Swallows busy with DIY in readiness for summer

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Whoosh. A pair of very angry swallows shot out of the meal shed, virtually parting my hair in the middle as they made their feelings very clear about this unwanted interruption to their nest revamp.

The swallows returned a week or so ago and have been busy scooping up beakfuls of mud to mend any cracks in the nests that already exist on the roof beams. Handily for them, John had nailed up over the years, the skulls of roe deer shot on the farm. The gap in-between the deer’s antlers provides the perfect, secure site for a swallow nest. The swallows are now frequent visitors to our pond too, dipping into the water in mid flight to scoop up a drink.

The pond is a favourite place of our granddaughter Jess who stayed with us before Easter. She loved to fish for carp in the pond and to exhaust the dogs throwing balls into the water for them to retrieve.

As we sat in the little fishing hut tucking into the picnic Jess insisted on taking down there, we noticed in the now still water, a ripple gradually progressing across the pond. Intrigued we walked round to the other side ( the pond covers about half an acre) to see what was 
causing it.

“It’s a big frog Mamma,” Jess exclaimed. But as it came back to the side and into the bulrushes I noticed it was much bigger and wartier than a frog. It was a toad. The amphibians’ webbed back feet were executing a perfect swim stroke to propel it through the water.

A pair of ducks that had decided we had finished lobbing balls into the water and it was safe enough to leave their nest on the little island in the middle of the pond, swam across to investigate. But then swam off totally disinterested. Later I read that common toads secrete an irritant from their skin that prevents most predators from wanting to eat them. Unfortunately for the toads however, a few predators, such as grass snakes and hedgehogs, do find them tasty, even with the added seasoning.

A Toads on Roads project actively manages and instigates Toad Crossing points, and you can actually register to be a Toad Patroller. I have seen one in a nearby village. But I have never known a mass migration over our lane to the pond.

This week I have spotted long strands of jelly wrapped around the waterside plants, so I presume there will have been more than one toad in the pond, perhaps the one we saw was the first arrival checking out the action.

There are also clumps of gelatinous frog spawn. The two things that all spawn need apparently to develop properly are light and warmth. Fortunately John has managed to rid the pond of nearly all of the dastardly duckweed that clogged up the surface of the pond for several years. Now our tadpoles can thrive in the sunshine. Roll on the summer.