While frog tadpoles are secretive, hiding in mud and among oxygenators and plant roots, toad tadpoles are more adventurous.
I recently took up running. I hate running, but I stupidly signed up to do a 10k run as an incentive not to give up. The training is painful, often involving being rained or hailed on in freezing conditions, but I've managed to incorporate some beauty in my bi-weekly torture: toad tadpoles.
The route I run takes me down the canal to the local wildlife pond. It's the sort of pond I dream of having in my back garden, featuring gentle, sloping shallows, fallen trees, stepping stones and deeper, reedy areas for coots and moorhens (of course, it's about 30 times the size of my garden). I regularly see sticklebacks, baby coots, pond skaters and water boatmen, and now a 'school' of toad tadpoles. It's a good excuse to stop and catch my breath - a happy halfway point in my otherwise miserable routine.
While frog tadpoles are secretive, hiding in mud and among oxygenators and plant roots, toad tadpoles are more adventurous. This makes them easier to spot than baby frogs, as they will happily swim about in the shallows. Like adult toads, they have fewer predators than frogs. They're slightly poisonous, so newts, and most fish won't touch them.
Toad tadpoles are also jet black, rather than brown and speckled like frog tads, but they develop in the same way, feeding on algae and plant debris before developing a taste for meat when their legs start to grow. They prefer larger, deeper ponds than frogs, and tend to return to the same pond every year. These tadpoles will have absorbed their tails by midsummer, when they'll leave the pond to shelter in long grass and dense foliage.
Finding these tadpoles almost makes up for the fact that my frogs didn’t spawn this year. The females are still fat with eggs, and I was filled with hope, one night, when I found a couple in the pond in amplexus, the male croaking gently. But there was nothing the next day or the day after that. It’s now the end of April. My frog expert friend told me it’s been "a funny year for frogs". February and March were so dry, and the drought has caused many ponds in the wild to dry up. All this April rain is evidently too late.
Next week I've got to increase my mileage, in line with my boring training schedule. I've already worked out my route, which will take me to a second pond, in an old cemetery. I wonder what I'll find there.
27/04/2012 at 18:13
Hi Kate just got back from taking the dogs for a walk in Nonsuch Park,Like walking on a sponge with all this rain but it has started to fill all the brooks that feed the ponds, I haven't seen any wildlife in the ponds only dogs,I noticed that there are quite a lot of Elm still surviving as they come into leaf but they have signs of Elm disease on there trunks,I hope they can find a way to preserve them, As a boy I can remember climbing one in the road I live in,It must have been 50 foot tail and I got a wallop from my Mum.
28/04/2012 at 15:31
Much more interesting itinerary for your run than the Bristol Downs where I see fun joggers and serious runners on my way to the Bot. garden, Kate, but they don't have time like I do on my walk to inspect interesting fungi, wild flowers in the meadow area, and insects everywhere, so i expect you would take time out to do the same. I seemed to wait an inordinate time to see my first tadpoles this year too because of the summer like early spring.
28/04/2012 at 15:33
PS That photo looks like a beautiful mermaid.
28/04/2012 at 16:04
Mermaid, That a picture of Kate.
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29/04/2012 at 17:28
Keep going, Kate. When I used to do 10Ks (a few years ago) my stopping off point was the chip shop. Your motivational tool is a lot healthier!