Growing Bigger

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – I can’t believe what a frenzy of activity is going on in the garden pond at the moment. It is teeming with tadpoles and all of them are scraping algae from the rocks, so much so some of them are virtually picked clean. They have grown so much bigger, too. Double-click images to enlarge.

Common Frog Rana temporaria tadpole

Common Frog Rana temporaria tadpole

© Peter Hillman ♦ 24th April 2020 ♦ Rear garden, South Staffordshire ♦ Nikon D7200

The Strangest Thing

Star Jelly

Whilst out on a walk this morning along the bank of my local river the first thing I had noticed was that my favourite willow had finally succumbed to the ravages of disease and winter storms. It looked like it had been split asunder by a giant axe as half of it lay torn to one side. But as I looked along the massive bough of the torn section I noticed a strange gooey jelly-like substance coating the moss which cloaked the branch.

Star Jelly

It appeared in clumps on one section of the bough, some of it clear, and some of it with small dark irregular spots within the jelly. None appeared on the ground.

Star Jelly

I thought ‘frog spawn’ at first, but up a tree? Although half the tree had fallen it was not flat on the ground, but had come to rest against other trees.

Star Jelly

Some say this strange gooey substance has come from passing meteors, and others have attached supernatural elements to its appearance.

Star Jelly

But a more down-to-earth explanation is most likely. Some birds like herons, buzzards and crows will eat frogs, but they tend to leave the ovaries because the spawn swells massively when it comes into contact with water, which would not be very agreeable to a bird’s digestive system. The spawn is held in glycoprotein, the jelly-like substance, so mystery solved, apparently, without extraterrestrial intervention.

Star Jelly

April 2018, local river, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman

As of The Earth

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

It was almost like the earth had began to move and come alive as I walked along my local riverbank this morning. I immediately stopped in mid-stride as my eye saw movement below.

It was a little toadlet which I had disturbed amongst the leaf fall and other plant detritus, trying its best to flee before the giant which cast its shadow upon it. And there was another, and nature had provided them with the perfect camouflage to keep them safe from predation. But if they hadn’t moved they might not have been safe from my foot! But thankfully they were.


In The Night Pool #2

I have been in the garden on and off during the week in the dark hours to see what comes out under the cloak of night, and here they are again, two Common Toads (Bufo bufo).

One was on a garden step, and the other was swimming in the pool.

Visit Common Toad (Bufo bufo) to learn more about these wonderful amphibians.

Toadlet By The River

Whilst taking a stroll along my local river I came across this small toadlet whilst investigating some toadstools. It is the young of the Common Toad (Bufo bufo), and toads and toadstools so do compliment each other! Toadlets emerge from the water after heavy rain late in the summer.

Photographs taken September 2011, local river, Staffordshire.

Common Toad

Bufo bufo

Common Toads have very warty skin, are brown or grey, or olive-green in colouration, with a rounded snout and copper-coloured eyes. They also have a large parotoid gland behind each eye. The males call by day or night with a  croaky squeak which does not carry far. The females do not make any sound. Length 60-90mm. Weight 40-80g.

They hibernate underground quite a considerable distance from water, often in old rodent burrows from October through to February. In the spring they migrate back to the ponds where they were born to spawn and secure the next generation. Newly emerged toadlets are seen in June or July, usually after rain. Common Toads puff up their bodies when threatened themselves to make themselves appear bigger than they actually are. They also secrete a nasty tasting substance through their skins to deter being eaten, and are highly poisonous, even to humans. Nocturnal hunters, they hunt invertebrates with their sticky tongues, eating worms, spiders, and insect larvae. Larger toads will also prey on small rodents, and also grass snakes and slow worms. They can live up to 40 years.

They are found in a wide range of habitats, from ponds, woodland, hedgerows, grasslands, and parks and gardens. They are common and  widely distributed throughout mainland Britain and the Channel Islands, but more localised in Scotland. In steady decline in the wild.

Photographs taken June 2013, discovered under log, local wood, Staffordshire.

Toad Pays A Visit

This was the first time I had ever seen a toad in my garden. We normally get frogs, but never toads, until now, which was a wonderful surprise! This is the Common Toad (Bufo bufo),  which I discovered on my patio, and the good thing is that these amphibians tend to keep quite still whilst you photograph them. I later discovered it had made a home for itself in a space beneath my rear patio step.

Because I was taking the step out and building some decking, I thought it best I moved it to the garden water feature I had at the time. It appeared happy with its new home for it remained there for awhile afterwards.There seems to be a few things going on here besides the toad in the water. There are gnat larvae swimming around, and what is that wormy thingy coming out of the toad’s head? Maybe it is some kind of parasite?