RAUK - Archived Forum - Posts by GemmaJF:

This contains the Forum posts up until April 2011. Posts may be viewed but cannot be edited or replied to - nor can new posts be made. More recent posts can be seen on the new Forum at http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/


Forum Home

Posts by GemmaJF:

This is Page 1

Author Message
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 22 Feb 2003 Topic: Some thoughts on the Common Toad



Some Thoughts on the Common Toad (1946)

Before the swallow, before the daffodil, and not much later than the snowdrop, the common toad salutes the coming of spring after his own fashion, which is to emerge from a hole in the ground, where he has lain buried since the previous autumn, and crawl as rapidly as possible towards the nearest suitable patch of water. Something - some kind of shudder in the earth, or perhaps merely a rise of a few degrees in the temperature - has told him that it is time to wake up: though a few toads appear to sleep the clock round and miss out a year from time to time - at any rate, I have more than once dug them up, alive and apparently well, in the middle of the summer.

At this period, after his long fast, the toad has a very spiritual look, like a strict Anglo-Catholic towards the end of Lent. His movements are languid but purposeful, his body is shrunken, and by contrast his eyes look abnormally large. This allows one to notice, what one might not at another time, that a toad has about the most beautiful eye of any living creature. It is like gold, or more exactly it is like the golden-coloured semi-precious stone which one sometimes sees in signet-rings, and which I think is called a chrysoberyl.

For a few days after getting into the water the toad concentrates on building up his strength by eating small insects. Presently he has swollen to his normal size again, and then he hoes through a phase of intense sexiness. All he knows, at least if he is a male toad, is that he wants to get his arms round something, and if you offer him a stick, or even your finger, he will cling to it with surprising strength and take a long time to discover that it is not a female toad. Frequently one comes upon shapeless masses of ten or twenty toads rolling over and over in the water, one clinging to another without distinction of sex. By degrees, however, they sort themselves out into couples, with the male duly sitting on the female's back. You can now distinguish males from females, because the male is smaller, darker and sits on top, with his arms tightly clasped round the female's neck. After a day or two the spawn is laid in long strings which wind themselves in and out of the reeds and soon become invisible. A few more weeks, and the water is alive with masses of tiny tadpoles which rapidly grow larger, sprout hind-legs, then forelegs, then shed their tails: and finally, about the middle of the summer, the new generation of toads, smaller than one's thumb-nail but perfect in every particular, crawl out of the water to begin the game anew.

I mention the spawning of the toads because it is one of the phenomena of spring which most deeply appeal to me, and because the toad, unlike the skylark and the primrose, has never had much of a boost from poets. But I am aware that many people do not like reptiles or amphibians, and I am not suggesting that in order to enjoy the spring you have to take an interest in toads. There are also the crocus, the missel-thrush, the cuckoo, the blackthorn, etc. The point is that the pleasures of spring are available to everybody, and cost nothing. Even in the most sordid street the coming of spring will register itself by some sign or other, if it is only a brighter blue between the chimney pots or the vivid green of an elder sprouting on a blitzed site. Indeed it is remarkable how Nature goes on existing unofficially, as it were, in the very heart of London. I have seen a kestrel flying over the Deptford gasworks, and I have heard a first-rate performance by a blackbird in the Euston Road. There must be some hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of birds living inside the four-mile radius, and it is rather a pleasing thought that none of them pays a halfpenny of rent.

As for spring, not even the narrow and gloomy streets round the Bank of England are quite able to exclude it. It comes seeping in everywhere, like one of those new poison gases which pass through all filters. The spring is commonly referred to as `a miracle', and during the past five or six years this worn-out figure of speech has taken on a new lease of life. After the sorts of winters we have had to endure recently, the spring does seem miraculous, because it has become gradually harder and harder to believe that it is actually going to happen. Every February since 1940 I have found myself thinking that this time winter is going to be permanent. But Persephone, like the toads, always rises from the dead at about the same moment. Suddenly, towards the end of March, the miracle happens and the decaying slum in which I live is transfigured. Down in the square the sooty privets have turned bright green, the leaves are thickening on the chestnut trees, the daffodils are out, the wallflowers are budding, the policeman's tunic looks positively a pleasant shade of blue, the fishmonger greets his customers with a smile, and even the sparrows are quite a different colour, having felt the balminess of the air and nerved themselves to take a bath, their first since last September.

Is it wicked to take a pleasure in spring and other seasonal changes? To put it more precisely, is it politically reprehensible, while we are all groaning, or at any rate ought to be groaning, under the shackles of the capitalist system, to point out that life is frequently more worth living because of a blackbird's song, a yellow elm tree in October, or some other natural phenomenon which does not cost money and does not have what the editors of left-wing newspapers call a class angle? There is not doubt that many people think so. I know by experience that a favourable reference to `Nature' in one of my articles is liable to bring me abusive letters, and though the key-word in these letters is usually `sentimental', two ideas seem to be mixed up in them. One is that any pleasure in the actual process of life encourages a sort of political quietism. People, so the thought runs, ought to be discontented, and it is our job to multiply our wants and not simply to increase our enjoyment of the things we have already. The other idea is that this is the age of machines and that to dislike the machine, or even to want to limit its domination, is backward-looking, reactionary and slightly ridiculous. This is often backed up by the statement that a love of Nature is a foible of urbanized people who have no notion what Nature is really like. Those who really have to deal with the soil, so it is argued, do not love the soil, and do not take the faintest interest in birds or flowers, except from a strictly utilitarian point of view. To love the country one must live in the town, merely taking an occasional week-end ramble at the warmer times of year.

This last idea is demonstrably false. Medieval literature, for instance, including the popular ballads, is full of an almost Georgian enthusiasm for Nature, and the art of agricultural peoples such as the Chinese and Japanese centre always round trees, birds, flowers, rivers, mountains. The other idea seems to me to be wrong in a subtler way. Certainly we ought to be discontented, we ought not simply to find out ways of making the best of a bad job, and yet if we kill all pleasure in the actual process of life, what sort of future are we preparing for ourselves? If a man cannot enjoy the return of spring, why should he be happy in a labour-saving Utopia? What will he do with the leisure that the machine will give him? I have always suspected that if our economic and political problems are ever really solved, life will become simpler instead of more complex, and that the sort of pleasure one gets from finding the first primrose will loom larger than the sort of pleasure one gets from eating an ice to the tune of a Wurlitzer. I think that by retaining one's childhood love of such things as trees, fishes, butterflies and - to return to my first instance - toads, one makes a peaceful and decent future a little more probable, and that by preaching the doctrine that nothing is to be admired except steel and concrete, one merely makes it a little surer that human beings will have no outlet for their surplus energy except in hatred and leader worship.

At any rate, spring is here, even in London N.1, and they can't stop you enjoying it. This is a satisfying reflection. How many a time have I stood watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn, and thought of all the important persons who as you are not actually ill, hungry, frightened or immured in a prison or a holiday camp, spring is still spring. The atom bombs are piling up in the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither the dictators nor the bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it.

George Orwell




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 28 Feb 2003 Topic: Alien or not?



 I must admit I was thinking more along the lines of red eared terrapins and bull frogs, but invasive and noxious plants are clearly a relevant issue.

For those who want to know more about these plants, information and a freely distributable fact sheet are available at:

http://www.invasiveweeds.co.uk/

Thanks to Jon Huckle for permissions

 

 




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 04 Mar 2003 Topic: Hop to it and save the frogs!



First published on Friday 28 February 2003:

Hop to it and save the frogs!

A CONSERVATION project aims to protect an important section of Newport's wildlife by taking a big leap forward,

Garden ponds make an essential contribution to the city's environment by providing homes for frogs, toads and newts.

Now the council wants to map this natural resource in order to identify it for future protection and development.

It is all part of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan and a leaflet is being launched today containing information about the plan and the protection of the endangered Great Crested Newts. Newport residents are being asked to fill in the attached slip giving details of their own ponds or others in the community.

This will be used to build up a database forming an integral part of the plan which will work to conserve and enhance the city's wildlife.

Rebecca Davies, the council's biodiversity officer, said: "The action plan is an important part of taking care of the city's own nature and wildlife.

"People often take for granted what they see in their garden every day but to us it forms an essential part of how we can work to protect and build on what we have already.

"This database is a great starting point and I hope that residents in Newport will send in their information to make the picture as accurate as possible."

Leaflets will be delivered to homes and are available in local libraries, community centres and some garden centres.

People who would like to find out more about the pondlife in their gardens can join the newly formed Gwent Amphibian and Reptile Group (GARG). It meets regularly to work towards the conservation of amphibians, reptiles and their habitats.

For a leaflet or more information about biodiversity or GARG contact Rebecca Davies on 01633 232880 or email mailto:rebecca.davies@newport.gov.uk

Reproduced with the kind permission of SOUTH WALES ARGUS

(Gwent, UK) 28 February 03 

 




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 16 Apr 2003 Topic: Damage to key refugia



Tony's Photographs:

 

 

I have to say, my first reaction to seeing them, appalled




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 17 Apr 2003 Topic: New Member saying, Hello



Hi Alan, welcome!

now about this picture, there is a green tree icon in the post reply box, click on that, up pops a window, type the URL in that and click "OK" the picture should display before you submit the posting, if it doesn't it won't after!

 

That is a fantastic pictue! can I pinch it for the Identification page??

Gemma




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 18 Apr 2003 Topic: Is Aesculapian snake still around?



How is this for an up-to-date sighting,

http://icnorthwales.icnetwork.co.uk/news/regionalnews/page.cfm?objectid=12858930&method=full&siteid=50142




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 25 Apr 2003 Topic: Field photography continued



If anyone is finding that some of Alan's pictures are not displaying on their browser, try right clicking on the box with the red cross and selecting "open picture"




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 30 Apr 2003 Topic: Drift fencing



Martin's Pictures,

Shouldn't the turn over at the top be on the outside?




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 30 Apr 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



Alan, Give me the exact location and local name of the area by email, I'll endeavour to find out who owns and manages the land and who the contractors are, that way we can highlight it on here at least.

It sickens me to hear that any of our herpetofauna should be treated this way, inparticular a protected species.




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 01 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



Hi Alan,

EN is English Nature, DEFRA, Department of environment food and rural affairs, between them they are responsible for ensuring the Wildlife and Countryside act is adhered to, in this case there is good grounds to suggest it hasn't been.

The idea is given the exact location, we can track back who is responsible for management of the area, if this is then published in this thread, I guess with the number of views it has had already there will be quite a few letters of complaint suggesting more sensitive treatment of herpetofauna by who is responsible in future, directed to the powers that be.




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 01 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



http://www.homegrowntimber.com/


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 01 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



David, reassuring isn't it. I did originally cut and paste their policies to the thread, but removed it and just left the link on grounds of good taste.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 02 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



Alan, regards the lizard, My brother in-law is over 6ft, and used to be a tree surgeon, so quite well built, very placid man. I only saw him lose his temper once, on Hindhead Common. It went something like this, little boy to father, oh look daddy a snake! Father to child, out of the way son - thud. A few seconds later there was a second thud as Pete laid the guy out for killing a Slow-worm. It happens.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 02 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



Tony,

My favourite sites are like this in Surrey. Shame that localised infilling of ponds by the birch isn't on the priority list, whilst it appears destroying swathes of the habitat is.

I would be happy to put up a page on the main website written in article form, with assistance from David and yourself or anyone else that can help, highlighting this trend in management, the likelihood that it is unlawful (with references to the relevant legislation), papers and publications opposing such techniques and the alternatives and who should be informed when such projects are planned.

I have no doubt that in this case that it was well known that Adders were in the area by those involved - it deeply saddens me.




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 02 May 2003 Topic: Sad stuff folks



I totally agree Tony, and fear for areas in Surrey I've known and loved for the last 20 years. There are conifers, these are left, whilst the birch and bracken is needlessly removed. It needs subtle careful management not destruction. I've no doubt that some of the rarer species live in the heather covered hill sides on the sites I speak of, they are of little interest as I am not licensed to observe them, I'm straight to the bracken and birch to be close to the species I love the most.

I think that a new section for the main website, outside the forum highlighting these issues would be of worth, many of those interested in conservation assume things are in safe hands.. I have had my eyes opened in more ways than one recently.




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 07 May 2003 Topic: A taste of Turkey



fab pictures again Alan! Sounds like a good idea, do people want a forum for European species in the general section, I guess the threads might get missed here?


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 10 May 2003 Topic: A taste of Turkey



Below is the list of Books that I and the BHS library have on Turkish and N.Cyprus Reptiles and Amphibians. A few can be obtained from specialist book dealers in this country

Baran,I. & Atat³r,M. 1998 Turkish herpetofauna 214 p Ministry of Environment  Ankara English colour plates

Baran,I.,Coad,B. & Huru,M.  1986 Zoological Bibliography of Turkey  Pisces,Amphibia, Reptilia . 118 p. M.Kasparek  German & English

Basoglu,M. & Ízeti,N  1973 Amphibians of Turkey 135 p. Ege ³niv.fen fak³ltresi kitaplar ser. 50  Turkish, English summary

Baski,I.  2001 Amphibians & Reptiles of N Cyprus 63 p Ege ³niv. fen fac³ltesi kitaplar ser 170  Turkish & English  http://bornova.ege.edu.tr/~bgocmen/herptiles_cyprus.html  to see the plates in better quality

 Basoglu,M. & Baran,I.  1977 Reptiles of Turkey Pt 1 Turtles & Lizards 272 p. Ege ³niv.fen fak³ltresi kitaplar ser. 76  Turkish, English summary

Basoglu,M. & Baran,I.  1980 Reptiles of Turkey Pt 2 Snakes 218 p. Ege ³niv.fen fak³ltresi kitaplar ser. 81  Turkish, English summary

Demirsoy,A. 1996  T³rkiye Omurgalilari  Amfibiler 69 p Cevre Bakanligi  In Turkish  Black and white photos good distr,maps

Demirsoy,A. 1996  T³rkiye Omurgalilari  S³r³ngenler( Reptiles)  205 p Cevre Bakanligi  In Turkish  Black and white photos good distr,maps

 

David Bird




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 11 May 2003 Topic: Common Frog Identification & Sightings



Liam,

Does the pond have any predators? Fish or a large number of invertebrates such as Great Diving Beetle larva that are eating the tadpoles? Or did the tadpoles not develop?

Opinion is split on the moving of spawn, some argue it is a good thing to increase the genetic diversity of small populations of frogs in urban areas, others fear that doing so may promote the disease redleg that afflicts Common Frogs in the UK - though there is no direct evidence that this is so.

With your pond, as adult frogs visit regularly, I would look to finding out why the tadpoles disappear and improve the pond to suit them, rather than bringing in new tadpoles.




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 14 May 2003 Topic: tadpole



Thanks David, that gives a much clearer picture

Gemma




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
GemmaJF
Admin Group
Joined: 25 Jan 2003
No. of posts: 2090


View other posts in this topic
Posted: 14 May 2003 Topic: one of our pond regulars



Awwwwww, picture beg for ID page??

Alan if you can get a clear full body shot it would be very much appreciated, both the main common frog picture and smooth newt picture are a bit lacking (broad hint) on the ID pages.




Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant

- Posts by GemmaJF

This is Page 1

Content here  topic header