The Frog and Pond Diary

January - 2002

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1 January 2002 - New Year's Day

The year has started on a chilly note with the pond covered with ice and those plants that reach above the water's surface covered with frost.

These conditions have continued all day and tonight, at 9.15pm the temperature by the pond is down to -7C, with a water temperature of 2C under the ice.





2 January - The ice is getting thicker on the ponds now. This afternoon I noticed lumps of moss on the ice. A close inspection revealed that it had been torn from around the base of the log in the centre of the pond. The removal of the moss had revealed small areas where the ice was abviously thin enough to peck through, presumably to drink. I suspect the Blackbird or the Song Thrush to be responsible. I have pushed the moss back over the holes tonight.

One thing that puzzled me today was an increase in temperature of the water under the ice. At one stage during a sunny afternoon it had risen to over 4C, although tonight it is back down to 2C, with the air temperature at -3.5C at 8.45pm.

I wondered if the thermometer battery needed replacing, but a new replacement gave the same reading. I cannot remove the sensor in the water now because it is icebound, so I cannot check that it is reading correctly. However, as it seems to be giving a sensible reading now, perhaps I need to look for another explanation - was the sunshine enough to raise the temperature?

4 January - This morning at 8.20am the temperature by the pond is -7.5C and the water temperature has, for the first time dropped just below 1C. The sensor is about 6-10cm below the surface so the ice must be getting quite thick now. Yesterday did not see a repeat of the temperature rise in the water that appeared to happen the day before.

Late in the afternoon (3.45pm) I decided to drill a hole in the ice to check its thickness and to confirm the water temperature. The ice is about 6.5cm thick and the water is at 0.8C - checked with an accurate mercury thermometer. The electronic thermometer is giving a water temperature of 2.5C - maybe the sensor is succumbing to the pressure of the ice.

In the meantime there is actually a slight thaw going on, with the frost around the pond becoming wet in an air temperature of 2C under a cloudy sky.

While drilling, I could not help noticing the aquatic plants that still look healthy as they are gripped tightly by the ice.

At 10pm the air temperature is 3.3C and the ground frost around the pond has all but disappeared on a damp, misty night.

5 January - With the air temperature up to 8C on a dull, damp day the last traces of frost have disappeared. The ice on the pond has shrunk to a thickness of 4.5cm (at 3pm) and is covered with a layer of water. By 7.30pm the ice thickness was 4cm while the air temperature was 7.5C.


6 January - The thaw has progressed as the milder weather continues. In an air temperature of 8C today, the ice thickness is down to 2.5cm by 4.30pm. The ice is hidden under 2cm of water.

8 January - Yesterday morning the ice was down to 2cm thickness. This afternoon, with the air temperature colder, at 3.5C at 3pm (yesterday reached 5C) there is less than 1cm thickness of ice left.

Having rescued my electronic thermometer from the ice yesterday I found a lot of conensation inside it, which probably accounts for its erratic behaviour. It was thoroughly dried out overnight and now gives sensible readings again!

9 January - By this afternoon, with the air temperature at 5.2C, the ice in the pond has been reduced to a couple of small pieces.

13 January - No more ice or frost since the last entry, but neither have there been sightings of frogs, caterpillars or newts.

That is until tonight when I have caught sight of a frog and a Winter Moth caterpillar that have been encouraged to re-emerge in the milder weather - 9.5C at 7.45pm.

At 9pm I counted another six frogs, all in the small pond.

While out in the garden I checked to pond water temperature and found it to be 6C, while the air temperature was 9.3C.


14 January - Just a short note tonight. I spent some time clearing old vegetation from both ponds, especially old Iris leaves. They are looking better already. I came across a couple of small (1st year?) frogs.

I have just gone out to the pond (at 9.15pm) and spotted 12 adult frogs - 5 in the small pond, 7 in the large one. The temperatures are the same as last night.

17 January - Tonight, at 10pm I could see 14 frogs, including these two (along with 5 others) in the big pond - perhaps we are seeing the early arrivals for the Spring orgy of spawning.

Last year we did not see these numbers until February.

18 January - Tonight, in pouring rain I could only see 11 frogs in the ponds at 10pm. There was no sign of any others out on land.




29 January - Tonight I had my first good look into the pond for nearly two weeks and I saw encouraging signs of things to come. This pair of frogs was one of two 'couples' seen among at least 20 frogs seen in the two ponds.

The February issue of the 'BBC Wildlife' magazine arrived yesterday and has an article about the 'red leg' disease (an iridovirus) that has been affecting frogs in the UK since the mid-seventies. I have seen no sign of this disease in the garden in the past and all the frogs that I have seen so far this year seem to be healthy.


In addition to the frogs I spotted four newts in the water tonight. Last year it was the middle of March before I had my first sighting. Unlike the frogs they are very sensitive to the light of my torch and swim for cover very quickly, so I only just had time to capture this image of one in the 'shallow end' before it disappeared under some weed.


30 January - Tonight's count at 8.30pm revealed 28 Frogs, all mature adults and 4 newts.

31 January - As the month comes to an end a check of the pond at 9pm revealed 31 adult frogs and 8 newts.

The frogs remain almost motionless, which makes it easy to count them. However, when one moved another frog was quick to rush to it and grab it from behind. The mating urge is definitely starting to show itself.

There is a lot of other activity going on among the smaller inhabitants of the pond. I spotted a Water Scorpion on the move (last pictured 14 Sept 2001). There are lots of Ram's Horn snails in evidence, as are Gammarus type crustaceans ( I must get round to photographing these). Yesterday I caught a glimpse of a diving(?) beetle, about 10mm long.

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