The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Wildlife pond

tadpoles developingI’ve had a thing about frogs for years. At university I was actually called Frog. I like to think that this referred to my fondness for this amphibian rather than a similarity in legs, feet or grin.

When I moved into the cottage, my mum raised frogs and toads in aquaria in the kitchen. The pond was well stocked with koi in those days and few amphibians visited.

Each August we released the frogs into the garden. Tiny, precious creatures that would disappear into the undergrowth or swim courageously in the pond with perfect breast stroke. Eventually enough survived to return each year for the early spring bacchanal.

This has become a frog event on a par with Glastonbury. Lots of water and love and a festival that lasts for a bit longer than the Somerset one. After a two week window that starts with a few disparate croaks and ends with a love in that knows no bounds, most of the frogs vanish overnight leaving nothing but their spawn. I often wonder where they go. Are they lurking in the cottage garden or have they repaired to nieghbouring gardens? Are there frog gangs that patrol our patch and throw out the revellers?

The heron cleared all fish from the local ponds this winter. I’d occasionally see him in the morning, rising magnificently from our pond with a monstrous wingspan and nerves of steel. Perhaps he knows that it’s illegal to shoot him and his tribe.

Someone at the church fete took me aside this year,
“Although it’s against the law, no one would tell if you got out your gun.”
“But I don’t have a gun.”
The raised eyebrows indicated that he didn’t believe me.

I couldn’t shoot the heron. Even though he has feasted on my fish, he is a superb bird. I am at fault. I knew that he was visiting, landing on the thatch of pond weed, walking into the depths and savouring our stock. Wires around the edge of the pond would not deter this bird. We have to net the pond or at least some of it. We were stretched to the limit last winter with no time to stop a wily bird.

So with fish stocks severely depleted, the trillion tadpoles have the green light this year. I have lain in the warm grass and watched newts swimming with small feet stretched out like stars, eagerly grazing the tadpole shallows. Now that hordes of tadpoles have developed into sizeable beings the newts are nowhere to be seen. These tadpoles hover just below the pond surface and seem to look up with unblinking eyes. When they eventually emerge will they guzzle all the slugs and snails in our garden. Or will our neighbours complain about a plague of frogs and mention guns again?

Later this summer we will restock the pond but for the moment the space has become a haven for wildlife. Birds wash in the shallows and frogs bask under the shrubs that trail in the pond. Water Boatmen skim the surface of the water and bees settle on the pond weed to drink. The dragonflies chase, fuse and make love just above the waterline.

It’s perfect without guns.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Yes, judging from the trillions of tadpoles the fish must have feasted on them!

    Thanks for the tip about the drainpipe and water lillies. We have the latter and I’m sure that I could find the former. Thanks 🙂

    Hi The Chicken Lady’s Husband

    What wonderfull names for your Axylotis! Brilliant that they have laid eggs – and interesting that these have hatched into tadpoles. It will be really interesting to see how these develop.
    Thanks for dropping by.

  2. The Chicken Lady,s husband.

    hi Fiona,loved this post.A couple of years ago i bought my son two Axylotls which he named Margaret and Douglas.As with all teenagers they soon became a chore and i took them on. This year when i was putting them in there summer tank i noticed loads of eggs all over the weed.This week the eggs have hatched and we have several dozen axylotl tadpoles.
    will let you know how they progress.

  3. Kate(uk)

    If you decide to put the fish back, be warned, goldfish will eat everything – good tadpoles as well as bad mosquito larvae! To save them from being eaten themselves put an old bit of drainpipe, land drain is good, in the deepest bit of the pond so they have a safe haven when the Heron calls in and have waterlilies and any other big leaved water plants so they can lurk under those as well.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Michelle

    Our pond is a magic place, with and without fish. I have become more and more absorbed by wildlife since moving to the cottage.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    What a shame about your mum’s goldfish. She must miss them.

    Hi Organic Viking

    My mum had a washing up bowl dug into a border for years. She raised tadpoles in the spring and several frogs lived in her tiny pond. But when next door made a porper pond they moved away, which was a shame.

    Hi Moonroot,

    I like fish as well and the do eat the mosquitoes and their eggs which is handy.

    Hi Quaker journo (with red bathroom)

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Much appreciated.

    Hi Sally

    There’s nothing like the quirkiness of the Brits!

  5. Sally

    The more I read this site, the more I love it. Yes, ‘perfect without guns’ is right.

    A while back you started a thread on what people miss when they are away from home. Well, I now realise that, more than Marmite and a decent cup of tea, I miss people who call themselves Moonroot, The Organic Viking and Quaker journo (with red bathroom). Long, long may you all reign.

  6. Quaker journo (with red bathroom )

    Good piece Fiona. Perfect without guns is just right!

  7. moonroot

    I may be weird but I’d take frogs and herons over fish any day!

  8. The Organic Viking

    That’s amazing. Whenever I dream about having a real garden with a pond, I wonder how I could persuade lots of froggies to take up residence. And now I know!

    Needless to say, thank you so much for not shooting the heron! They are such wonderful birds

  9. magic cochin

    Lovely descriptions of the teeming wildlife in your garden. My Mum has just lost her four goldfish, probably a heron’s breakfast – beautiful big fish which were ‘born’ in the pond. She enjoyed watching them from the french window and the pond is very still without them.


  10. Michelle

    This is such a beautiful post. I felt like I was there, and it was lovely. What a haven for you. Thank you. 🙂

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