Monday, 25 January 2010

Hitching a ride

When I go through old photographs it often amazes me how I missed things at the time I took the photo. For example I took a number of photos of this little froglet and yet have only now discovered that another creature was crawling all over it. I've absolutely no idea what it is or even if it is a terrestrial or aquatic animal. All suggestions welcome!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Unidentified species

I've started to go through my million and one photographs taken in the garden to add to the species lists for Frog End.

The following have not yet been identified. If you recognise any of these species please leave a comment. Thanks!

Hundreds of little larvae in the pond at the beginning of May 2008:

Eggs underneath a frogbit leaf in the pond (July 2008):

I've uncovered several of these orange moth chrysalises when digging in our clay soil:

Some sort of crab? spider (bonus points for the hoverfly!):

There'll be a few more of these in a few days - mostly moths I suspect.

Pond Dip - January 2010

Jeremy at the garden pond blog has been receiving lots of reports of dead frogs and other pond animals resulting from the recent cold spell in the UK. I hadn't seen any dead creatures at Frog End, but our ponds are pretty deep so I decided to dip them this morning to see what I could find. I was pleased to find lots of animals happily swimming around and not a single dead creature.

Every dip with the net came back with a number of water slaters - they're definitely the most common species of animal in our ponds that can be seen with the naked eye:

Many of the nets contained water snails and quite a few had baby smooth newts. The newts seem to be doing fine despite the cold weather, probably because our ponds are quite deep and it was easy for them not to get caught in the ice. I found a few leeches and one damselfly larva, but it was very small and I may have missed others amongst all the vegetation that I pulled out. The main absences compared with when I dipped the ponds last summer were a lack of mayfly larvae and pond skaters.

The most exciting discoveries of the day were a bug and a beetle. As when I dipped the small pond in the summer I found a backswimmer, but I also found a common black diving beetle in the larger pond - a new species for Frog End.

Backswimmer in the usual upside-down position:

After a frustrating 10 minutes trying to get it to turn over in the water I resorted to taking it out of the water for a couple of seconds:

Common black diving beetle (I had a feeling my photos were going to be poor so I shot a video as well):

Unlike Jeremy I didn't find any dead dragonfly larvae, but nor did I find any live ones. Not that I'm concerned because I know that several species are breeding in the ponds and it's been difficult to find the larvae in the past - mainly due to the depth of the ponds and the large amount of vegetation they contain.

If you have a pond in the UK you can help UK charity Pond Conservation understand the effects of the cold spell by taking part in the Big Pond Thaw Survey.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Species Lists Update

The species lists for Frog End are growing longer every few days, so rather than blogging each addition I've decided to add the lists to the right hand side of the blog. So far I've only put up mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and dragonflies, but I hope to add some other insect groups later in the year (when I've identified some more from my photographs).

This rather bedraggled garden tiger moth?? caterpillar was on the house wall yesterday:

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The snow

It snowed overnight on January 5th/6th at Frog End, but I didn't get out with the camera until yesterday, by which time the lawn and ponds were covered with hundreds of little footprints... some cat, some bird and a few human where I'd gone to feed the birds

The small pond is only distinguishable by the marginal plants:

In the meadow we can build a snowman...

and pretend that he is parson Brown.
He'll say are you married, we'll say no man,
but you can do the job when you're in town
(lyrics from Winter Wonderland)

Parson Brown visited Frog End on the morning of the 6th and Ian and I got engaged :-)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Feeding the birds

Exeter appears to be one of the few places in England that hasn't yet had snow this winter, but it is still freezing cold at Frog End. The ponds have been covered in a layer of ice since before Christmas - much thicker than when they last froze in early February 2009.

During such cold weather it's vitally important to put out food and water for the birds and here in Devon farmers have been given bird food to put out to feed the rare cirl buntings.

Upon returning to Exeter at New Year I was surprised to find that our bird feeders weren't empty, but upon closer examination I found that much of the food had frozen inside the feeders. My attempts to clean them out have achieved very little. Instead I've resorted to putting food down on the brick path beside the main pond. No doubt I'll be annoyed when a million little grasses emerge in the gaps between the bricks in the Spring, but for now the arrangement seems to be suiting the birds.