Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Making a splash

Rain this heavy seems out of keeping with the season, catching me unexpectedly as I make my way home. A dry towel and a change of clothes, quickly followed by a warming mug of tea, soon restore inner warmth that had been lost through soaked clothes. As I drink my tea I watch the rain continue to fall. From the kitchen window I can see the heavy drops splash onto the surface of the patio, which dances under the deluge. It is then that I spot the first frog, sat with its head slightly raised amidst the downpour. It soon becomes clear that this frog is not alone and that there are several on the patio, with others emerging from under the shed or from inbetween the flowerpots. Can there really be this many frogs using this small part of the garden?

I am interested that the rain should have tempted them out in such numbers. I have seen the occasional frog on damp summer evenings but they have not seemed that common in the garden this year. That they should be here in such numbers takes me aback but it does remind me that there is plenty of food here to support them – the garden is on chalk and over-run with slugs and snails – even though it is in the centre of town.

The common frog is one of the few amphibian or reptile species to penetrate our larger conurbations. There is, however, good evidence that much of this penetration has been achieved with outside assistance. The fondness that we have for sharing frogspawn with friends and relatives may explain how frogs have been able to cross the ‘concrete jungle’ to colonise newly-created ponds. While the ponds are the focus for breeding activity, for much of the rest of the year these urban frogs will be living a terrestrial existence, largely out of sight. During the day they hide up in sheltered corners, such as under the shed, before emerging at night as the humidity increases. A sudden rainstorm and the associated drop in temperature may bring them out earlier, much as it does the molluscs and earthworms upon which they feed.

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