Wednesday 2 April 2014

Coming Back to Life

'Pirate Wolf' spider. A new one on us.
With a recent run of warm days it has been fascinating for us to see our big new pond coming back to life. Of course, it was never really 'dead' and we have been able to see water boatmen and water beetles nipping about all winter, including under the ice on the few times that it was frozen. We 'finished' the pond last year in May and were soon rewarded with lots of incoming species especially the insects including all manner of tiny whizzers and wrigglers, only a few of which we could identify with any certainty. We bought a good range of young plants and some snails from Mimmack Aquatics (in Essex) and enjoyed them all as they started to get roots down in the autumn, but then watched everything die back to nothing (visible) as winter came and we have waited anxiously through winter wondering which of our species would make it through.

Towser's favourite look-out post, the bedroom window.
The pond has been brim-full since December topped up by rain and the run off from round by the poly tunnel. That can be a bit cloudy with mud flowing in, so our crystal-clear status has been on hold for most of that time and now, as it starts to fall bright again, we find we are peering into the murk, sure that things are growing down there but unable to see in any detail. The trays and planters of submerged plants are all putting out titillating green spikes and there are fronds of hornwort and Elodia expanding. Closer to the surface, in the 'shelves' we have obvious shoots on water mint, flag irises and marsh marigold.

My share of the hawthorn/ivy tree in Bob's link box.
There was great excitement on Wednesday morning when I saw a newt. This is our first voluntary amphibian and is probably our ultimate in the wildlife we wanted to attract to this wildlife pond, which we had deliberately not allowed fish into and have kept the geese away from. I had, in fact, lobbed a few newts and frogs into the pond last year if I had had to 'rescue' them from any grass I was cutting (or in the newt's case he had fallen into the vertical-sided half barrel goose 'pond'). This was just to show them it existed, but the frog breeding season came and went, with a few road-kill frogs in the lane but no breeding or spawn for us. Liz's newt-survey trainer-man had said that it might take the newts 6 years to 'find' us.

I do not think 'proper' conservationists are meant to import frog spawn by the well known 'bucket from elsewhere' method; you are meant to let succession happen naturally; but I must confess that K-Dub has offered us a bucket from the pond at his Father's place in Dublin, which is overwhelmed with the amount of spawn. We are going to sneak this in and see if we can 'help things along' a bit.

We have also noticed that along with all the re-awakening of small wrigglers and insects, we seem to have gained a few new types which we will have to try to identify. There is a spider who seems to sit on the edge-stones with smaller examples (children?) in a little row nearby, and we have seen them all nipping down to the water's edge, apparently to drink, before nipping back up. They 'park' in a tidy, narrow position with all their legs tucked in close to their sides. I have posted his pic on the old faithful Kent Wildlife Trust page on Facebook and got a proper ID, he is a male Pirate Wolf Spider (Pirata piraticus). Ah harrrrr!

Chestnut mushrooms from the poly tunnel.
Away from the pond, life is starting up impressively too. The spent mushroom compost in the poly tunnel is back pumping out fruiting bodies of chestnut mushroom for our supper. All the trees in the orchard are now showing bud break. There is plenty of new green in the thyme growing on our keyhole bed and the front lawn is looking shaggy enough to be needing its first cut.

If you sit by the pond, don't let your cake droop to hen-level!
Finally a very quick update on our baby chick 'Lonely Roads'. Things are not looking great. He is not making any use of his right leg. It is a shame. He is a pretty little thing and full of spirit and 'shout'. He started eating on the start of day 3 (That was a relief!) and now piles into the hard boiled egg I 'peck' up for him on the end of a pencil, and more recently also pecks it up himself from the ground if I drop it. He is a cheeky little thing and will refuse to peck at the 'proper' food (chick crumb) looking at you very old fashioned if you try to sneak a pencil-load of crumb in, in between chunks of the egg. Had he not the leg issue I would be delighted with 'our' progress, both him and with me learning to hand-rear chicks but his duff leg is a cold hard reality; he did not get many winning numbers in life's lottery, Bless him and we think he may run out of luck on Friday.

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