It's a frogs life

Guest blogger Ellie Phelps shares her lockdown experiences on her allotment watching the tadpoles develop into frogs to help with her mental health and wellbeing.
frog

Not so long ago, I decided to build a pond. I built it from scratch using a small amount of pond liner. I was given a jam jar full of tadpoles. Friends had told me that having frogs in the allotment is marvellous.  I’ve visited the frogs nearly every day since, watching them metamorphosise, taking pictures along the way. During the hungry gap, in March, when my allotment looks very empty, the frogspawn adds life - making visits more appealing. We watch with interest as the frogs change their bodies to suit the world around them. After about two weeks, they outlive the constraints of frogspawn, and transform into tadpoles.

Ellie's frogspawn

Every dot is in effect remodelled, and gets refurbished with a tiny tail, little legs, gills and a mouth. The future, in this little tadpole’s life, is always filled with fast-approaching changes. It takes another week for the tadpoles to gain enough strength to swim about in search of algae. Alongside my seedlings, which are just starting to show signs of life, this time of year reminds me that spring is just around the corner.

Ellie's tadpoles
Ellie's seedlings

Four weeks down the line and a little frog-like face appears. In this froggy face that is looking back at you, metamorphosis models its handsome new look - complete with a new set of back legs. The transformation is not just skin deep. This tadpoles’ gills have disappeared, morphing into a tiny pair of lungs. And little horny teeth emerge, used to tear up anything they can find, animal matter: dead or alive! These new faces have helped to cheer us up during this particularly isolated spring. As lockdown starts, the allotment provides some much-needed variation.

frog

As we learn more about the pandemic, we find that the uncertainty of lockdown is matched by its monotony. A trip to the allotment adds some life to these rather drab days. Luckily, there are some pleasing new developments down the plot. Things are looking – and smelling – very positive.  At this stage in their lives, tadpoles stand at the cusp of childhood and will soon become froglets. The final change occurs when the tadpole’s tail is reabsorbed, its little horny teeth are lost, and it starts to breath using not only its lungs, but through its skin, too.

Ellie's garlic bulbs
Ellie's frog explores the strawberries

Frogspawn, tadpole, froglet, the tiny tail disappears, the little frog-like face appears: these changes are happening quickly. This little froglet is now 60 days old. 30 days away from becoming a frog, but its habitat has changed, and I no longer see them in my pond.

Ellie's allotment flower

As they venture further into the allotment, our restrictions seem to roll-on. My allotment is, however, cheering us all up with a wide selection of flowers. A splash of colour to take home.

The whole process, documented here, takes three or four months - but they will not return to the pond for another three or four years. By which time, they’ll be ready to make frogspawn of their own. The cyclical nature of things, the produce, wildlife, and community, all things that have added some adventure to these days spent in waiting. As lockdown comes to an end, I continue to be grateful that I have this spot, full of habitats for frogs in all their stages.

Soldier beetle landing

Jon Hawkins - Surrey Hills Photography

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