Saturday, 20 March 2021

Frogs and friends in George's Pond

George's Pond began in January 2016 when we excavated a large shallow-sided dish of a pond to be fed with rainwater from our roofs.

George Carlyle
22 March 1928 to 7 May 2020

It became George's Pond after my dad suffered life-changing injuries following a kerb-stone trip when helping us. Dad passed away in May 2020. It would have been his 93rd birthday on 22 March.
Frog spawn in George's Pond

Since then the pond (lined with bentomat and then given a good topping of our sandy subsoil) has filled to about 20m diameter and established itself.

This month I counted a frog chorus of fifty purring males when I did a torchlight visit. Their stage is our largest-ever raft of frogspawn: certainly over a hundred clumps until the spawn morphed together.

And now the frogs have been joined by toads. Currently not for them the Trent End mentality of their cousins: our toads are spread in singles or small groups around the pond circumference. The males chirrup. Or the lucky ones ride the backs of much-larger females in what is termed 'amplexus'.
Frogs by moonlight

Unsurprisingly, as there has never been even a small pond on this sandy hill, we had no site records of smooth newts before the pond. But last summer smooth newts began to appear under the range of 'refugias' (logs, pieces of rubber, scraps of corrugated roofing, car mats, boards) we have placed around the gardens.

They had found us and had bred successfully. Most of the 'efts' (newts in seasonal adaption to life on land) were juveniles.

Toads in amplexus

They will be entering the pond now to feed on the frog tadpoles. Tadpoles are a vital food supply for many aquatic creatures. But sufficient spawn is laid for there to be another growth in the frog chorus next year.

So, our amphibians appear to be flourishing. Which may be good news because across intensively-farmed Britain ponds and marshy areas have been eradicated. Maps of the distribution of amphibians across Nottinghamshire show them now being extinct from large areas - which coincide with intensive farm production.

I would love to see great-crested newts join our amphibious family but their distribution is severely-restricted and so there is little chance. This is a pity because the pond is large, there should be plentiful food and we have none of their nemesis: fish.

Smooth newts under refugia

As usual, we have sited 'Slow - Toads Crossing' signs on the lane so that drivers at night can be made aware of the hundreds of toads heading over the fields to the large irrigation pond on the farm and having to make the hazardous crossing. We plan to survey the pond at dusk next week. Unfortunately for George's Pond, the farm pond is stocked for fishing so there is little chance of a thriving great-crested newt population that may send an expeditionary party our way. 

We live in hope though. 

In the meantime, we pause and think of our lovely dad. 
Bless you George Carlyle.


Conehead54 said...

Such a lovely tribute to George! Wonderful that his pond has been such a magnet to the local amphibians.

Denise said...

To reach 93 years is a rare and a wonderful thing.
Cherish George always. He lives on in your rich red blood.

Rob said...

Thank you. Dad loved the pond in his previous garden and took a real paternal pride in and care of ‘his’ tadpoles. He’d have loved to sit with me with a cuppa, just soaking up the special ambience.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Such kind words. Appreciated.

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