Friday, 25 March 2011

A few ponds in Bispham, Blackpool torched

Last night two FARG members went to the outskirts of Blackpool to survey a selection of ponds there.
The first is small and quite overgrown, not that we like this term – better would be at a later successional stage – it has dense stands of Typha (Reedmace) with little open water and a deep layer of sunken litter.
Four female Smooth Newts were recorded along with two males and two unsexed tails disappearing in to the submerged leaf litter, making eight animals in all.
We also found a single female Great Crested Newt, the photo shows the warty skin nicely hence their alternative name, the Warty Newt.
Also seen well are the bright yellow toe nails and if you look hard a small length of the yellow band along thee underside of the tail. Click the pics to seee them full size.
On the underside shot you can see the distinctive yellow and black pattern which allows individuals to be identified. Notably there were few plants suitable for Great Crested Newts to lay on present, hopefully they will have grown by the time the next survey comes round in about a month’s time.
The second pond surveyed is bigger and deeper with much less emergent vegetation. In this pond we found a huge mass of Frog spawn over a metre across. No newts but a little further round the bank we spotted another much smaller clump of Frog spawn. This was interesting in that much of it had no embryos. At first it we thought that might have been due to recent frosty nights but frosted spawn shows white dead embryos. A closer look revealed the true culprits – several leeches were delving through the jelly to reach the living embryos. This is something neither of us had come across before. A pond with a high population of leeches could have a major effect on spawn survival as can be seen from the pictures they can crawl across the surface presumably they have attacked the underside of the spawn mass as well and can probably reach all through even the largest clumps. Has anyone else witnessed this?  A quick trawl through Google and Google images came up with nothing.

On the way to our next pond we found the only frog of the evening hopping around on the road. This pond is surrounded on three sides by dense Willow bushes but the few yards of accessible bank gave us two Smooth Newts, a female and an unsexed individual. Its ‘sister’ pond is even more heavily willowed and we were unable to torch any part of it.
Our final pond is a field pond and again only about half of it has accessible banks. Here we found our first Toad shortly followed by over 30 more!
Next week we hope to survey some ponds on the southern section of the North Blackpool Pond Trail.

The FARG covers the whole of the Fylde and Over Wyre and if you have access to ponds you would like surveyed or already have amphibian records for please let us know.

The official FARG website should be available soon and you will be able to upload your Fylde records very easily there.

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