the water, mostly under cover of the vegetation. In the small pond they climb out onto the bank and sunbathe quite openly and often in groups. I have seen 'clumps' of more that 15 frogs there in the past.

Here is a picture of a newt's egg within a folded leaf. The egg itself is about 2mm in diameter with a layer of jelly around it.


Other creatures are starting to appear in the pond now. I saw the first pond skaters of the year and I caught a glimpse of what might have been a saucer bug, just over 1cm long. No picture I am afraid - it crash-dived as soon as I approached.

3rd April - Only time for a quick check of the pond today. This is one of the tadpoles last pictured on 28 March. It measures 12mm long. The tadpoles have now all grouped together out of the jelly, as are more or less all the other tadpoles in the pond. Some of the earliest tadpoles are starting to spread out from the clusters that they had gathered into.



5th April - Last night I trapped two newts so that I could decide what type they are. The picture on the left shows a male and female. The images are not good, but I did not want to keep the newts out of the pond for longer than was necessary. At all times they were kept in water and at no time did I actually handle them.

The second composite picture was the nearest that I could get to measuring them!

The serrated crest, along with the absence of webbed rear feet in the male indicates that they are Smooth Newts. I was interested to see the differences in the feet between male and female, with the male having much larger, thicker digits on the hind feet and longer, slender digits on the front feet. However, I do not know if these are general characteristics or just differences between these individuals


7th April - There will be no updates to the diary for the next 8 - 10 days.

17th April - Back home yesterday and only just starting to catch up! In my absence the vegetation in and around the pond has grown tremendously. Tadpoles can be seen swimming in every corner of the big pond.
I had a quick night-time look at the pond last night and nearly trod on a water scorpion (Nepa cinerea). it is about 2cm long. These live in both ponds but this is the first time I have come across one out of the water. They are voracious carnivores capable of eating small tadpoles and other small creatures. I shall have to take some photographs of one in water when it is using it's breathing snorkel - the long tube you can see at the left hand (rear) end.


18th April - I forgot to mention yesterday that I spotted some fresh frogspawn in the big pond. It must have been laid on the weekend.

This photograph shows some of the tadpoles previously pictured on 28 March and 3 April. They are now around 18mm long and the external gills have disappeared.



23rd April - I have been neglecting the pond over the last few days. The tadpoles are now swarming all over the pond but I did not see any frogs or newts in the day today. Not even the sunshine could tempt the frogs into sunbathing mode. The pond plants are growing fast, but it is good to see how clear the water is.

A quick check of the pond at 10.15pm revealed 15 frogs around the edges, several newts that looked as though they were stalking tadpoles. The tadpoles look every bit as active now as they did in the daytime.

28th April - This part of my diary has been neglected this week. I hope to be able to spend a bit more time with it in the next couple of days. In the meantime, heavy rain has topped up the pond to its maximum today. Wherever you look there are tadpoles.

This evening I noticed how well the Liverworts at the base of the log are doing. This photograph shows a portion of one of the liverworts ( Marchantia polymorpha - I think). I must find out more about their life cycle and take some more detailed photographs.

Last night when I walked down the garden there were a couple of dozen frogs in the big pond, as well as some out on the grass. Tonight, after all today's rain I shall have another look to see if any newts are venturing out. Tomorrow I must check on the progress of their eggs.

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