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Southern comfort

Just back into work after having had a short visit down south last week to see a good friend of mine. He lives in Kent, and the break , which was spent mainly walking in the beautiful countryside near Canterbury and pub lunching in the spring sun, was very relaxing.  One day we saw a beautiful female adder basking across a path and other highlights included seeing a stoat up close, different birds of prey, and some unusual frogs. We spent one morning on Romney Marsh, a large expanse of drained flatland that was once treacherous marshland. It has a bit of a strange feel to the place, almost as if those hung and drawn smugglers from bygone ages still haunt the place. However, it is home to some wonderful wildlife including populations of Marsh Frogs (Rana ridibunda). Apparently, a handful of specimens were first released in the south east in 1935 and within a few years they had spread. Today, they don’t seem to have spread much farther than Romney Marsh and also don’t seem to be in any direct competition with any native species there, which is a very good thing. They are stunning frogs though, spending most of their day calling and basking along the water’s edge ready to dive beneath the surface at the slightest disturbance. This makes them extremely difficult to observe and photograph, so I was particularly pleased to get the photo opposite of a male basking at the surface.

My friend and I also got to share lots of frog talk , as he is also very interested in amphibians and keeps and breeds White’s Treefrogs very successfully. He has a private collection which he has maintained in optimum conditions for many years and all his frogs are so tame that they all feed straight from his hand. It’s so funny to see them all perk up, come to the front of each vivarium, and turn their heads to follow all his movements when he walks in the room. One particularly old female (pictured) who lives a very comfortable life appears to have a permanent grin! 🙂

Apart from the way he keeps his animals, the other thing that never fails to impress me is his attitude to helping native species. Even though he only has quite a small garden he has really made the most of it. In my last post I mentioned about how to build a pond and how it supports local amphibians. Well, you don’t need lots of space to do this, and my friend has made a very small corner of his lawn into a shallow water holding area with the use of an old pond liner. He has aquatic grasses growing in it, and, although the water depth is less that 6 inches, it has frogs, toads and newts all breeding in there. Superb to see. He has even sealed of the bottom of some large planters and filled them with water and a few water lilies and grasses, and even these have tadpoles in there. Just goes to show what you can do with a bit of imagination to enhance your garden for attracting aquatic creatures.

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