Thursday, March 19, 2015

Newto the pond ...

Eventually, amphibious life returned to our pond in abundance.

It turns out there was loads of frogspawn in the end in the end - as much as we've had in the any of the last few years. It was just a bit later arriving, despite the relatively mild winter and the pond being ice-free for at least two weeks before the first spawn was produced.

I wonder if there are other factors in heir spawning cycle apart from temperature and an unfrozen pond?

However, they have left nearly half of it on a shallow shelf on the edge of the pond where, if the water level drops, much of it will dry out. Some was sticking out of the water anyway, so I pushed those clumps in a bit deeper.

But focus has transferred onto several small newts that we've seen for the first time since the pond was created six years ago. I think they are common newts and no more than bout 5cm yet, so half their eventual length.

The obvious question is: how did they get there? It's both natural and great fun to ponder such challenging questions - but not always productive or helpful.

I read a preposterous article (I think!) which suggested newts might hang on to a heron's leg and thereby travel with the bird from one water hole to another until it dropped off in your pond. Utter gibberish. They're just as likely to have hitched a lift with Nemo!

Sometimes the precise details are best left alone until real evidence is found.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Calling all female tawny owls ...

I've had a few poor night's sleeping since the new year and it's all down to our noisy neighbours: owls.

It's not actually that they make that much noise but I can't help but listening to them calling, once I've heard one. And they go on all night.

We've mainly got tawny owls around us at Stonecroft - the ones that go "twit-twoo". It's the females that say "twit" and the males that say "twoo". As a result, I lie there in bed, listening to lonely males seeking a mate with "twoo" after "twoo".  And so far this winter, I've not heard one "twit" of a reply. No wonder they're calling so much.

The other thing I try and do when listening to them is work out where they are in the garden. There's 40ft oak tree overhanging our bedroom and they sometimes sit in that - just to make sure I can hear them, obviously. More often, though they're in another oak, 40ft away on the edge of the wood.

The other owls we get are little owls. We see them regularly too while we rarely see the tawny owls. Little owls sit on top of telegraph poles on the lane at dusk and dawn but don't call so much.

There's a good site here helps identify British owl calls.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

First flowers of the year

First came the snow drops in mid-January, then the pale blue periwinkle.

As usual, we had a few people come up to the house to see the snowdrops which one of the former owners planted profusely. I'm planning on planting a few more "in the green" when they've finished flowering, rather than just planting dormant bulbs which don't take as well.

Those already out there are still flowering well, after about seven weeks, and they have been joined by other spring blooms. Last week we saw the first lesser celandines and the first daffodils burst into bloom on February 26th, just in time for St David's Day. They were immediately joined by some golden crocuses on the pond bank I planted last autumn.

The purple crocuses in the glade have been in bloom for two weeks. They're part of a mix of purple, yellow and white crocuses I planted which normally look good together. The purples are always the first to bloom but are soon followed by the white and yellow ones - but not this year.

Of 50 bulbs planted in the small glade of silver birch and rowan trees, we have 20 or so purples and so far only one white and no sign of a yellow at all. I'm wondering if someone forgot to mix them when they were packed. Or maybe they're just being slower than usual to bloom.

We also had the first red camellia flower a month ago. It's now passed and we're still waiting for the second to open. There are hundreds of buds on the 6ft high bush in the yard but they seem later than usual. The white camellia nearby is bursting with buds as usual but no flowers yet. A pink one, planted on the north side of the hedge at the bottom of the garden, is in full and glorious bloom.

Elsewhere, there are primulas, wild primroses and a few dark purple dwarf irises in flower. Spring will soon be here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Return of the frogs

At last, frogspawn in the pond. It's much later this year and I can't think why. We usually get loads of frogs in the pond in the first couple of weeks of February but not this year.

The pond's not been frozen for the last three weeks but it's taken them that long to arrive. But we've got a fair amount of it now. No toadspawn yet though.