Saturday 7 May 2011

Love is in the air... and the water

The place was awash with hormones last evening. By this, I mean in the natural world rather than any particular room in Tense Towers.

Wandering out into the garden after work, I was pleasantly surprised to find the pond was teeming with amphibians. The introduction of more oxygenating plants seems to have solved the blanket weed problem and visibility has improved considerably. As I sat watching the water, first one then another newt came into view. When my eyes became accustomed to the depth of water, I realised that there were at least eight individuals, more males than females. Also, it soon became evident that there was much courtship display to be observed.

Smooth Newts... the males trying to be EXTRA smooth!
Several males would congregate near a female, swimming underneath her and nudging her underside with their noses. This behaviour wasn't necessarily to the lady's liking, so much chasing around the pond ensued. Occasionally, a male would find himself alone with a female and dart around in front of her. Once he had her attention, he would bend his tail into a U-shape, to the left or right, and shimmy the end of it, in a way that, I presume, is a sure-fire hit with a lady newt.

A lone Toad sat rather forlornly in the shallows, doing its best to stay out of the way of the romantic goings on. All this means that we're unlikely to see any damselfly larvae emerging this year, as they will probably end up as amphibian snacks. Such is life, or death, in this case.

After our evening meal, Our Lass and I ventured down to the nature reserve at Stantonbury Lake. The birdsong at dusk was all-enveloping, as warblers and thrushes filled the air with their calls. As we rounded a bend in the path, we came face to face with a female Muntjac deer and her tiny fawn (or kid). We stood stock still, lest we spook them, and she wasn't immediately sure what we were. While mum hesitated, the youngster busied itself with a spot of suckling, its fresh, dappled coat contrasting well with the adult's more even tones. Neither were particularly well-camouflaged against a verdant backdrop of Comfrey plants lining the track, whose purple flowers were still a-buzz with bees despite the lateness of the hour. Eventually, they trotted off up the path and out of sight, but we crept slowly and silently after them, in the hope that we would be rewarded with another view.

Fortune favoured us, and this time, even more amazingly, a male Muntjac was in attendance. Very, very close attendance! We were puzzled, as it isn't Autumn and surely that's when this sort of thing goes on, rutting and bellowing and general sauciness. Then we remembered that Muntjac aren't native deer, so perhaps normal rules don't apply. Sure enough, later, when  checking the Mammal Society website, we learnt that the doe is receptive immediately after giving birth and can be virtually permanently pregnant. Tough gig! This might also explain why they do so well as a species, if they can produce three kids in two years.

Before returning home in the gathering darkness, we were first treated to a view of a Barn Owl, like a pale ghost floating above the lake, and then the song of a Grasshopper Warbler, which reached us in waves, pulsing out across the landscape.


Bob Bushell said...

There's newt like it.

Imperfect and Tense said...

It was just a little something. In fact, not even that big. It was minute.