Tag Archives: Frog

British Animal Challenge: August update

I’ve been making the most of the summer this month, spending lots of time watching wildlife. I have been focusing on trying to see some new bat species, and a water shrew.

I have had mixed success with bats. A bat walk led to no new species, while an unaccompanied expedition in Devon found two new species, only one of which I could identify (soprano pipistrelle). A more recent bat walk was more successful, with three new species – more on that next week.

As for water shrews, I have spent quite a bit of time looking for them at a site I know they inhabit, but no luck so far. I think I may have heard one, but I haven’t seen one.

Apart from new species, I have also seen:

  • A hare
  • Common pipistrelles
  • Woodmice
  • A pygmy shrew
  • Rabbits
  • Hedgehog
  • Frog
  • Dormice

As for next month, I’m not going to have so much time for wildlife watching, as a work trip is taking me out of the country. But I do have a trip to the West Country planned, where I will try my luck with more bats and cetaceans.

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Return of the frog

Soon after we moved into our house we built a mini pond, made of a wine barrel. I was delighted when, a few weeks later, we spotted frogs in the pond and around the garden.

But then winter came. I don’t know if you remember, but the winter of 2010 was a particularly cold one (as was 2011 and 2012). ¬†Since that winter we haven’t seen any frogs in our garden. I don’t know if it’s connected, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the cold had had a bad effect on the frog population.

I used the ‘Dragon finder’ app on my phone, developed by the charity Froglife, to identify what species the frog was (through answering a series of simple questions), and report the sighting, together with a photo and GPS location. It was very easy to use, and I’m looking forward to trying it out on some other amphibians and reptiles.

It looks like at least one has returned to our garden. Let’s hope he’s the first of many!

Only connect: children and nature

This week the RSPB launched a report about children’s connection with nature. This looked at empathy for creatures, having a sense of oneness with nature, having a sense of responsibility for the environment and enjoyment of nature. According to a survey of 1,200 children from the UK, conducted as part of the research, only one in five children had a good connection to nature. If you would like to see how connected you are with nature, you can take the survey here.

Being connected with nature is important for all of us. Previous work done by the RSPB has suggested that spending time in nature is good for us both mentally and physically. But it’s also really important that children have a good connection with nature, as if they don’t value it then they are not going to look after it when they are older.

Reading about this report made me think back to my own childhood, and try and work out why I became interested in nature. I can’t think of a damascene experience, but a few early memories do stand out.

Frogs and slow worms
I remember spending lots of time playing in the garden when I was young, chasing frogs and finding slow worms. I was surprised a few years ago, when Fat Cat brought in a frog, how hesitant I was about picking it up. I certainly had none of that squeamishness when I was a child!

Acorn treasure
The infant school I went to used the park as a playground. There were some magnificent oaks in the park, and I remember each year gathering acorns as treasure. Green ones still in their cups were the ones I prized most. All these years later the sight of an oak tree laden with acorns still thrills me, and I often can’t resist gathering a few acorns.

Wildlife Watch
When I was a bit older my mother’s godmother bought me membership of Wildlife Watch (the Wildlife Trusts’ club for children). I remember a brilliant weekend on Dartmoor, learning to identify antiseptic moss, dambusting, visiting a badger rehabilitation centre, and going for a midnight walk on the moors.

Reading animal stories

I was always an avid reader, and I think the animal stories I read as a child played an important part in getting me interested in wildlife. I’m sure some experts look down on anthropomorphicised animals in children’s books, but I think beautiful stories like the Brambly Hedge books, Wind in the Willows, and later the Animals of Farthing Woods and Duncton Woods can help children learn to love wildlife and nature.

Nature is fascinating and beautiful and disgusting enough to capture the imagination of any child, given a chance. I’m determined to help my god daughter and nephew to grow up connected to nature. I want to give them a chance to experience the wonder and joy of exploring our natural world. I’m not sure where to start, but I have a few ideas.

Were you connected to nature as a child? What got you interested in wildlife?

How to build a mini pond

Frog
Frog

As a kid, I loved the pond in my parents’ garden. It was brimming with frogs and newts (and leeches). My brother and I spent many happy hours catching frogs (the tiny, just-got-legs ones were the easiest to catch, and the cutest – poor little froggies being chased by curious kids). So when I finally got a garden of my own, I was determined to build one.

Building a pond is a great way of increasing the value of your garden to wildlife. It attracts invertebrates, amphibians (who eat slugs – horay!), and can be a vital water source for birds and mammals if it’s designed well. As I mentioned in my first post, our garden is rather small, and since Dr C objected to me turning the whole lawn into a pond, I had to content myself with a mini-pond. But even a tiny pond can be really valuable to wildlife.

Living in England’s equivalent to the Champagne region, the obvious container for our pond was half an old wine barrel, obtained from our local vineyard. Old tin baths, belfast sinks and other similar containers can also make good mini-ponds.

To make it easier for hedgehogs and frogs to access, we decided to recess it, so the top was about level with the decking. Dr C valiantly got on with the digging while I tried to clean up the barrel. After several scrub-outs, the water was still turning wine red, so as we didn’t want drunk frogs, we decided to line it with pond liner.

Once the pond was in place, we used old bricks and stones to create different levels within the pond. This is important so frogs and hedgehogs can easily climb out, and birds have a shallow bit to bathe in. When we had the landscaping sorted, we put the pond liner over the top and stapled the edges to the top of the barrel so they didn’t move.

Creating different levels in the pond
Creating different levels in the pond

We added a couple of handfuls of pond compost, and then filled it with water from our water butt (if you’re using tap water, you have to let it rest for 24 hours so all the chlorine can evaporate off, before adding any plants or creatures).

Picking plants for a small pond can be a bit of a challenge, as you need to find something that won’t spread too much. We managed to find a dwarf water lily for surface cover (most water lilies like to be planted quite deep), and then picked a couple of native oxygenating plants plus a small iris for the edge. Waterside Nursery have a good range of wildlife friendly pond plants.

Newly planted pond

Newly planted pond

I’ll save telling you how the pond has fared for another day, but here’s a sneak preview…

The mini pond
The mini pond

If you’re keen to have a go at creating your own pond, the RSPB provide some good guidance. Waterside Nursery’s website also contains lots of useful advice about building a wildlife pond and picking the right plants.