Springtime sees the movement of amphibians from their overwintering sites back to their breeding ponds to meet, mate and lay their eggs.
Last week we had our first frogspawn of the year in the garden pond – two clumps which have subsequently been joined by a further twenty-two and the sound of mating calls suggests they are in no hurry to slow down!
Newts tend to breed a little later, and I found three smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) sheltering under a log yesterday. Newts, like all UK amphibians, spend a fair bit of their time in ‘terrestrial habitat’, that is in habitat around the ponds such as grasslands, woodlands and areas of scrub, as well as whatever gardens their ponds happen to be surrounded by.
The mild winter has led to confusion for some species, and Froglife tweeted that their monitoring suggested that newts haven’t hibernated this year. The three individuals I saw certainly looked wide awake and ready to go in 2016 – it will remain to be seen whether the unusual conditions, and impacts on behaviour, will affect the conservation status of these species.
We spent the period between Christmas and New Year down in Devon and enjoyed walking sections of the Coastal Path – between rainshowers of course!
One walk went from Streat to Blackpool Sands and en route, we stopped off to explore a little cove and watch the waves crash in. The only way to access it was down a little path which followed a stream to reach the sea – otherwise the beach was bounded by cliffs and rock.
There were several caves within the cliffs – not reaching back more than 20-30m – wall pennywort (Umbelicus rupestris) was straining towards the light half-way down.
In the darker reaches beyond these hints of green, I used the torch on my phone to take a look around. I was hoping for roosting bats, as always with such places, but instead found their usual co-conspiritors namely hibernating herald moths (Scoliopteryx libatrix) and cave spiders (Meta spp.).
There were also some other small moths which appeared to be hibernating, but which flitted away if you held the light on them – something which the Herald’s never do. I managed to grab a photograph and then left them in peace.
Despite the rather poor quality of the photograph, several people on twitter were kind enough to provide an ID for this moth – identifying it as a Bloxworth snout (Hypena obsitalis). This is a relatively recent resident to the UK, previously a rare immigrant from the continent found in Dorset (Bloxworth being its first confirmed UK location) and Devon. The species has two generations, one flying in July and August, and then a second in September and October. This second generations hibernates through the winter to emerge in the spring, and it will be these hibernating individuals which I encountered.