Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A New(t) Visitor To My Garden

Can you see the new visitor to my garden hiding amongst the tadpoles? I have wanted to attract newts to my garden ever since I put the bath there for the frogs and at last I don't know how many years later one has appeared.I think it must be a smooth newt as this is the most common and the back feet do not appear to be webbed as for a palmate newt. I hope she has a mate with her and they produce newt tadpoles.

Newts migrate to the ponds they will use for breeding under the cover of darkness,usually in the wet.They are brilliant climbers and so can overcome most obstacles. The females mate with a number of males keeping their sperm in a special chamber inside her until her eggs are ripe for fertilization. She will lay between 100-300 eggs each one coated in jelly and wrapped individually in an underwater leaf to hide it from predators.This can take up to a week to accomplish.The tadpoles eat their way out of the egg in 3-4 weeks, they have stubby gills for breathing and a pair of adhesive organs to attach themselves to any firm object they encounter as they have no limbs at this stage. It doesn't take long for their forelimbs to develop and they absorb these organs as they no longer need them. The gills also develop taking on a feathery ruff-like appearance. The tadpole has minute teeth which it uses to take small aquatic organisms which form it's staple diet.After about 6 weeks the back legs appear and the tadpoles can crawl on the pond floor to hide from predators such as Dragon fly larvae and sticklebacks, frogs and toads. The tadpole from an egg laid in mid summer will take about 10 weeks for metamorphosis to complete, but it will be several more months before it reaches adulthood and is ready to return to land, where it will find a damp crevice to live in. Tadpoles from late hatched eggs will overwinter in the pond.  Once they have left the pond they will live on insects,small snails, slugs and worms. A smooth newt will take 2-3 years to reach maturity, a crested newt can be up to 4. Newts can live for 20 years although few probably survive for longer than 6.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

R.I.P. Tara Cat

Tara my old cat passed away yesterday. I'm not exactly sure how old she was but it must be somewhere between 18 and 20 which is quite a good age for a cat. She had gone very thin and was suffering from feline alzheimers but she was still enjoying life and would still go visiting her numerous friends. She loved sitting with the children of the road and would still conscientiously patrol her territory although if anyone fed her she would go to sleep and forget to come home! So it was very upsetting when she came home on Sunday night with a broken back leg. Not being strong enough to undergo surgery we did the only thing possible and took her for that final trip to the vet. 
I brought her home and laid her to rest in the garden next to one of my David Austen roses which I bought a couple of months ago. The children are all devastated and all day they have been asking if they can see where she is buried and say goodbye to her. Jake made her a little headstone and laid some flowers over her!

 The rose I buried her next to has been in bud for a couple of weeks now, but when I went out this morning the first flower had just opened! It smells divine.

R.I.P. Tara Cat.