So there we were, enjoying a walk round Swinsty Reservoir
last weekend, and I spotted this ditch.
And it's then that I realised that, in spite of all appearances, I'm still about ten.
Many - perhaps most - grown-ups would think "Oh, a ditch filled with water". That's if they thought anything about it at all.
Whereas I thought - - heyyyyyyyyy - this looks perfect frogspawn territory! A long pool of water, not stagnant but clear and fresh: lots of cover round about. And then I felt the old excitement coming back as I looked.
It's hard to spot, frogspawn, but I am (ahem!) a bit of an expert in this field. Or even in this ditch. So it only took me a couple of minutes before I saw the familiar bobbly surface.
It's in almost the exact centre of the photograph.
And then, getting nearer - -
Every Spring I'm delighted when I see frogspawn. As a child I would always collect some, rear it into tiny frogs in our little garden pond, and then release lots of them back into the wild.
Some froglets always stayed in the garden, of course - and as a result, their descendants live on. There are still lots of frogs in the garden, and, every year, home-laid frogspawn in our tiny pond.
Here's how to do it:
The frogspawn should have black dots in the middle, or else it's not fertile. They gradually elongate and wriggle, and then emerge from the spawn and cling to it. Then you need some pond weed for them to eat, and they'll cling to that for a while, with external gills - little frilly things - on the side of their heads.
Then they lose their external gills and begin to breathe air. They get bigger. At this point they need to eat meat. Tiny bits of raw meat are good, but you have to fish them out before they go bad and contaminate the water. It's fun to watch all the tadpoles cluster round for lunch.
They get their back legs, both together, and then their front legs come out, one at a time - usually the left one first, but not always. (This, I hasten to tell you, is not from any book about frogs, but from my own observation!)
Then the tail gradually gets shorter and at this point the froglets need to be able to get out of the water, or they will drown. And they find drowning easier than just about anything else that they do, so you have to keep an eye on them. I suppose this is what stops the whole world being overrun with frogs.
Finally their tails disappear, and they are tiny frogs, about the size of a fingernail, and they are very cute indeed. I used to feed them with tiny bits of meat, dangled on a piece of cotton. You swing it just past their field of vision and then they'll grab it. If it's not moving, they simply don't notice it.
And then, finally, off they hop into the moist undergrowth, to live their froggy little lives.
Other handy tips: if the spawn is in a blob, it's frogspawn, if in strings, it's toad spawn. Toads have drier, warty skin and they walk, whereas frogs hop. But rearing them is very similar.
When people ask me - as they have occasionally done - what is my main area of skill, they are often surprised when I reply "Rearing tadpoles into frogs." But, dear reader, I suspect this is the absolute truth.