Spring? April Fool!

Friday, April 1st 2016

Although there was no frost today the wind made the reserve seem colder, especially on the moorland; my only company out there was a Buzzard calling, a Moorhen scurrying off, and a Greylag Goose trying hard not to be seen sitting on her nest. Of course the frogs and toads were there but generally the morning was one of solitude until 9.


Colin came in to fill the bird feeders leaving me to fix a couple that were broken. It always feels a little like prep for the weekend on Fridays: fix a gate post here, tidy up old fire sites and give the tadpoles in the Field Centre fresh water.  I got the other tank ready for the up and coming toad spawn, cleared an area next to the Field Centre for a possible additional net ride, then as a few showers came in I retreated into the workshop for some repairs, and the office for paperwork... sigh!

It is always a personal challenge to find the queen bee in the centre's hive, especially as there is no mark on her; you can see her here with the extended abdomen, giving the appearance of short wings.


I asked a boy of about 6 what he thought the differences were between a frog and toad.  He replied “toads are fatter and bigger”.  How right he was, at least regarding the size. Generally, Common Toads are chunkier and walk instead of jumping like a Common Frog. They have no webs on their hind feet unlike the frogs whose hind feet are webbed. The skin of a toad is covered in warts and is drier when out of water being able to survive quite happily away from it.  Frogs are smooth and moister, always in or near water. Common Toads also carry a chemical which makes them taste awful, otherwise known as a bufotoxin.  This is secreted through the skin, and held in a sack behind the eye. I have recently found just the heads of toads on the wetland which I think the otters are responsible for.


 

From all the activity in the Scrape ponds I think the toad spawn will soon be plentiful, and one of the first heralds of spring, the Lesser  Celandine, can be seen here showing petals just beginning to erupt and fold down to display the familiar yellow flower.

With all this cold weather it reminds me that Stacey is presently sailing to us from Antarctica. Below are a couple of links. The ship (RRS Ernest Shackleton) arrives at Signy on Thursday, then she is heading home via South Georgia and Bird Island, then back to the Falklands from where she will fly back to the UK . The first link is a ship tracker showing where the ship is, and the second is a link to the ships webcam so people can see what she can see. All being well she should be back to Foxglove at the start of May as planned.
https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/images/webcams/rrs-ernest-shackleton-webcam/
http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shipposition.phtml?call=ZDLS1

A big thank you to Colin today.


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