Thursday, 24 April 2008

Nature's Balance

If you click to enlarge the tadpoles in the first two photographs, you will see the eyes and mouths of the second batch of tadpoles to hatch. The earlier batch from last week, breathing through the aid of their gills, is now swimming independently across the pond.
Some, though not all, from the second batch have gills. On closer inspection you can easily see the shapes of legs curled up under their abdomens. These tadpoles are still huddled together for warmth and protection.
Alongside an even younger batch are the great pond snails, lymnaea stagnalis, who mainly feed on rotting organic matter. They scrape pieces off plants with their rough tongues. Some have gills for breathing under the water. Others rise to the surface and float upside down to take in air.

Spring in the pond is a time of reproduction for the pond snails as well as for frogs, toads and newts. Pond snails' shells can be up to 60 mm in length. These two photographs show they vary in colour from yellow-brown to silver grey. Their eggs are found in long jelly capsules on the undersides of water plants.
The next two photographs show a pair of male smooth newts, triturus vulgaris. When it is not the breeding season it is hard to distinguish the males from the females.
In the breeding season however, each male has a wavy transparent crest running all the way down his back. Dark spots cover the rest of his body. Although he always has an orange undercarriage, it is brighter during the breeding season.
The females, on the otherhand, have a dark line running down their backs as well as a line on either side of their spine. Their stomachs are orange too, though not as bright in colour as the males.
The females also develop spots but not on their stomachs. Neither do they have the paddle-like tails for increased speed that the males have. The average life-span of newts is 6 years though some can live up to 20 years. From nose tip to tail tip the females are around 7-11 cms. The males are slightly larger than the females.

The females (well camouflaged in the above photo) are olive green in colour, whereas the males are dark in colour. Newts spend most of their life on land. Ours hide during day under the large stones surrounding the pond or in our compost heap, and come out to feed at night. They look rather like lizards though they are not scaly.
In the next set of nine photos - including the one above - you will need to play detective in order to find the male in various stages of hiding, as his camouflage is near perfect, waiting for his opportunity to come out and gobble up the tadpoles for his dinner.
As I watched him hiding under a leaf to camouflage himself, he gradually showed part of his tail, poked out his head, then another part of his body, and so on, until he was fully exposed.
Whereas on land the newts would feed on insects, worms and slugs using their projecting tongues, in the water they use their minute teeth to grab hold of the tadpoles.
To supplement their diet of frog tadpoles, they also eat other minute creatures such as the water snails, insect larva, plankton, and water lice.

The adult newts shed their skins about once a week. We sometimes see their skins lying around the garden. Compared to the much warmer South of Britain, it is colder in Scotland; so our newts did not venture out to breed until April, as the temperature has to be above zero degrees Celsius, and the conditions moist.
I took the three little videos (below) at different times of the day. As the newts appear very briefly in each video - and disappear with tremendous speed - I decided to post lots of photos of the newts so that you could have as close a view of them as possible.
When I took the video of the tadpoles last week, they were huddled together close to the surface of the pond, making them a captive audience - which meant that I was able to zoom in closely. It was a far different matter when filming the newts, for they were hiding deep down under the swell of the tadpoles, waiting their moment to come to the surface and pounce.
The last two photos show how the newts resemble crocodiles with long swishing tails compared to the minuscule size of the tadpoles. I had to spend most of the day waiting for the newts to appear as they made themselves scarce if the tread of my footsteps was too loud as I approached the pond or whenever part of my shadow crossed the pond.
While I was watching and filming the newts gorging themselves on the tadpoles, I marvelled at how Nature has its own perfect answer to the multitude of frog tadpoles produced each Spring in the Barleycorn ponds. For, without the newts to keep their numbers down, we would have plagues of frogs in biblical proportions.

56 comments:

Q said...

Wow! What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing so much information about the newts. I bet you did spend the day getting all of these amazing photos.
Wow! I will go back and look again and study and be awed!
Thank you.
Amazing...
Sherry

A wildlife gardener said...

* Good morning, dear Sherry, and welcome to our little corner of paradise:)

I did feel a little bit like those who do nature films, Sherry...and sit patiently, for hours, waiting...and waiting... on the wildlife to show up :)

Sheila said...

Nature keeps most things in balance if we let her.
I love how all the pond life is so well hidden...
Except perhaps for the snail, who probably has less predators after him.
This is really interesting, thank you for sharing..!
Have a great weekend..
hugs
xx

A wildlife gardener said...

* A warm welcome to you, dear Sheila. Great to have your company this afternoon :)

I find the secret life of the pond creatures fascinating too, Sheila. Glad you enjoyed the fun :)

kate smudges said...

I had no idea how many tadpoles could spawn in a pond. Their eyes are pretty amazing to see.

I didn't know about the differences between the male and female newts. I watched the videos and thought the newts stealth techniques were really impressive.

I'm glad you are posting these pictures and videos. Thank you!!

Chris said...

Really great to see so much life in your pond! How deep is it? We have some tadpoles left and they are growing well but no where near as many as you. Your newts look huge too. Great post!

Cheryl said...

What an amazing wildlife pond you have there. I love to see a natural pond (without the fish) who tend to eat everything in sight. I would never get anything else done if I had that pond, I would be watching all day. I bet you get beautiful dragonflies and the damselflies to?
An absolute joy to behold and thank you for so much interesting information.

A wildlife gardener said...

A warm welcome, Everyone, to our little corner of paradise :)

*Great to have your company, dear Kate :)

I, too, thought the close ups of the tadpoles were amazing when I saw them for the first time. I'm so glad you enjoyed the fun :)

* Welcome, Chris :)

The ponds have three shelves...one shelf about a foot in depth for marginals, a second about 18 inches for irises, and a third about a metre deep for deep lilies.

I thought the newts looked enormous compared to the tadpoles...and boy, were they clever at catching their prey :)

* I know what you mean about getting nothing done, Cheryl :)

We do get wonderful damsels but only two species of dragonflies so far..and even then we could count the days when we've seen them as it is a bit cold here for them...and they only come when we have a heatwave :)

Thanks for the lovely compliments :)

Sally said...

Very interesting W.G. Creepy - but interesting. LOL! The things you find to film in your garden! You're getting pretty good with the videos. I want to take a video of Elvis' gimpy walk and post it. Hopefully, this weekend if the weather cooperates.

Mark said...

It's all happening in your pond.It's such a pleasure to see such a pond jammed packed with wildlife.
I had smooth newts last year and was fascinated watching the female lay her eggs in the leaves and squash them together with her back legs.

Cheers Mark

Ki said...

Its amazing the wealth of pond life you have. Besides fish we have a solitary frog in our pond and that's it. I don't know how we even got the frog. We have no streams or any bodies of water anywhere close to where we live. It's a mystery.

Libbys Blog said...

We have newts too, although you don't see them that often, at least not like yours atall! Really interesting!

A wildlife gardener said...

A warm welcome on this wet Saturday to our little corner of paradise, Everyone :)

* It's amazing what you find in a pond, Sally :)

I look forward to your video :)

* I would like to film the females laying their eggs, Mark...maybe with a bit of luck, one day :)

* I hope your solitary frog finds himself a mate so you, tto, can watch their life cycle, Ki :)

* Our newts are very shy and very quick off the mark, Libby. I had to wait patiently for hours on end to get the tiny video footages :)

Bimbimbie said...

Wow, there's a lot going on in your pond. Before I got to read about the newts I was wondering what sort of natural predators would like to dine on the tadpoles. It's all about balance with mother nature isn't it*!*

Abraham Lincoln said...

I used to be fascinated with these when I was younger and we used to walk about a mile to swim in what we called, mud creek. It had some monster leaches but in the warm water near the shore, in many places, were gobs of these tadpoles and newts.

That was so long ago that by now the creek probably has a new name.

A wildlife gardener said...

* It is all about balance, I agree, Bimbimbie. Thanks for stopping by :)

* Thanks for visiting, Abe. I'm glad it took you on a trip down Memories Lane :)

Marie said...

What a wonderful post. I love your videoes too!

Have a nice weekend :)

Jeanne said...

Love and hugs and glorious wishes.
Ah spring all things are fresh and new.
Thanks for your visits and I will return after May 6th~
Rabbit Rabbit a little early good luck for the new upcoming month and always.
Love Jeanne ^j^

A wildlife gardener said...

* Glad you enjoyed the post and the videos, Marie. Always a pleasure to have your company :)

* Have a fun time, Jeanne. Thanks for your good wishes :)

Kathleen said...

I wish I could spend a day just sitting on the side of your pond. It's absolutely fascinating to me, all the activity going on. You do such a great job sharing information. The newts appear to be gigantic next to the little tadpoles.

A wildlife gardener said...

* A warm welcome to you, Kathleen, to our little corner of paradise :)

The newts look like little lizards swimming underwater and they are BIG compared to the taddies. I nearly jumped out of my skin when they first appeared from under the swell of the tadpoles and started picking them off, one by one. It made me think of Godzilla and Godzuki :)

shirl said...

Hi again Wildlife Gardener, what a treat to see :-D

What a great post! It is fanastic that you can share the wildlife from your ponds with us all. Fantastic photos and info too. Thank-you :-D

I really cannot believe that you have so many tadpoles. As you say the newts are helping keep the balance of your ponds. Wonderful stuff :-D

Enjoy the rest of your weekend :-D

A wildlife gardener said...

* Great to see you , as always, Shirl :)

I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos of the newts and the continuing story of the tadpoles. Thanks for your lovely comments :)

Border Reiver said...

I can't really add more to previous comments but to say good pics, good wildlife observation, but lets hope some of the taddies survive at least :-)

I'll keep an eye on the developments. BR

The Garden Faerie said...

Wildie (I'm going to call you that til you tell me to stop!):
1) Newts are sooooo cute!
2) Isn't the life cycle of frogs/toads/newts/salamanders amazing? Gills to lungs! Arms and legs from nowhere! Presto!
3) I mentioned your blog as one I enjoy in my most recent post!
~ Monica (who seems to like exclamation marks today!!! See?!?!!)

A wildlife gardener said...

A warm welcome back to you both, Border Reiver and Garden Faerie, to our little corner of paradise :)

* Let's hope enough of the taddies survive to maturity, Border Reiver. Thank you for the lovely compliments :)

* I like your pet name for me, Garden Faerie...for I have always loved the Wild Things...for they make my heart sing :)

I agree with all your thoughts and feelings about the amazing life cycle of the amphibians...and we'll add that of butterflies too, for good measure. Thank you for spending so much time writing lovely comments :)

The Garden Faerie said...

Wildie, DOH! Yes, the E award is right there in your right column; dunno how I missed it.
~ Monica

SandyCarlson said...

These are great. We came across tadpoles today when we were out on the Shepaug River here in Connecticut. My daughter was absolutely delighted by their activity in the water. We watched for a good ten minutes.

joey said...

You are such a gift! No one does a commentary finer than you. Listeners wait on bended ear, tuned to your 'Little Corner of Paradise' ... jammed with life!

Kari & Kijsa said...

Amazing and very interesting! Loved seeing the progress!! Have a fabulous weekend!

blessings,
kari & kijsa

A wildlife gardener said...

Good morning on this sunny Sunday in april to our little corner of paradise, Everyone :)

* I still feel flattered to have been nominated a second time, Garden Faerie...does my ego a power of good :)

* I'm blushing with all those wonderful compliments, Joey. thank you very much indeed :)

* The progress is fascinating, Kari & Kijsa, and I'm honoured to have you both following it with me :)

G3T Films said...

Mmmm... there's nothing like a good tadpole for breakfast. Who would have thought you had Mini-crocs in your pond? Awesome.

So, now you have access to eye of newt and toe of frog; all you need now is wool of bat, tongue of dog, adder's fork, a blind worms sting, lizards leg and a howlet's wing and you have all the ingredients for a really good Scottish play.

A wildlife gardener said...

* Good morning and welcome to our little corner of paradise, Gt3 films :)

Hahahaha! I feel a spell coming on...
Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble.... :)

Britt-Arnhild said...

Life is bursting in your colner of paradise :-)

Enjoy!

A wildlife gardener said...

* Hello and a warm welcome to you, Britt-Arnhild :)

Yes...Spring is busting out all over :)

guild-rez said...

How wonderful..your pond is home to many small perhaps larger creatures.
Love your pictures..
-Cheers.

A wildlife gardener said...

* Good to have your company, Guild_rez, at our little corner of paradise :)

The ponds are full of life, as you say. I'm glad you came and enjoyed the photos :)

Miranda Bell said...

Thanks for the nudge to come over and visit... I've just not had much free time for blogging recently, but have added two more postings to my own today... and now the time to visit a few others to catch up on what's been going on!!

These are a fabulous account of pondlife - will come and visit again when I'm sure there will be loads of little froggies around... the worst bit here is avoiding them with the tractor mower once the weather warms up as they love the damp/shady areas of our woodland... particularly when the grass gets a bit longer!

Happy gardening Miranda

A wildlife gardener said...

* Lovely to see you here at Barleycorn, Miranda :)

In August we go around on tiptoe to avoid the little baby frogs :)

I'll be over for a visit soon :)

Anonymous said...

I feel like I'm really leaning over the water and inspecting in detail - wonderful!

A wildlife gardener said...

* Lovely to have your company this morning, Anonymous, in our little corner of paradise :)

It's amazing how clear the water in the pond is...except for the spawning area, as it looks all murky with the debris etc. When I did the post, the photos and the videos all look very muddy. But, the pond snails are cleaning it up now...and, very soon, there will be no evidence of any activity in that part of the pond :)

A Gardener At Larrapin said...

What a LIVE-ly pond you have! It's lovely. The tree frogs are at full volume here at Larrapin Garden and soon the bigger frogs - don't know what kind -- will add their bass notes to the symphony. (All that is from my neighbors' cow pond.) What a delight to see your beautiful pics.

Lynda Lehmann said...

A wonderful and informative post here. You seem to be quite knowledgeable about the inhabitants of your property--and the photos provide an amazing marine biology lesson!

I have been here to your site before, because I remember your account of seeing this land and buying it! :)

Becky said...

I like newts too! Wow, you have 43 comments and more pouring in.
So interesting!

Jeannie WON the
Tea Time Give Away.

Thanks so much for joining in the fun!

~Becky

A wildlife gardener said...

Good morning to one and all, and welcome to our little corner of paradise :)

* Lovely to have your company, Gardener at Larrapin. I think you will have a symphony orchestra with all your bullfrogs. thank you for the compliments :)

* Welcome back, Lunda. Great to see you again in the Barleycorn garden. Glad you likes all the photos :)

* Hey, Becky! Thanks for stopping by the pond and admiring the newts. Yes, lots of happy visitors here this post :)

Congrats to Jeanne on winning the Tea Time Give Away :)

Nicole said...

This reminds me of a British book i had as a child "The secret world of the pond'! You could certainly work for one of those nature documentary shows. I used to "mind" tadpoles and snails LOL.

A wildlife gardener said...

A warm welcome to you, Nicole. Great to see you in the garden again :)

Pond life is exciting, I agree. Thanks for the compliments :)

Catherine said...

Great tadpole captures, & the Newt captures are awesome!
This post was a treat~enjoyed seeing your pond life! :D
Cat

the donG said...

wow! these set is amazing. the first two photos are lovely. tadpoles are cute but not when they start growing. hahaha... nice post!

Duxbury Ramblers said...

Love the blog, will be back.

the ramblers

A wildlife gardener said...

* Hello, Catherine, and a warm welcome to you :) I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Come again :)

* Welcome to you too, Dong. The tadpoles are fascinating, aren't they?

* Thank you for introducing yourself, Duxbury Ramblers. you are most welcome. Thanks for the compliments :)

Crafty Green Poet said...

wonderful photos of your newts!

For The People said...

WOW!! Those are great!

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