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