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Has spring sprung?

Posted: Thursday 12 January 2012
by Kate Bradbury

I think my frogs are about to start spawning. There’s a lot of activity in their hibernaculum (read: thumping around), and it’s been so mild and wet lately...


Frog in leaves, photo taken by Julie Watson

I think my frogs are about to start spawning. There’s a lot of activity in their hibernaculum (read: thumping around), and it’s been so mild and wet lately – perfect weather for frogs. Frogspawn has already been spotted in Devon and Cornwall, so it’s only a matter of time before mine get wind of ‘spring’. The only problem is I’m about to go on holiday, and fear I shall miss the excitement.

Regular readers of this blog will know how important my frogs are to me. I rescued seven of them from a kitchen drain and another 13 from someone who advertised them on Freecycle, having kept them in a jar all day. All babies, I brought them home to my garden, created habitats for them, built a pond out of a tub trug and made them a bespoke hibernaculum. I’ve watched them grow fat on beetles, slugs and snails, and was ecstatic to find a ‘pregnant’ female in summer. It takes two to three years for frogs to become sexually active, so I’m convinced that some of them at least will procreate this year (their first time).

Last year it was so cold my frogs didn’t emerge from hibernation until late-spring (far too late, in May, an eager male jumped in the pond and started croaking). I hadn't seen them for so long I’d decided they’d chosen somewhere else to spend winter, until I found them hunkered down in the compost of a growing bag I’d left out for them.

But not this year. While I’ve not seen any out in the garden, I did peek inside the hibernaculum on Christmas day. Instead of seeing motionless frogs half buried in the compost, I was greeted by a fat, wide-eyed female sitting among snail eggs and rove beetles. Another bout of rain and she could easily make the half-metre journey to the pond, with a croaking, 'teenage' male on her back.

Of course it’s not just frogs that are active now – every day the bird song intensifies, the number of insects on the wing increases, the more letters, tweets and Facebook posts we receive from concerned Gardeners’ World readers. That’s the fascinating thing about spring – it keeps its own time. Wildlife is out earlier this year because it’s mild. But does that mean spring is coming early?

To help gauge seasonal changes and assess the impact of climate change on our flora and fauna, The Woodland Trust is asking the public to report sightings of snowdrops, frogspawn, birdsong and catkins. Anyone can take part, simply register on the Nature’s Calendar web page and follow the instructions. Recording the seasons is the perfect job for gardeners, because we are often outside earlier than everyone else. Our plots support birds, ladybirds and hedgehogs, and many of us grow snowdrops, daffodils and hazel. And not only does taking part in the survey help The Woodland Trust compile a tapestry of seasonal change across the country, it involves you even more in your local environment.

I’m keeping an eye out for frogspawn sightings in Hackney, and hoping the cold snap we're due will deter mine from venturing out. Last year a colleague suggested I had made my hibernaculum too cosy for the frogs to want to emerge – let’s hope so. Like grumpy teenagers, I hope they stay in bed with the curtains closed, at least until I get back.

(You can also take part in the Big Spawn Count, to help Pond Conservation and ARG monitor frog, toad and newt populations across the UK.)



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oldchippy 12/01/2012 at 19:16

Have a lovely holiday Kate,Last night I had a black ladybird with 4 red spots and orange cheeks on my keyboard,My honeysuckle has started to green up and the Mahonia has the starting of flowers,The house next to my daughter maisonette has a honeysuckle in flower hanging over the wall,What a mix up in the weather next couple of day's will be winter.

oldchippy 12/01/2012 at 19:17

Have a lovely holiday Kate,Last night I had a black ladybird with 4 red spots and orange cheeks on my keyboard,My honeysuckle has started to green up and the Mahonia has the starting to flowers,The house next to my daughter maisonette has a honeysuckle in flower hanging over the wall,What a mix up in the weather next couple of day's will be winter.

Luisa-ss 12/01/2012 at 21:55

I think i remember doing this in 2009 it was very mild barely cold enough to need a caot and everything started sprouting then in february we eneded up with snow and late frosts and half my garden was plundered I'm taking care this year to make sure all is protected and or partially covered.

brightspark 13/01/2012 at 10:28

I don't know about spring, but my roses are blooming and so are the sweet peas - how mad is that!!

pokadotdaisy 13/01/2012 at 13:53

The birds think it is Spring, but I am not taking any risks, February can be a very treacherous month, had quite a frost last night, nothing too serious though.

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