image of Iris spears in the garden pond

Iris Spears – Sunday 25th Feb, 2024

Twice I have seen mating frogs in our pond. The male is on the back of the female clutching her with the nuptial pads on his hands. On both occasions, I thought there would be frogspawn the next day, and, in both cases, there wasn’t. So the matings came to nothing. Obviously, the female didn’t lay the eggs. It could be she wasn’t ready or there was some interference. I tried looking such behaviour up on the internet. Others have noted it, but answers are vague.

We have had ups and downs in temperature and this may affect the frogs as they are cold blooded. Too cold, below 5 degrees, and they are torpid, not responsive at all. It could cause mating to halt. This is still early for frogspawn, so I’ll keep watching.

I recall one very wet March, about 15 years ago, on a walk in the countryside. The path I was on was full of puddles for about half a mile. And in each of the puddles was a mass of tadpoles and frogspawn. Some of the shallower puddles were a mass of writhing bodies, presumably because of insufficient oxygen for so many. It was obvious that all the tadpoles in this string of puddles would die in a few weeks, once the puddles dried out in the warmer spring days to come. Tadpoles need three months to lose their gills and become froglets with lungs who can live out of the water. But way before then the puddle-ponds would have dried out and every tadpole would have died struggling to breath.

So wasteful, nature’s cruelty writ large.

We talk of nature as a person, as in Mother Nature, but it is simply an expression as we try to get a grip on what is happening in the natural world. The goal of the frog is to breed, and so keep its genes going. But even that is lost in words. Frogs do not have goals, as that suggest thought, as in – my goal is to be a doctor. Frogs have instincts somehow encoded in their genes. And a main one is how to behave, as male and female, so that the laying of eggs and fertilisation takes place. So far so good. But it seems there’s no instinct for ruling out puddles as the site for mating.

In my walk round the garden, I note a rare sight. Just a single marigold. Come on, Calendula, live up to your name, and flower throughout the year! Though, the Euphorbia characias does not disappoint. It has columns of greeny yellow foliage, really quite magnificent, somewhat single pallet, but showing what can be done with a limited range.

I come to the pond, and see what appears to be a cluster of popcorn floating on the water. Surely not, who would allow that? I look closely and realise it is plum blossom, half in bud, blown off a nearby tree in the high winds we have been having. Spears of irises are coming through the water, though it is still two months before they will flower. Will we get our bulrush back this year?

It is a busy time for birds. I see blue tits, wood pigeons, flurries of timid sparrows. Rooks pass over. The green parakeets are perched on the top of the flats screeching. I am told the nesting box by the sycamore is being used by blue tits. I sit quietly, camera ready, and watch for ten minutes. No joy.

Snails are still dormant, so the acanthus does as much growing as it can before the inevitable attack.  I too easily anthropomorphize. Harmless, I hope. Curly Kale in the veg bed is doing well. Perhaps it should be cut for spring greens before the snails awaken.

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