Thursday, February 19, 2015

No frogspawn - it could be attributed to a predator last spring

More welcome wildlife in February is usually the frogs and toads spawning in the pond.

Our pond is man-made and cut into the considerable slope of the garden with banks of earth raising the lower side.

Two years ago their were huge numbers of frogs and toads. As you approached the pond by day from below it, the moment your head appeared over the bank they all dived underwater, leaving the surface seething and churning, as if it was boiling. By night you could hear the frogs calling to each other.

Then last year we had a problem. While there was plenty of spawn, a large rodent set up home in the bank above the pond. What it was, I'm uncertain. I only caught a fleeting glimpse of it though my daughter described it. She saw it slip into the pond and swim underwater, leaving a trail of bubbles before exiting up a well worn slipway to its hole.

It was either a brown rat (Rattus norwegicus) or a water vole (Arvicola amphibious) but do rats swim underwater?

Anyway, the masses of toad and frog spawn last year disappeared without any tadpoles to be seen. Water voles are normally herbivores but will eat tadpoles and even frogs legs.

Whatever it was, the result seems to be that this year we've yet to see any frogspawn or toadspawn (distinguishable as it is in long chains) in the pond.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that they are just late.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Unwelcome February wildlife

The first crocuses came into flower two days ago. They're the purple variety. It's a sure sign that spring is just around the corner. Next will be white and then gold. I think they re more the  harbinger of spring than daffodils because they are that much earlier and even more colourful.

Another but less welcome appearance this February has been a spate of mole hills. It's become a real problem and, although they have actually been evident all winter, their tunnelling has now picked up a pace.

Apparently the critters are there all year round but come close to the surface this month as they search for mates. But more moles is the last thing I want.

I tried trapping them a few years ago when they first appeared but caught nothing. Now I must resort to other solutions.

The problem is quite serious. The tunnels they make under the turf around the garden collapse as you walk over them and we're all prone to twisted ankles. It will also be difficult to avoid chewing up the turf with the lawn mower.

In addition to that, they uproot taller veg such as Brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli , undoing all my had work. They damage the roots of other plants, push bulbs out of place and bury emerging shoots under the mole hills themselves.

Now they have spread from the veg patch, through the orchard, around the pond banks and into the chicken pen. Drastic action is needed. I'll report back.