What Lies Under A Piece of Bark

x5 images. Double click to enlarge.

Lifting a piece of bark in a garden border, the last thing I expected to find was a delightful Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris).

It remained where it was, frozen to the spot. I hadn’t got my camera, so I gently placed the bark back and went into the house to get my equipment. Thankfully, when I got back and lifted the bark a second time, he was still there.

It is the first time I have seen a Smooth Newt here, in fact, surpisingly, the first time since I was a boy back home in the 1970s., so this was quite an exciting find for me.

I found him at the opposite end of the garden to where my pond is located, but after their spring mating sessions in ponds they live the rest of the year away from water, hiding under rocks and logs in woodland, hedgerows or gardens, venturing out only at night to hunt inveretbrates.

The Smooth Newt is one of three native species to be found in the UK, and it is the commonest and the most frequently encountered of them all.

Venturing Onto Land

Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – At 12 mm(1/2 in) long, I just about spotted this little froglet in the garden pond. How quickly it has grown. I spied its younger siblings still with their tails, feeding on algae beneath the water, but this one will now be carniverous as it ventures out onto land for the first time.

Common Frog Rana temporaria froglet

Double-click image for a closer look.

Getting Bigger

Common Frog Rana temporaria

I have noticed how big the young frogs are now growing in the garden pond. I spied four of them amongst the Water Mint and pond weed poking their heads out the water.

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Feel free to click the images to enlarge and click again to get even closer …

© Pete Hillman August 2019

Staying Alive

Common Frog Rana temporaria juvenile

I wondered where all my tadpoles had gone. Spotted a couple of little juvenile frogs today hiding under a piece of bark in my back yard. Below how it began life feeding on algae in the pond into the carnivorous creature above. It is one way to keep the slugs down. Nature is trully a wonderful thing!

July 2019, rear garden, South Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Underwater Grazing

Back in March I discovered clumps of frogspawn in my garden pond which was built 3 years ago in the spring of 2016. You can imagine my excitement as this was the first time I might have my first tadpole nursery!

Before I knew it the tadpoles were appearing, and as they grew I noticed how they would graze on the algae growing on the stones in the shallows. I like how they have gradually turned from black blobs to these rather beautiful bronze speckled creatures. I was also quite surprised by how their eyes are so pronounced. They not only feed on algae but water fleas. It will take 16 weeks for them to grow their back legs, then their front legs, and eventually they will absorb their tails to emerge from the water as froglets. It will take them 2 to 3 years to reach breeding maturity. Rinse and repeat.

Click and click again on the image to get that little bit closer …

May 2019, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Froggy Has A Close Call

Common Frog Rana temporaria

… with the green waste recycling bin. Whenever I wheel my green waste bin I am now cautious. For the little frogs and toads take to hiding under a little recess beneath the bin during the day, and if I don’t tilt the bin forward I would most likely squish them, or drag them with the bin. This evening I found two toads under the bin which quickly vanished under the shed. This is a Common Frog (Rana temporaria), I took the other day, which was also discovered hiding under the bin. They must gather beneath the bin in readiness for those all night pool parties they have! 🙂

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer

July 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Frogs Partying In The Night Pool

Common Frog Rana temporaria

The other night I caught a couple of frogs in and around the garden pond. With temperatures in the high twenties amd touching thirty who can blame them? 🙂

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer

Common Frog Rana temporaria, , July 2018, rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Toad In A Watering Can

Common Toad Bufo bufo

It is as the title states but after the event. This fairly large toad was found in one of my garden watering cans, and I can only guess it hopped in there when the can was on its side at some stage. Thankfully it was released unharmed near my garden pond where it hopped away and swam for cover.

Common Toad Bufo bufo

Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer

Common Toad Bufo bufo, June 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.

Toad From The Leaf Pile

Common Toad Bufo bufo

This little one gave me quite a start as I was sweeping up some fallen leaves in the back garden this afternoon. It must have been hiding under a pile when I disturbed it with my dustpan and brush, and it suddenly emerged and hopped across the patio. It found a gap under my gate post to peer out of.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo), October 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

In The Night Pool III

Common Frog Rana temporaria

Out in my garden in the dark hours my torch fell on the first frog I have seen in my small pond. He or she had slime on its nose but appeared quite happy taking a dip amongst the pond plants.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria), rear garden pond, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Two Toads In a Hole

Common Toad Bufo bufo

For the last three nights and days I have heard something akin to a very old rusty wheelbarrow being pushed along coming from beneath a bush on the edge of my garden pond. It sounds like the male mating call of a frog or a toad, which one I don’t know for I haven’t seen it yet, despite my efforts getting on hands and knees peering under the bush. About four days ago I discovered a toad under a step, which can be seen in the images below, and I thought he might be the one making all the noise, if it was in fact a he. Yet when I lifted the loose slab to the step this morning I found not one toad, but two hiding under there. I thought aha! here we have them, a courting couple, yet as I observed them the rusty wheelbarrow noise started up again by the pond! So I guess I am still none the wiser at present as to what is making all the noise.

Common Toad Bufo bufo

Common Toad Bufo bufo

Common Toad Bufo bufo

Toad In A Dustpan

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet

This toadlet had been hiding in a corner of the front garden under a drift of leaves after the rains and winds we have had lately. Unfortunately he was rudely disturbed for he was so small and well camouflaged he was not spotted until he was hopping in the dustpan.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet

Although he appeared a little put out by the incident, fortunately he seemed unaffected by the mishap and was released on rocks on the edge of my garden pond. He duly found himself in the water and swam for cover beneath some overhanging vegetation.

Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet

Photograph of Common Toad (Bufo bufo) toadlet, taken August 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Nikon 18-55mm lens.

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.

In The Night Pool

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Finally, I have vertebrate activity in my garden pond. And more than I could have wished for!

I went out after dark tonight to see if I could spot anything going on in or near the pond, and then I saw a toad swimming in the pond towards me. And then, lo and behold, I saw another which appeared to be feeding at the base of my Water Mint.

So from May when I first built the pond, and when it started with a bloom of green algae, then teemed with gnat larvae, and after more invertebrate activity, the ecosystem has evolved and attracted its first vertebrates as I know of.

I am so delighted to have been witness to nature colonising  new territory in the form of this small garden pond, and I hope that if these toads are a pair, that maybe there will be baby toads on the way.

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?

Common Frog

Rana temporaria

I have always been fortunate enough to find frogs in my rear garden. During the summer months it is a pure delight to hear their nighttime frog chorus. They are one of the very first photographs of animals I took back in 2005 when I bought my first digital camera, a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W.

The males are usually smaller and darker than the females, and they have a black nuptial pad on their first finger. Its colouration is variable, but it is usually greenish brown or olive-buff with dark blotches. Common frogs are known to be able to lighten or darken their skin depending on their surroundings. It has the ability to breathe through its skins which helps enable it to hibernate for several months beneath mud and piles of dead leaves underwater. The hind feet are fully webbed, and it can jump up to half a metre in a single hop. Length 60-90mm. Weight 22.7g.

The adult Common Frog eats insects, especially flies, slugs and snails, and other invertebrates, although it doesn’t feed during the mating season. The female lays up to 4,000 eggs in shallow water surrounded by transparent jelly. Tadpoles hatch about two to four weeks later. By the time they are three months old they have developed arms and legs and are adapted to living on land. They can live up to 8 Years.

It likes freshwater habitats like ponds and open woods, but needs slow-moving water.  Mating pairs and masses of frog spawn are a common sight in most ponds. A common and widespread species.

Photographs taken August 2005, April 2007, June 2008 and July 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire.