We had a superb day for the scheduled spring Amphibian Walk at Cromwell Bottom, and a good turn-out. 19 people age range 70 to 2.5! Plus Meg the dog.
The Cromwell Bottom Wildlife group kindly had the Cabin open, for the toilets and snacks/drinks. Thank you Jane for coming down early and opening up. Much appreciated. I think there was a work party as well. The reserve was looking great.
Amphibian watching was brilliant, with a male and female Palmate Newts netted in the Top Pond.
We counted approx. 27 clumps of frogspawn in various waters.
The toad breeding site I located at Tag Lock last year was in use again. we could see about four toads from behind the barrier, and binoculars revealed many spawn strings tangled together in the clear water. This year the chorus of chirps of the males wasn’t going on.
At the Big Pond dipping platform we netted two newt larvae with feathery gills. The bloom of “blanket weed” algae obstructed dipping somewhat, but in itself was a source of fascination to one Mum and two teenage daughters, who compared it to a textile and took some home to investigate further. It was a bright green colour and looked interesting under a 20x hand lens. In the old Halifax Naturalist there are passages about the algae species we have in water and on land, but the writer despaired even then of members ever studying them thoroughly.
Nearing the end of the walk, returning by the canal bank, I described hearing the previous year, but not being able to see, a toad breeding site, and they were calling again today. This time I spotted a male leave the edge of the water to escape into the depths and I caught him in my net. Then we heard the high-pitched calls coming from both sides of the canal. The waiting males obviously sit in the overhang of stones/ herbage at the very edge. We couldn’t spot any spawn-strings though. This was just upstream of Freemans Bridge.
We spent some time at the bird feeding station, and among the commoner residents (Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Jay, ) we saw Bullfinch, Male Blackcap, Chiff-chaff and four Redpolls. The Redpolls were feeding on insects high in the Goat Willows, as were the Chiff-chaffs.
We are getting less surprised at the regular Buzzard soaring over the reserve, but the views were beautiful in the sunlight when one came quite close. Kingfisher was also seen by one member.
An interesting fungus we saw twice was Yellow Brain, a small, bright jelly on twigs on the ground
The Marsh Marigolds were blooming, also bright yellow, in the old Tag Cut, and the peculiar bottle-brush formed Butterbur flowers were emerging, leafless, from the soil. At Crowther Bridge we looked for and found a good quantity of the Common Whitlow-grass in the joints between the cobbles, a tiny flowering plant which is not common at all.
Finally, we were sure of spring when we saw two Comma Butterflies in courtship flight and one of them sending off a Peacock Butterfly.