Wot No Frogs? February 2020 Local Patch Update (Updated)


No Frogs… Second week running I’ve been up to the little pond in the woods and they are still not there.  I am hoping that they are running late – last year the Annual Frog Ball, with reasonable attendance, took place the last week of February, despite the pond having become extremely shallow; currently, after all the rain we have had, it is back to it’s proper levels, with the water clear and dark.   The Frogs on my tiny pond in the garden however have been singing away amidst the remnants of last year’s grasses for the last few weeks.

Whilst I stood near the pond in the woods, waiting in case my footsteps had alerted any amorous amphibians to dive amidst the ripples, there was a fierce cold wind whistling past me from across the field outside, I put my hand upon one of the slender tree trunks. The base of the Tree was sturdy and still, yet its’ crown was swaying and flexing in the wind.  Through my hand I could feel the muscles and fibres within vibrating and flexing with the movement. After a moment I did the same with a few of the other Trees… each time feeling the heartbeat and strength within, whilst outwardly apart from swaying crowns there was a solid stillness…

Since the beginning of January, I have ventured around my Local Patch when the weather has allowed – when it has been gale force winds, I have stayed out of the woods – we live a few hundred yards away and a few crashes have been heard.  After Storm Dennis I had a stroll through, there was a lot of tree debris about and two trees had come down; one which had been clinging on for sometime – half of it having been damaged in a storm some years ago. 

The second casualty, which seems to have had three trunks originally - one of those trunks fractured and fell some twenty years ago, providing a seat across my usual path as well as harbouring candle-snuff fungi, (see below) mosses and probably countless mini-beasts within.

Over time I have watched it slowly begin to melt into the ground, now a second trunk has fallen and the process will begin over.

In the mornings I have heard one of the local Song Thrushes in full voice and on one of my walks I stood in the woods, just listening as he went from tree to tree giving a recital.

I was then treated to a rare encounter as he flew up into a tree close by, watching me warily for a few moments before flying off to find a choice perch to continue singing from.

At other times, ‘Ping Ping, Ping Ping’ has been ringing out loudly as the Nuthatches have been calling to each other across the woods.

There seem to be two ‘territories’ where they call from, one of which contains a nest which has been used for the past couple of years – indeed, in recent weeks I watched a Nuthatch checking out the nest hole again!

There seems to be ever increasing numbers of Grey Squirrels in the woodland and this time of year they can be seen spiralling up and down the trees in hot pursuit of a partner. 

On the ground, in between the shooting Bluebells and clumps of Cuckoo Pint, there are little holes dug, where they have been searching for snacks buried back in the autumn.

Blackbirds are also starting to get busy, there have been territory discussions in my garden as well as in the woods.  Sometimes I’ve spied a female swooping low, shortly followed by one or more males…

Inside the woods, Blue Tits have been chasing about and have been busy acrobatically feeding,

Whilst small troupes of Long Tailed Tit have been doing similar, although I have not yet seen any signs of nest building.

Robins have begun to establish territories and have been finding regular perches to declare from

and from the undergrowth or deep within the bushes, a sweet song is repeatedly heard from Dunnocks as they begin courting.

Out along the brook in the meadow, the same activity is occurring and in addition to the Blue Tits and Dunnocks, Great Tits have also begun to declare.

On the woodland floor, Bluebells have been shooting since early January and are now a few inches tall.

At one point along my usual path, several clumps of Snowdrops have bloomed and along my drive to work I have seen Primroses in bloom as well in the verges.

In the canopy above, fresh catkins are providing stripes of gold against occasional blue skies

And the Willow trees have little furry buds waiting for enough warmth to explode into little fluffy yellow pollen bombs.

In a further part of the woodland, I spent some while delighting in the antics of four or five Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  I had heard them drumming, so stood a while on the path and looked about.  There appeared to be two females, one of whom chose a dead tree very close to where I stood to drum.

On other tree trunks, males clung, looked and listened for rivals as well as one of the females.

After a while and several drumming sessions from various trees, there was what can only be described as the Woodpecker version of aerial wacky races, which involved three males flying noisy circuits around and through the Oak trees, whilst from separate vantage points, the females kept low profiles as well as spectating the race…. 

One of the local Buzzards has also been seen, both overhead and within the woodland, where he (?) seems to try and take respite from the local corvids. 

On one occasion, the Buzzard came gliding out of the woods (with Crows calling) with talons full of something,

which was quickly jettisoned as he perched briefly, before gliding off into the the next patch of woodland.

A short while later I reached the entrance to the woods on my return walk – he was down the slope on the ground, but swiftly floated through the trees and out of sight… As I reached the far end of the trees, I kept a lookout as I could hear the Crows yelling – sure enough, a shape and colour on a branch that was out of place morphed into a Buzzard as wings were spread and he flew resignedly out to the meadow.  Soon I hope to see a few more as they begin to soar and dance. 

Now where on earth are those Frogs? I’m missing the Ball!


A week after I originally wrote this, I returned to the pond on a relatively mild and calm day.  As I approached, over the far side little heads bobbed underwater. When I was closer, still and patient, after a minute or two they popped up again. There were a dozen or so brave Frogs peering above the water from out of the chickweed and most likely quite a few more still underwater judging by bubbles and peculiar ripples not caused by the breeze. Lower numbers than previous years (the pond has only recently regained it's traditional depth, so between the Beast from the East and dry summers, it was not in great condition) but it now looks to be in optimum condition for a good season for those Frogs who have found their way back again to have a good season.  

Along the edge of the pond, there were several sizeable clumps of frogspawn blown against the ‘shore’ – the wind has been blowing the water across to that side. The spawn appeared to be a few days old – so it seems the Frogs had been partying in the calmer intervals in the weather.

Some were still in courting mode and I watched a threesome at close quarters hugging and wriggling in the water as two suitors sought to mate with the Lady in the middle.

From time to time they would rest before continuing their watery courtship.

Whilst others simply sat or floated peering contemplatively into the distance.

A couple more signs of spring have also appeared, the willows have started to bloom, providing food for emerging Bees and other insects.

The first Wood Anemones are now in bloom as well as the Blackthorn bushes beginning to break bud and flower as well as tiny brilliant green buds on many of the Hawthorn and Elder beginning to burst into leaf.

I shall have to start listening out for the return of the Chiff Chaffs, Blackcaps and Whitethroats who return to the patch every year - it will not be long now!




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