A taste of spring has come early to the sleepy village of Godolphin Cross in West Cornwall. The winter climate here is generally much milder than the rest of the United Kingdom and over the last month or so I have heard half a dozen or so Common Frogs – Rana temporaria croaking away first thing in the morning even though temperatures have frequently been around 0C or under as daylight approaches.
Updated 15th January 2009
But today, the 20th December, when I was feeding the birds in the garden I was amazed to find the first clump of frog spawn near the surface of our pond!
Frogs tend to spawn early in our garden. Back in 2004 it was the 29th December and when the first of that spawn hatched on the 12th February, the proud parents must have been feeling the chill as the early morning temperature was down to -5C soon after.
The first spawn laid in 2005 was on the 31st December and in 2006 it was the 28th December. But the earliest by far was in 2007 when we spotted the first tea plate sized clump on the 7th December.
I suppose it is slightly odd that I talk of the first spawn at the tail end of each year rather than the beginning of the new year as might be the case further north.
Another surprise today on a trip to Penzance was the sight of four Swallows hawking for insects and dodging the Christmas traffic in & around the Chyandour area of the seafront. These birds have been reported from the nearby Morrisons car park for the past couple of weeks and must have had a very hard time surviving in the recent cold weather.
Who’d have thought that the 20th December would provide such contrasts as frogs spawning in our pond and Swallows flying in the skies above just a few miles away!
During the first week of January the frogs gamble of spawning early suffered a major setback with temperatures dipping down to -10C in the early hours of Wednesday. The result being that sadly the spawn was encrusted in ice for at least 3 days, putting it's viability in doubt.
Surprisingly adult frogs could be seen moving around under the frozen blanket, and although there was a small gap in the ice near the margins of the pond which may have allowed them to escape, it seems amazing to think that cold blooded amphibians can remain active in a hostile environment of freezing temperatures.