Tag Archives: Tree frog

Lovely weather for frogs – and ducks!

Another week of unsettled weather brought yet more rain and generally stormy weather that has refilled the pool enough to delight the Tree Frogs.

The presence of the water brought me some very exotic visitors on Wednesday morning: glancing through a window as I walked past I made out a large shape on the edge of the pool. My first thought was Cattle Egret, as we do see them in the garden very occasionally, and there are a lot of frogs here at the moment. I ran to grab the camera and peering carefully around the edge of the voile curtain realised there were two ducks there. Sited beneath a major Europe-Africa migration route we do get sightings and the occasional close encounter with some amazing birds, especially when bad weather brings them down, but never before ducks in the garden. I daren’t open the window for fear of alarming them, but had to get some images, whatever the quality, so I focussed through the glass. I was very surprised to see what I was fairly sure were a pair of Mandarin ducks – but where they may have come from I can’t imagine. They are usually kept on lakes and such as ornamentals; in the UK there are escapees living and breeding in the wild in various places, but till now I’ve not seen any since living in Spain.

I saw the male duck first, he was looking down into the pool – the female was in the water

The female appeared, popping out from the water. Much less colourful than her mate but still beautifully made

A slightly better view of the male as he moved away from the pool- what a beautiful bird

I took the photograph below at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust reserve at Llanelli, South-West Wales several years ago and have included it to properly show the gorgeous colours, patterns and textures of the Mandarin duck’s plumage – so much detail on a single creature.

Mandarin duck at Llanelli WWT- a much better view


The nightly choir gatherings have been reinstated and our original ten or so seem to have invited along all their friends and relatives too – the noise levels have hit an all-time high. A concern of ours had been that the neighbours may start complaining about the racket, but a walk down the road one evening reassured us that they too have their own collections of discordant serenaders.

As a background the massed croaking is just a very loud noise, but if you take a moment, stop thinking about it as simply noise and listen properly, you can pick up differences in the pitch and ‘notes’ of the croaking individuals; one or two are distinctive enough to recognise quite easily.

On Saturday night, when it sounded as though there must be at least fifty frogs croaking, we went out in the dark with a torch to see if we could see any. As soon as they see light, they go quiet, but peering down into the pool with a small and not very bright torch beam, we found quite a few, some demonstrating what all the noise has been about and in the process of mating.

A bright green female and a smaller, darker male

The light from the torch and camera flash did disturb them, but although they moved a little , this pair stayed together.

Very close to the mating pair there was another female

Very close by the couple was another female; perhaps he is one of the alpha males.

On the other side of the pool was another pair, both light bright green

There has undoubtedly been an increase in the local population of these delightful little frogs over the last couple of years, perhaps as a result of the heavy winter rainfalls. If this lot are as successful this year, I’d rather no think about the noise levels next spring.

Birds are singing, frogs are croaking

At the beginning of the week it seemed as though the total local Tree Frog population had converged upon our pool. Endearing as they are in the daytime when spotted out sunbathing, stuck to the sides of the pool like bath toys,  as soon as the sun has set and they begin their croak-off contests, necessitating turning up the volume on your TV, you can go off them a bit. It wouldn’t be so bad if they got tired after an hour or two and quietened down, but the tiny creatures have enormous stamina and I’ve heard them still at it at 2am. The morning following a particularly noisy night session I discovered the reason for the increased volume; I counted no less than ten of them in a variety of sizes and shades of green in various spots around the pool.

Four of the ten tree frogs in the pool today. This image shows them at more or less their actual very tiny sizes. Males are smaller than females.

A grass-green individual

I probably would have put up with the din so I could indulge in a bit more frog-watching, but my long-suffering other half had reached his tolerance limit and decided at least some of them had to move on, or back to where they’d come from. So the pool was drained to leave about half a metre or so depth at the ‘deep end’. We found some interesting stuff in there, including tadpoles of various sizes and some large dragonfly larvae. I was worried then that the tadpoles would get eaten, so we put a bit more water in to give them more chance to escape. It’s a situation that reminded me of a quote I remember which simply says ‘Nature quietly finds her way back into places we think of as ours…’ which is sort of what has happened here, although in this case maybe not so quietly.

A Serin singing his heart out

My little dog is happy that the pleasanter weather has put more regular walks back on the agenda, although he gets a little bit frustrated with the frequent stops we make as I spot photo opportunities or something interesting to watch. This week there have been so many birds about that our normal 20 minutes ’round the block’ have been taking at least twice as long. I have seen more Robins than usual and think  perhaps some are migrants; there are Blue Tits everywhere and Serins singing their tinkling songs from tree perches almost within sight of one another. They become more visible than usual at this time as they make display flights, shooting up from their perches then spreading their wings wide and fluttering and falling back down while still singing. Although seeming to be fully occupied by the effort they put into singing, they are still quite wary and easily disturbed, hence my best photo to date being a back view; it does show the yellow rump though. There are still nothing like the full number of House Martins and Barn Swallows back yet, but it’s been good to see a few in our patch of sky again. No sign of any Swifts yet.

A Collared Dove keeping a wary eye on me and the dog

There are dozens of Collared Doves around and I often come across single ones, or at the moment pairs, walking about on the roads. I know they’re common, but I like them, they look soft and gentle, which of course I know they’re not particularly.

A large flock of Siskins pecking around on the road

One morning l spotted a little flock of twenty or so small birds pecking around on the road beneath a tree. The bright dappled sunlight made it difficult to see them well and I thought at first they may be Serins, but their reluctance to move until I was quite close brought to mind Siskins, which is what they turned out to be. They didn’t move far, the majority just going up into the tree above, but then a man got into the car that was parked just behind them and they all disappeared. I’ve looked for them several times since, but have only managed one or two; I would imagine they have moved on by now.

A Robin in a rubber tree- about to fly off

It still feels quite odd to see Robins here in Spain, especially this far south, and their strong association with our British Christmas traditions makes it even more odd to see them perched on ‘exotic’ plants such as cacti and as in this picture, a rubber tree. Their behaviour is quite different here too, they are much more wary of people and although they are present in our gardens, they are reserved and keep close to cover.

A White Wagtail strutted about on the road, oblivious to being watched with interest by a nearby cat

I’ve been trying to spot a Chaffinch singing with not much luck so far, but I got some lovely views of a beautiful male as he came down from his tree to feed on the nuts of a crushed pine cone on the road beneath.

Chaffinches are quick to take advantage of car-crushed cones and acorns etc

The male Chaffinch is a beautiful bird

He even looks handsome from the back

Birds spotted singing, displaying or otherwise expressing themselves this week:

Blue Tits and Great Tits, Blackbirds – I watched a female gathering leaves on Tuesday morning, Spotless Starlings, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Greenfinches all singing, Serins singing and displaying, Wrens in several different locations, Robin, Blackcaps, House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Short-toed Treecreeper who doesn’t have much of a song but keeps up his soft whistle for longer lengths of time.

First Lizards and more Tree Frogs

8th February 2011

I saw a few lizards on Sunday up at Castellar, but only as they scuttled for cover as we passed close by them. Since then I’ve kept a lookout around the garden, particularly in the warm sunny spots against the walls. I spotted my first one as I was looking out of the upstairs bedroom window, a small elongated dark shape, travelling fast horizontally along the light coloured wall. I saw it stop in a sunny spot where wall meets pillar and ran downstairs to grab the camera, hoping it was there for a good warm-through; luckily it was and stayed still to have its picture taken.

Common Wall Lizard - Podarcis muralis

The next day I happened upon another one, much paler in colour, as it was emerging cautiously from the cover of the upturned flower pot that is my ‘bird-bath’ base.

9/2/11-A paler coloured lizard emerged cautiously from under a flower pot

Tree Frog update

Tree frog pressed tightly into a corner

Yesterday I heard the Tree frogs croaking loudly and went out to investigate. There were two of them out sunbathing, one squeezed into a corner of the pool and the other, the one I believe was making the noise, was in the filter recess- a good spot as his voice would be well amplified in there and he has another escape option as he can dive into the filter pipe.

The two frogs were quite different in colour, one a dark olive green/brown and the other a clearer dark green. I can’t decide if this is the original one I saw last week after a few days out in the sun, or a ‘new’ one.

The other frog located in the filter recess with his back to the pool

The males are definitely becoming more vocal; I hear them at random times during the day and most evenings, starting around sunset, which is about 7pm. There are often two or more croaking at, or to one another, and sounds as though one or more may be approaching the pool from outside it.

Tiny frogs with big voices

The warmer weather has woken up the local Tree Frogs. In terms of volume of croaking I think of them as the Wrens of the amphibian world- both produce an astonishing and disproportionate level of noise from tiny bodies. I have heard the frogs calling raucously from their arboreal homes at random times throughout the days, but they have also been active after dark and calling from the vicinity of our swimming pool, (no chemicals, just two-thirds full of rainwater). I have been out with a torch to try to locate them, but they quickly fall silent and dive back under the water. However, I was out this afternoon rescuing large black beetles that had fallen into the pool and noticed what I first thought was a slimy black dead leaf  stuck against the tiles of the pool wall. It was a tiny, very dark coloured Tree Frog all hunched up and sunbathing. The tiles are a good measure of its size as they are 2cm x 2cm square, and the frog hardly stretches to two of them.

6/2/11-A very dark Tree Frog clinging to the side of the pool

It clung there, trying to ignore me taking his photograph, but after a few minutes of me trying to get a good angle, he plopped back into the water. He didn’t go far and stayed close to the surface, giving me a good view of his surprisingly long legs. As I walked around the pool to get nearer to him I spotted another frog  dive down to the bottom as I got close, so he’s not lonely in that huge space.

Tree frog displaying his surprisingly long legs

Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis (Mediterranean Tree Frog)

Attractive little frogs, about 5cm long. Disc-like suckers on tips of fingers and toes enable them to climb through vegetation easily. Mainly nocturnal, but sometimes discovered sitting in full sun on foliage where they rely on their usually-effective camouflage as protection from predators.

The colouration of the frogs varies considerably and may be adapted according to the habitat. I have seen them in a range of shades from very bright to very dark green, but today’s are definitely the darkest to date.

5/3/07 We came upon this very bright green individual when opening up the table-tennis table, where he may have spent the winter. The photo shows the frog at just about his actual size.

It’s still early days in this year’s Tree frog courtship season, but last year’s, that was based around our pool again and reached its height in late March, was so charming and memorable, I feel it’s definitely worth repeating my journal entries here. It’s a good insight into an aspect of Tree Frog behaviour too:

March 2010

Around the middle of the month our normally peaceful evenings began to be disturbed by some very loud croaking sounds coming from the vicinity of our swimming pool (full of clean winter rainwater since the pump broke down last autumn) . The sheer volume led us to believe that the sounds must be emanating from big frogs or toads, but each time we ventured outside to try to spot the croakers the noise stopped and we couldn’t see anything at all. This game of hide-and-seek the frog went on for several nights, then one sunny morning I went out with my camera to tour the garden and was amazed to see a tiny, very green frog sitting on top of the rubber duck that used to hold the floating thermometer. It was such a comical sight I was chuckling to myself for ages, especially as I realised that this tiny creature was probably also one of the participators in the nightly croaking contest. From its size and bright all-over green colour this could only be a Tree Frog, so he must have ventured down from his normal habitat and had staked out the pool as his pitch for attracting a mate.

28/3/10-Tree frog dozing on duck's back

He was not at all phased by my presence or my photographing him and sat perfectly still, dozing in the warm sunshine for most of the afternoon, no doubt conserving energy for a night of raucous activity tonight.

The defender, vocal sac inflated ready to take on his opponent

That evening, when the cacophony had been underway for a while I went outside with a torch, hoping that now I knew where the sound was  coming from, I may be able to spot the frogs in action. Sure enough , there was ‘our’ little male, still sticking close to his duck ‘island’, his vocal sac inflated to such an extent that it almost doubled his size.

As we watched him we heard more croaking approaching us from the direction of the neighbouring cork oak trees, and then a soft ‘plop’ as a challenger dropped into the water on the opposite side of the pool. Shining the light onto the water we picked him out as he swam across the surface towards our little fellow, vocal sack fully inflated and croaking loudly.

28/3/10-The challenger approaching, fully inflated

A couple of hours later I ventured out for a last quick look and discovered the challenger sitting quietly and I thought, distinctly smugly, upon the duck-throne. That was a surprise, but for them the night was young and there was plenty of time for things to change…

28/3/10- A usurper on the throne

I’m looking forward to this year’s forthcoming events!