Unless you’ve been in hibernation this winter, you may well have noticed that spring seems to have sprung early with all sorts of unusual wildlife sightings being recorded for this time of year. Large numbers of frogs and newts have already been seen at Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Urban Wildlife Centre, suggesting that it’s time to look out for the first spawn in your garden pond.
Newts and frogs spend the winter in torpor, a state of temporary hibernation. Frogs sometime spend hide at the bottom of a pond or they will burrow into some mud or a pile of logs, as do newts, so they can maintain their body temperature and metabolic rate when food and heat sources are scarce.
There is no need to worry if you find large numbers of frogs or frogspawn in your garden, as nature will find its own balance, according to DWT. Only around one in fifty of the eggs will become a froglet, with pond predators including fish, dragonfly larvae and newts to contend with. Those that do become froglets could then face garden predators such as grass snakes, blackbirds, crows, magpies, hedgehogs, foxes and badgers.
Winter is great to spend a little time looking up at the skies, as the cool, crisp and sometimes freezing air results in some spectacular night scenes as there is less humidity in the air in colder temperatures. The other benefit is as the sun goes down early, you can still get a decent few hours of gazing without having to take a late night! Still not inspired? Then watch the amazing video taken in Bridport by Stephen Banks of some amazing night skies.
Woodpeckers making a racket
Woodpeckers have started their territorial tree hammering this month, and starting a right old racket through the peaceful wintery woodlands of Dorset. The short bursts of drumming last about 5 seconds and accelerate before fading. Their drumming "song" will be heard now until early spring. Watch the video to listen to exactly what you should be hearing for.
Look out for this odd looking fish washed up on beaches or in the shallows at this time of year, especially following rough seas or during extreme low tides. It has a large, wide head, bony projections along its side and underside and is bluish grey in colour with a pink belly (during breeding season) . The pelvic fins are fused to form a powerful sucker just below its chin.
Lumpsuckers are usually found in deeper water but from February to May they come into shallower waters to breed. The male stays close to the eggs, guarding and caring for them, for 1-2 months until they hatch. Laid in shallow water at this time of year means the eggs are at the mercy of winter storms, hence the powerful sucker which he uses to stay in place beside his eggs.
The extreme low tides at this time of year also mean that occasionally lumpsuckers are caught out and left high and dry on the shore with their eggs. However the male will not desert them even if it results in his death!
Whelk egg cases
The rough weather around during February throws up all sorts of interesting items on the shore. Among these are often found egg cases of different marine animals. Common whelk egg cases are often found washed up on all types of shore along the south coast. These are also called ‘sea-wash-balls’ as they were once used by sailors for washing in the same way as sponges are used today. The first one or two to hatch from each eggcase capsule feed on the remaining eggs before emerging into the sea.