The well in winter

Grid lifted off well top

Grid lifted off well top

It has been a wet January with little respite or sunshine to work in the garden or to go on long walks.  However, the river at the bottom of the garden is now full of water for the first time in two years and there is actually water at the bottom of the old well shaft showing that the water table level is returning to normal!

The well shaft was completely covered when we bought the house and it was not until about five years ago that were able to have a grid made that was secure and yet allowed light into the well.  The ferns duly arrived of their own volition.  There are at least four different kinds and possible more.

Well bottom

Well bottom

Looking down into the well, the bottom can be clearly seen covered with water but not much more is visible – until you look closely!

Marbled Newts, Triturus marmoratus

Marbled Newts, Triturus marmoratus

The Marbled Newts are enjoying their wetter environment.  The female is probably the one on the left as it has a brighter orange dorsal crest.  These gentle creatures are omnipresent in the garden under stones or anywhere they can keep moist.  They can be handled and do not object – it is the price they have to pay for living in our garden.

Toad and marbled newts

Toad and marbled newts

The newts appear to be content enough to share the well with a toad.  This looks like the same toad which was living in the well when my husband actually went into it with a ladder – see  The Old Well.  But one toad looks much like another to me.

Common toad, Bufo bufo

Common toad, Bufo bufo

There is not quite enough water at the bottom of the well for the toad to swim, so it is more of an aquatic waddle.

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

At the bottom of the well I spotted a frog that I had never seen before.  The agile frog is skinny with long legs (according to Reptiles and Amphibians of France) – which looked correct but the size – 6.5 centimetres for the male and up to 8 centimetres for the female was too difficult for me to estimate from the top of the well.  Then I saw the Ash key which had conveniently positioned itself beside him and I guess to be about 4 centimetres long, so I am in the right size range.

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) tail view

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) tail view

I think he could have chosen a better hiding place but it gives a good view of the stripy hind quarters.

Agile frog with newts

Agile frog with newts

This shot with the newts gives a better idea of his size.  Note the circles on the water as a fine drizzle was peppering the surface.

Frog and newt

Frog and newt

The other frog in the well is, I think, the common frog, Rana temporaria, note difference in size with the toad in the foreground of the picture.  Also the larger frog appears comfortable on top of the newt.

That was what was happening at the bottom of the pond, but the old broken pipe half way up was also occupied.

2 frogs metal pipe

2 frogs metal pipe

I really can’t say what is happening here as I think it is too early for the breeding season.

3 frogs on metal post

3 frogs on metal post

Sorry about the poor image but with three of them I have even less of an idea what is going on here.  It doesn’t look a prime spot but maybe it is just the place to be to catch the unsuspecting flying things that were passing through the well.  If anyone knows any more about these frogs I’d love to hear about it.

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32 thoughts on “The well in winter

    • The well originally served the house as the source of running water. There are marks on the stone wall of the house where the pump part of it used to be but was removed a long time ago. A lot of people in this area have their own wells and there is still a communal well in the village that you can use for watering the garden if you are prepared to haul it. With increased farming in the area people have told me that the water table level is lower now than it used to be.

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  1. Amelia, these are lovely pix.
    Especially the Marbled Newts….
    and the “I can’t see you… so you can’t see me!” hind end.

    As for the bunches of frogs… the breeding season starts around mid-February…
    so with the unseasonably warm Winter we are having…
    they could be “warming-up”, so to speak…
    But as per normal… they are confused… one of that bunch of three is a tree frog, in’it?

    But when breeding, bunches of frogs are not at all uncommon…
    One female toad can often be seen with up to three male in amplexus…
    and can sometimes be surrounded by a “football” of males…
    occasionally resulting in the death of the female and inner males!

    Frogs don’t go quite so mad…
    I’ve seen four males aboard, all trying to be the one to fertilize the spawn…
    but more usually it is one or two.

    The Marbled Newts seem to be two females [orange stripe] and one non-nuptial male [the “blotchy” ridge]…
    the “blotchy” ridge will mature into the stripey crest.

    And as for the ferns!!!
    I love ferns….

    We are currently awash here… all yesterday’s rain falling on already sodden ground.
    Still that’s what a flood plain is for… NOT winter wheat!
    I’ll be blogging about it later [probably tomorrow] on the Aigronne Wildlife blog…
    and IF I can find time, writing up what I’ve been doing in the pond… sorry,meadow… on Art en Saule. [After all… in its current state, I can’t continue with the current work for at least a week…. that is, if there isn’t any more rain!!?]

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  2. What a fabulous collection of ferns and amphibs! I can’t tell you how envious I am!

    Looks like they are all there for mating to me too. I’ve never seen an Agile Frog in the water, which makes me think it is preparing to mate. Normally they are out in the damp places in wooded grassland. I’ve never seen a Common Frog here — where we are, they are not so common, but there are gazillions of Edible Frogs and their close cousins. The toad is presumably male, as it is small.

    The ferns look like a male fern Dryopteris sp, harts tongue Phyllitis scolopendrium, a spleenwort Asplenium sp and is that a Maidenhair Adiantum capillus-veneris I spy?

    You lucky, lucky thing!

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  3. Thanks for the IDs on the ferns – I did try and I thought one was a Harts tongue but for the others I got quite confused. I thought one might be a Maidenhair too, so I am very happy to know their names.

    There were no Salamanders this time so it might be worth having a look at different seasons to see what might pass through.

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    • We are certainly very green at the moment with all this rain. We have had such a mild winter this year that my next concern is that the fruit trees start to blossom too early. We usually have a cold spell in February so I hope it will not be too late.

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  4. Fantastic find. You’ll have to go back and check for egg masses in the temporary pools in the well. Or do you think the salamanders will exit the well to go lay their eggs somewhere else? I think your frogs were in amplexus (copulating) in the one photo. Wonderful post.

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    • The salamanders give birth to live young and may have gone to be near the water. I don’t think the newts will stay to breed at the bottom of the well but the matures ones may leave it soon to find more water. We will definitely have to give it a check in a little while to see what is happening down there.

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  5. The water table coming back up to normal is wonderful news, and worth celebrating – exactly what these frogs are doing, I think. How fun to have so many frogs in one spot. I bet it’s fun to hear them croaking at the end of the day.

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    • It is only the little green frog, the Rainette that we hear, usually. She was playing camera shy when I took the photographs. She really enjoys sitting in the sun and often sits in the ferns around the well. I should say they as there are several but very difficult to spot amongst the ferns. They only croak when it is warm.

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    • It’s something that I wonder about too. There were things flying around in there even in January but I wonder if it could be more of a safe haven to an itinerant population? We have at least one whip snake in the garden and it might be a bit deep for him and have lots of escape routes for them.

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  6. How wonderful to have such a large and healthy complement of amphibians in your garden. Quite apart from being fascinating, they must be doing a great job of keeping your slug population down.

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  7. Pingback: Amphibian emergency escape route installed | a french garden

  8. the toad and the frog are verry skinny cause they can’t escape the hole and have not enough food to survive (only newts and tree frogs can climb verticaly) I think it would be good to help they 🙂 (and common toad and Agile frog are normally terrestrials !)

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    • Thanks to other correspondence, the well is now fitted with an “amphibian escape route” which consists of a strip of special mesh from top to bottom. This allows any animals that accidentally fall in to exit. It is approved and recommended by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. Thank you for your interest. I learn such a lot from the kind people who take the trouble to contact me. Amelia

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