Scarcely a week has passed since we had our unexpected snow storm, but at last true spring has begun, and here is a little video I made of the transition, and the exciting arrival of a Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), a small bird which creeps up walls and tree trunks feeding on insects and spiders as it goes. And then a very exciting scene which proves spring is, at last, definitely here:
However, not only have birds been collecting nesting materials, but finally frogspawn appeared in my garden pond, and lots of it:
This is the spawn of the Common Frog, Rana temporaria. For those of you who are wondering what the green on the pond is, it is actually tiny leaves of Duckweed, a plant which exists only as a leaf, and which reproduces by cell division – one leaf turns into two, two into four, four into eight, eight into sixteen. And that is how it forms carpets of green on ponds.
Despite the warm conditions of this winter many of the traditional aspects of spring were a bit slow in appearing, but now Wicklow is aglow with the bright yellow of tall daffodils and the shimmering dense clusters of the Lesser Celandine. Under the leafless canopies of trees sea of violets are blooming.
Although there were reports of frogs spawning in various parts of Ireland before Christmas, I have only found frogspawn and frogs in breeding pools and ponds within the last two weeks on the landward or seaward side of the mountains. This is probably due to their experiences of the last few years, and the unexpected Siberian coldsnap that brought freezing temperatures across Europe and almost as far as Ireland. Frogspawn can freeze and die, and frogs sometimes get caught out, but tend for the most part to spawn in accordance with the general weather-pattern.
The frogs in the above photograph are in amplexus which is when the male grasps the larger female around her waist and clings to her, so that he may fertilise her eggs as they enter the water. Fertilisation occurs outside of the female’s body.