What a lovely few days we’ve had. The warmth has encouraged the frogs and toads to breed and you find yourself doing the “Dance of the Amphibian” on the paths. That’s when you stand there with one foot waving in the air, trying not to fall over or tread on the toad you’ve just spotted underfoot. At this time, both frogs and toads are totally single- minded and, sadly, have all the self- preservation instinct of snowflake in a blast furnace. An awful lot get squashed, but herons, buzzards, foxes and otters all take their toll too. They often form big mating balls, where several males try to mate with one female and you wind up with a big scrum of frogs/toads rolling around. They get so carried away you sometimes see males climbing on males…and the wrong way up too!
All this activity results in frog or toadspawn. Did you ever collect some when you were a kid and watch it turn onto tadpoles and then mini-frogs? I did, but we had occasion to collect a lot more this week! The wet weather over the winter has led to pools of water lying in places there’s never normally any water. These pools are now drying up but unfortunately the frogs and toads have already spawned into them, and the edges of the pools are covered in fast-drying frogspawn. I know that frogs have a “pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap” reproductive strategy but the sheer volume of drying spawn was horrendous. We rescued about sixty litres of spawn from one pool alone and transferred it to deeper water, where hopefully it will develop into tadpoles and at least some of these will survive to adulthood. Thanks to Mary, our volunteer, who was a champion spawn rescuer.
The other main feature of the reserve this week has been the sheer number of reptiles we’ve seen. The warm weather has fairly brought these out, with common lizards and adders basking in the sun on rocks and at the foot of the drystane dykes. The lizards better watch out though- they’re a favourite food of adders.
I don’t know what the collective noun for adders is. I’ve never needed one before but we’ve seen so many that it would be useful. An addition of adders possibly? I quite like a “bask” of adders as they seem to luxuriate in the warming sun. Adders are a real thrill to see for some people, but lots of people aren’t keen on snakes. They’re often worried about being bitten but adders generally won’t bite unless provoked- usually by being trodden on, sniffed at (by dogs) or picked up (yes, some folk are daft enough to try it. Don’t. It’s illegal and the snake is perfectly capable of defending itself!). It’s best to appreciate them from a few feet away and then everyone’s happy.
The adders are still getting warmed up after winter but it won’t be long until they start looking for a mate. Males court females by flicking their tongue across her body but if a rival appears, the males may “wrestle” in what is known as the “Dance of the Adders”. I’ve never seen it but I keep hoping! At the moment, the adders are being fairly sociable and just hanging out, loafing in the sun.
I also spotted the next adder doing something endearingly daft. You occasionally see this with wild animals, pets or very small children, and its the “I-can’t-see-you,therefore-you-can’t-see-me” school of thought. I got a wee bit too close with the camera and he withdrew, with great dignity, into the dyke….but left his back half sticking out!