First frog spawn

Published: 15th March 2010

At last the garden pond at Glenloy Lodge has finally thawed (Monday 15th), after almost three months of ice. Hard to believe that the average temperature has only been about 2oC colder than on average in Scotland. Incredibly, the surface is already a heaving mass of mating frogs. They must have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to breed, and obviously can't contain themselves any longer. We shall have to watch out now for daily visits from the heron, and if we're very lucky, an otter. As if to celebrate several crocus buds in the front bed have also started to open, and bulbs everywhere are sending up shoots.

Yesterday we found our first wild flower in bloom – a colt's foot by the side of the River Lochy. Other leaves are starting to appear – opposite-leaved golden saxifrage and lesser celandine (some of the leaves variegated). We were also surprised to see the first frog spawn of the year in a shallow ditch, having been alerted to the possibility by swirling movement amongst the pond weed. The first newly-laid mass was floating darkly on the surface of the water, a sure sign of freshness.

We have a little mystery to solve at home. Along one of our paths a large pile of spruce cones has built up. The only problem is that they are under a beech, and the nearest sitkas are at least 20m away. Closer examination suggests that the individual seed cases have been split, probably by crossbill, but possibly by other birds. Obviously something has been collecting cones and then taking them to the top of this tree to eat (the odd cone can be seen lodged in the upper branches). We have yet to catch the culprits in the act, but will be certain to keep our eyes open.

Our young pine martens continue to afford amusement. Working at my desk adjacent to an upstairs window, I heard a clattering close by. I looked out to see that a pine marten (our regular evening visitor) was scrabbling for a foothold on the window sill. It had obviously slipped on the roof and had managed to claw its way back onto the ledge just in the nick of time. Undeterred it then scrambled across the roof and leapt into the thin birch twigs adjacent, causing much swinging and swaying. It shinned up the main trunk before performing another death-defying leap into equally flimsy cypress branches behind, from where it disappeared into the thick foliage. The acrobatics and agility of these animals never fails to impress – at least most of the time!