Saturday, 18 March 2017

Still on the Amphibian Trail

The mild and sunny weather this last week has encouraged our hibernating butterfly species to emerge in good numbers but the new butterfly season is still very much in its infancy. This week, I have concentrated my efforts in continuing to seek out amphibian activity.
 
Many of the ditches on Pevensey Levels are now echoing to the sound of breeding Common Toads (Bufo bufo) and they often share the same ditches with breeding Common Frogs (Rana temporaria). Inevitably, confusion sometimes occurs with male frogs attempting to mate with female toads. Since first observing this behaviour in 2015, I have come to realise that this is quite a regular occurrence.
 
The following photographs are of two such pairings occurring a few yards apart in the same ditch.
 
  
Two different male Common Frogs (R.temporaria) in mating clasps with female Common Toads (B.bufo)
 

 
 
 
I have also visited another of my favourite downland dew ponds where I know that I will see good numbers of Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus). I enjoy watching their courtship behaviour through my binoculars and occasionally they will venture close to the surface to offer a brief photographic opportunity. 
 
 
Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) (female)
 

 
 
On this particular occasion, the males were spending much of their time in the murky waters at the bottom of the pond but the next photograph is of a male taken in 2015.
 
 
Great Crested Newt (T.cristatus) (male)
 
 
 
On Rye Levels, Marsh Frogs (Rana ridibunda) can be found sunning themselves on the banks of ditches or on floating water weed. Their breeding season doesn't get underway until May.
 
 
Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) (sub-adults)


 
 
 
There will be better photo opportunities to be had when the summer broods of Comma (Polygonia c-album) and Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) emerge but it is difficult to resist a bit of early season stalking and target practice!
 
 
Comma (P. c-album)

 
 
Small Tortoiseshell (A. urticae)

 
 
The pick of the moths attracted to my garden light trap this week was this Small Brindled Beauty (Apocheima hispidaria). Athough this species is locally widespread in Sussex, it was the first time that I had recorded it in my garden.
 
 
Small Brindled Beauty (A. hispidaria) (male)
 
 
 
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been watching a pair of Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) constructing their nest on Pevensey Levels. Now more or less complete, it is one of the most beautiful natural structures, made from lichens and spider webs. Plenty of zoom and some cropping suggest that I was closer than I actually was and I watched the pair return after I left.   

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