Our newts are still here. Hurray! The pond froze over very convincingly several times over the last couple of months and I’d begun to fear the worst, but today Janet began cleaning out plants and gunge and general detritus and found both an adult newt and a baby newtlet1.
The little one still has gills but is much bigger than the last ones we saw back in September – at least an inch long now. The older one looks like a Palmate newt, which is the kind we thought we had last year. If it’s been in the pond all winter it must be very good at holding its breath and own a thick woolen scarf. Maybe it hid in our woodpile and has just decided to pop into the pond for a quick bath. Who knows.
Janet is extremely pleased. Newts are one of the main reasons we built the pond.
1 Technical term.
It had been a while since we’d seen any newts in our pond, having at one stage counted nine newts swimming around simultaneously. We’d more or less decided that the newts had left the pond, as newts are (so they tell me) wont to do.
Then, on the very day my wife declared that if we didn’t see a newt she’d give up, we found the tiniest of tiny baby newts (okay, larvae). And then two more. These really are small: only just over a centimetre long, about the size of a 1p coin. They have little gills and four tiny legs. Awww.
I’ve no idea how many others there may be lurking in the depths of our small pond, or what the chances of them surviving are, but this is a very cool discovery.
One year on, I’m really pleased with the way it’s naturalised in, something that owes a great deal to my wife planting lots of things, and very little to me watching her plant lots of things.
As if by magic, a frog appeared!
Further to my last post about wildlife, I just snapped this extremely obliging frog by our pond this evening:
It hung around briefly posing for the camera while I snapped a few shots (“Give me more froggishness”) then leapt under the surface in a single bound.
Lots of wildlife in our garden still. Here are a few pictures (which also link to bigger versions on my Facebook.)
Our Swift is nesting again in the eaves of our house, or at least has been making exploratory visits. The entrance to the nest is the tiny black square just to the right of the red lintel over the window. I snapped this picture quickly so it’s a little blurry but I’m quite pleased with it. Its black belly marks it out as a Swift rather than a House Martin.
A day of excitement, thrills, gardening and wildlife.
Today was the annual ceremony of the removal of bubble-wrap from Janet’s greenhouse. We use the bubble-wrap as added insulation when there’s a threat of frost, but the greenhouse is a much lighter, airier place once it’s gone. It takes quite a long time because everything in the greenhouse including all of Janet’s carnivorous plants and the aluminium staging have to be moved onto the lawn, then moved back in again. Naturally we had cat help.
At lunchtime I was startled by a noise – let’s call it a squeal of terror – from upstairs. Janet had been sitting on the toilet when a large black spider had crawled over the top of her bare leg. When I got there she was in some post-traumatic stress, not least because she could no longer see the spider. I eventually located it by turning her trousers inside out in the bath. It was fairly juicy-looking. You can only imagine what would have happened if she’d put them back on without checking. 🙂
Later on this afternoon we were standing on our patio when a bird crashed very inelegantly into the top of the huge Leilandii tree next door. The tree is home to vast numbers of birds so we assumed that an enforcer for the local Pigeon Mafia had fumbled its approach, but then a bird of prey launched back out of the tree and flew right over our heads. It was speckled on its belly like a thrush, and about pigeon-sized. We reckon it must have been a Kestrel or a Sparrowhawk. It’s really good to know that there’s one patrolling somewhere near our house. Janet was so pleased about this it nearly made up for the Spider of Doom earlier. However she wishes me to be clear that nothing could ever make up for the HORROR.
We also found a couple of frogs in our pond a few nights ago. The newts are still there — we’ve counted at least three of them anyway — but we had a fine pair of yellow-brown frogs lurking under the surface. We’ve seen them a couple of times since then, always at night. I love the fact that we live in a suburban semi-detached house and yet we can see newts, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, bats, birds of prey,
spiders and a wide variety of garden birds.
We have frogspawn in our garden pond! Not much, but it’s there. More importantly, we were examining the pond today and saw not one but two newts swimming around in it… which may expain why the frogspawn is dwindling. Ahem.
Janet is over the moon. Getting either newts or frogs into the pond was one of the main reasons we built it. We knew we’d had newts in the garden at various points before installing the pond, but the pond has only been there since the middle of last year which is not long for it to naturalise in. Now not only are there the small snails we introduced but an entirely different species of snail, various insects, at least one itinerant frog who left the frogpsawn, and the newts we saw today.
CRAZY WIFE UPDATE: At Janet’s insistence we just went out in a thunder storm with a torch to check on our newfound newts, and there were at least six in the pond, which has to be a thriving colony by anyone’s standards. This is a rubbish photo of one. Then again it was dark, raining, thundering and lightning at the time.
We’re very pleased.
When last we left our struggling hero he was attempting to build a pond. Thwarted at every turn by the evils of pond liner, water, and pretty much all the other things you need to make a pond, not to mention gravity, it would be fair to say that he was making a bit of a meal of it.
Now read on…
So over the last couple of weekends we’ve continued pottering with the pond, on and off. It’s still not finished but now looks a lot more complete.
I must confess there was a stage after I’d done most of the rocks that I felt pretty fed up with it. We don’t have the budget or heavy lifting equipment to throw great slabs of rock into the ground as if a mountain spring had coincidentally thrust its way out of the earth in the corner of our garden. As a result it’s fairly small and stylised, and has an awful lot of cobbles and small rocks in heaps. However since Janet put some plants in I’m feeling much more positive. It looks like what it is: a nice, small garden pond. It’s certainly tranquil.
As mentioned we’re creating a pond at the moment, turning a patch of scrubby garden non-entity into a nice little water feature and, potentially, home to the occasional newts and frogs that visit our garden. So far it’s occupied the best part of the last two weekends and it feels like it’s taking a very long time to come together. There are a number of learning points emerging from this exercise:
1) Pond liner is composed of purest evil and refuses to lie snugly in a hole no matter which way you fold it.
2) Swearing at pond liner accomplishes little but feels good.
3) Pebbles may lie there blinking sweetly at you in a Miyazaki-type way, but no matter how many times you wash them they’ll still turn your water a muddy brown colour.
4) My back still hasn’t recovered from going “oh bugger-aieee-twang!” last year.
5) Water simply can’t take a hint, even when you patiently explain where you need it to go.
6) Ow, my back. This one is worth mentioning twice.