Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Frogs galore!

Common or Grass Frogs, (Rana temporaria) which live in our garden, hibernate in the winter at the bottom of the pond beneath piles of mud and decaying leaves. They survive because they can breathe through their skins. The very oldest of them will live to about eight years of age but many provide a tasty snack for crows, rats or foxes long before they have had a chance to live out their natural span. Some don't survive beyond the spawn or tadpole stage, feeding fish and dragonfly nymphs.

The Frog
Be kind and tender to the Frog,
And do not call him names,
As 'Slimy skin,' or 'Polly-wog,'
Or likewise 'Ugly James,'
Or 'Gap-a-grin,' or 'Toad-gone-wrong,'
Or 'Bill Bandy-knees':
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare.)
Hilaire Belloc 1870 – 1953

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no,
With a rowley, powley, gammon and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.
Traditional nursery rhyme

Although the water is not boiling and roiling with hundreds of over-excited frogs as it has in past years there is quite a lot of activity in the pond and already several clumps of spawn. Usually and unfortunately some larger clusters of frogs, all desperate to ensure the preservation of the species with the males tightly gripping any part of a female they can reach, or, in extremis, another male, become so entangled in weed and with each other that they drown. Nonetheless, the remaining frogs continue to make merry and much procreation is still occurring.
Have you ever looked into a frog's eyes? Admittedly it is not an easy thing to accomplish as frogs have no natural defences and duck and swim rapidly out of sight or hop soggily away into the undergrowth if they're away from home when danger threatens.
Reflected in this eye is part of the back of our house, one of the garden arches and Barry hiding behind the arch.
(Don't frighten the frogs!)

Look not in my eyes, for fear
They mirror true the sight I see.

From 'A Shropshire Lad' by A E Housman (1859 – 1936)
A frog's eyes are sited on the top of the head and the large horizontal lenses give a wide field of view, essential for an animal which cannot turn its head very far, and have a focus of about 6". The advantage of being myopic is that the background is blurred which makes things in the foreground more easily discernible. Frogs appear unable to see things which don't move and would starve if their food remained stationary! Once aware of a meal the frog can extend its long sticky tongue remarkably rapidly to capture flying insects. They will also consume slugs, snails and worms. Adult frogs feed only on land though younger frogs will feed on land or in water. The cacophonous amphibians outside my house do not eat during the breeding season. Sex is urgent and surpasses all other instincts!
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observ'd,
The air is delicate.

From 'Macbeth' by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
Tadpoles are herbivorous but as they begin to metamorphose the digestic tract shortens and changes its character to accommodate ingestion and digestion of protein. I was always under the impression that they will not complete their metamorphosis unless they eat meat. Frequently they eat each other!
So far they are still encased in the jelly which will sustain them as they grow and become ready to emerge and live independently.


  1. Not an easy life for poor old Mr Frog

  2. Lovely informative post about the frog with wonderful photos and prose. I do enjoy them but haven't seen any in a while.


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