Thursday, 1 March 2012

Leap Frog Day?

The Weed Dance reaches it's climax.
Photo by Jim Bruce
Yesterday was February 29th; Leap Day; a good day to look for frogs, I thought. Have you found any?

I pulled three dead ones out of my pond and no live ones. Neighbours have seen a toad and some newts so maybe it's just my pond that's in trouble. However, I reckon they got into the pond when it was mild and then froze. If you are interested in these little guys, then have a look at Froglife on the web or on Facebook. They are based just up the road in Peterborough. Click here.

The false spring would have fooled a lot of amphibians but the drought may be a bigger problem for them. There are surface puddles around after it rains, but these soon vanish because the real water table is very low right now. Many of our small pools at Paxton have been dry for months. The Gully, on the Ouse Valley Way is usually a good place for frogs, newts and grass-snakes but it's bone dry. It's normally a good spot for hairy dragonflies in summer, but I guess they too are wiped out. Toads might do better because they seem to be most prolific in the marshy edges to the Hayling Pit.

This groundbreaking behavioural
study was first published in 1914.
March has begun with a warm and sunny day. The bird song is almost deafening and I have seen an increase in courtship and even nesting behaviour among the smaller birds. On the Sailing Lake, our black headed gulls actually have black heads again and they are starting to show noisy interest in the islands where they will nest. However, the prize for the most spectacular courtship display must go to the grea-crested grebes. Local photographer, Jim Bruce was lucky enough to get pictures of their weed dance. It took the BBC days to get a result last time they tried here.

Second prize for showmanship should go to the grey herons that are nesting around the Heronry Pits. You can get good views from Post 17 on the Heron Trail and you can see some good video clips by Phil Smith below, or on You Tube.

We tend to regard April as the month for spring bird migration, but actually it's happening now. The first redshanks and oystercatchers are returning ready to breed here and avocets have been seen at Graffham Water already. It ill not be long before I hear a chiff-chaff or see a sand martin on the Reserve. I can't wait!