When we had a small pond dug out in our upper wet meadow some 17 years ago, we thought it would be a great environment for amphibians and invertebrates like damsel and dragon flies. We didn’t expect that unusual plant species like Lesser Bladderwort, which Richard Pryce, the county’s botanical recorder, found in it last August, would move in so quickly.
Then about 3 years ago we began to wonder what was predating the frogs and toads – we kept finding half eaten carcases on the banks after spawning time. Eventually we worked out these were half eaten toads, and that possibly otters were responsible since some otter populations have worked out how to do this, and leave the toxic parts of the toad behind.
Last year we’d borrowed a trail camera and caught a few images of an otter (above). This year we had our own so have had it set up for much of the time since the first frogspawn appeared in this pond on February 2nd.
What we didn’t expect to see was what the poor frogs have to contend with. It seems many birds and animals want a piece of the action. The toads have still not arrived, but I’ve now worked out that from a distance the frogs can be clearly heard, and frequent ripples seen on the surface where they break through. But move too quickly or loudly, and they all dive and try to hide themselves in the muddy base of the pond.
First up is the buzzard which always selects a higher vantage point, away from the pond’s edge before making a snatch and grab attempt for an unsuspecting frog… But it’s not a foregone conclusion it will succeed, and it seems from the pictures below that frog reaction times are sufficiently fast to allow if to leap out of reach of those talons.
Look closely at the image above. The grey splurge to the right of the buzzard’s head, with bulging eyes is a frog leaping for its life to escape. And a wet, empty taloned, buzzard on the bank afterwards, below…
(It’s also interesting that the otter and fox photos immediately above, were taken within about 10 seconds of each other. Presumably the fox was looking into the pond at the otter, which then emerged onto the bank.)
I even found some pellets on the bank which I first took to be fur balls, but someone else has told me are probably regurgitated fur pellets from the buzzard. And also what may be a buzzard’s explosive linear defaecation? A black sludge followed by a long ( 30 cm plus) white line. Ideas anyone?
What has interested me is that all the frogs seem to spawn in just 2 quite small sections of the bank – probably less than 5 % of the total. And I’ve a suspicion that these are the same bits of bank chosen each year. The question is why? Whilst one area could perhaps be a little warmer, since it’s more South facing, the other one is quite shaded and North facing.
On one of the images from the camera, ( above), I studied it for ages to work out what had triggered the Infra Red movement sensor. And then I thought I could see a vague owl silhouette just above the pond’s surface in the centre of the image. Mentioning this to a friend, Colin, who is a fellow Cothi Gardener and on the steering group of Carmarthenshire Meadows, he very kindly sent me a couple of video clips from February 2017, which he’s recorded from his own pond, where a tawny owl flies in to perch on the top rung of the stepladder on which his homemade camera /monitor is set up.
It then takes off from this vantage point and plucks frogs off the pond’s surface, much as an osprey would catch a fish. The bright dots above are frog’s eyes above water level.
Amazing stuff, Colin. Thanks for sharing these fantastic video clips with the Meadows Group.
We’re even more glad now that we decided to have the simple pond dug out all those years ago since it’s obviously a hive of activity, even at night. And even in February.
Thanks for reading..