Wildlife Reports 2017 (Thanks to Gill Massey and Paul Arthur)
9th April: Spring is definitely here and our wildlife pond is full of, well, wildlife. Last Sunday the sun brought out many of its watery inhabitants. Lots of newts were in evidence, often in pairs performing their complex mating displays. The adult frogs, having done their bit in producing numerous tadpoles, are taking it easy and were spotted lounging about with just this heads above water either chilling out or sunbathing, and not taking much notice of passing humans. Their tadpoles are growing apace and often found basking in the warm water at the edge of the pond. They had better watch out though as we spotted a Great Diving Beetle, probably a female which is duller in colour than the male, moving among the water plants. These beetles, which can be up to 35mm long, and their larvae, are ferocious predators tackling anything from small fish downward with tadpoles high up on the list for lunch.
On a less gruesome note, an investigation of the remaining plastic compost bin revealed three slow worms enjoying the heat that builds up inside. We were also visited by a Speckled Wood butterfly which had probably recently hatched from an overwintering pupae, and was appreciating the dappled shade of the hawthorn. Celandines, primroses and white dead nettle are still in flower and other plant growth is speeding up with the lengthening days, in particular our precious yellow rattle, which is now quite visible in the grass. It won’t be long now before the May blossom is coming out.
12th March: Breaking news, or should that be hatching news? We now have tadpoles, as quite a lot of our frogspawn has just hatched into tiny black commas which are wriggling in a seething mass on the pond surface. I’m sure that, in the deep dark depths of the pond, the dragonfly larvae are waiting to enjoy a tadpole lunch. As ever though, there are enough tadpoles around for some to make it into adult frogs. Some adult frogs and a newt have also been spotted. Our solitary pond skater has now been joined by some friends, and the whirligig beetles have put in their usual energetic appearance whizzing about on the surface of the water. Good news too on the plant front, as the first tiny seedlings of the yellow rattle we planted late last summer are coming up in the meadow area. Hopefully this will do its job of weakening the ever vigorous grass and allow some wildflowers a bit of elbow room. Sadly we found a dead juvenile hedgehog in the second compost bay from the left. It is thought that hedgehogs that don’t have time to mature in the months leading up hibernation are rather vulnerable.
5th March: We were in the Orchard last Sunday enjoying some sunshine and were pleased to find our wildlife pond now has masses of frogspawn. During the winter, the orchard group took some expert advice and cleared out a lot of encroaching vegetation from the pond. Bullrushes and yellow flag iris were threatening to overrun least one end of it. We had some concerns about possible disturbance as this was the main area for frogspawn last year. However our froggy friends have not taken offence and have come back to a slightly different area which will, we hope, shortly be heaving with tadpoles. While we were admiring the frogspawn a solitary pond skater put an appearance, a party of long tailed tits flew through, the celandines and primroses and gorse were in flower and the first green shoots have appeared on the hawthorn. Spring is gradually making her presence felt.