Spring Cleaning

Tidying out the shed this weekend didn’t turn up as many bugs as I was expecting. The shed starts to be quite rotten, especially around the base, so there is a lot of entry points for all kinds of creature to crawl in through. In the event though, apart from a few spiders and hibernating mosquitoes, there wasn’t so much to keep me from my spring cleaning. The spiders were mostly Black Lace Weavers (Amaurobius ferox, #103); I’m not sure where the other big spiders present back in the Autumn were hiding themselves. The mosquitoes, which were plentiful, were Common House Mosquito / House Gnat (Culex pipiens, #332). Happily neither one of them bites people much.

Elsewhere I disturbed a couple of toads that were getting intimate in the log store and found these primroses (Primula vularis), which were new for the list (#422)

Elder Tree Dead-wood Fungi

I left these large logs from a dead elder tree in the corner of the garden and they attract a lot of wildlife; plenty of insects and even a hibernating toad.

Wood Ear Fungus (aka Jelly Ear Fungus) loves to grow on Elder deadwood, and there’s a good growth of it here. It sends out new fruit-bodies in the winter, which then darken and dry out during the year. The young growths are edible, a bit like black fungus you sometimes find in Chinese food; not much flavour apparently but an interesting texture if cut into strips in soup or salad. Will have to give it a try sometime.

Another fungus, this time on the dead stump of the same Elder tree, is Elder Whitewash (Hyphodontia sambuci), which appears as a white coating on the dead bark.

Fat Frog

10 November seems quite late to find a frog out and about in the garden, but what struck me about this one is how fat it is. My first thought was that frogs must put on weight to get through the winter, but researching online it appears that while they do build up an energy store, mostly this is in the form of glycogen (carbohydrate) stored in the liver, rather than a fat deposit. Certainly glycogen is a more ready source of energy, which requires less oxygen to deploy - which is useful if you are hibernating at the bottom of a pond absorbing what little dissolved oxygen there may be through the skin, as many frogs do.

Hopefully the frog was healthy - it certainly seemed it. So, perhaps it is an adult female with developed eggs ready for the spring? Finding out online when female frogs develop their eggs was surprisingly difficult, but a detailed article on toads indicated that in toads mostly the eggs are developed during the late summer, with the weight of the ovaries reaching 12-15% of body weight during August-September. Assuming it works the same with frogs, and it does make sense they they would mostly develop their eggs prior to shutting down their metabolism for hibernation, then I hope this is a gravid female ready to spawn in my pond in March/April.