a french garden

Well Shock

39 Comments

While in the U.K. over Christmas I received a comment on an old post “Water, water everywhere…” from last February 2014.  Paul wrote:

The amphibians that end up in your well are trapped, in a short space of time they will drown, it would be good if you could help them out via a long reach net of maybe have some sort of ramp in place, they are certainly not in their element in there as you suggest. I would also suggest that you put some polystyrene sheets ( floating) 18 inch x 12″ in the well the animals will climb on them, and you will have fewer drowned amphibians.

Best wishes

Paul

There was also a comment from Peter on my 2012 post “The old well” :

Hi, interesting images, thanks for sharing. The amphibians are getting trapped in the well, and by far the majority of them will be unable to exit themselves. Some will have been trapped for longer than others, and individuals may tuck themselves away in unimaginably tight spots, undetected for the majority of time. The pair of common toads in the image with the marbled newts are both underweight, and the fire salamander depicted in the final image is emaciated — amphibians are also capable of surviving incomprehensively (at least for us) long periods of time without food, this particular individual may well have fasted for a whole year. For the amphibians, removing them and placing them in thick vegetation that has connectivity to further suitable habitat would be their best chance of survival. Taking measures to install a smooth sided barrier fence with an external overhang to prevent amphibians continuing to be trapped in the well would be the way forward for the amphibians. Best wishes, Peter Hill (Habitat Creation/Restoration officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust) http://www.arc-trust.org

I must admit that I was panicked but surprised at the comments.

One point that I am not sure that they have understood is that it is an old well that has been filled in by previous occupants of the house and the first time that we had seen an appreciable quantity of water in the well was during a very short period in 2015 due to exceptional weather conditions.  Even then the water was not deep and there were refuges for them.  We have never seen any dead bodies nor have experienced any smell (it is just beside where we take our morning coffee on fine days.)

Covered well

 

The well is safely covered but that was to protect humans entering and exiting the house.

However, we have acted on Peter Hill’s advice and my husband went down the well today.  Yesterday, after a cold period the temperature was up to 14 degrees and today it was the same so we thought it safe to save the toads.

Frogs and toads

There were no bodies but there were two common toads, a frog (Rana dalmatina, I think) and lots of marbled newts (Triturus marmoratus).

Hyla meridionalis

And a Mediterranean Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis).

Worm

What was very interesting was that among all the debris at the bottom of the well my husband noticed two or three worms!  If my husband could spot them, I imagine that the other creatures are better adapted to find such juicy morsels than he is.

Well ferns

It is also not possible to show you how many “midges” or very small flies were active amongst the lush growth of ferns on the well sides.  In addition, I saw a large white moth make an exit as we lowered the ladder down the well.  I am not convinced that the well is such a barren an environment.

Choice1

The two toads and the frog have been removed.

Release

They have been released into the end of the back garden near the river Seudre.

Camoflage

I was very impressed by the camouflage – it was certainly, now you see me, now you don’t.

Well with log

The well has now been fitted with a log escape route.  There is no need for floats as the level has never been high enough, even in extreme conditions, to leave them completely stranded.

There was no sign of the Natterjack toads or the salamander that we had previously seen but thankfully no bodies either.

Freedom

I just wonder if the frog is making a break for freedom or will it end up crushed on the nearby road cursing the humans that turfed him out of his safe resting place.

 

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Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

39 thoughts on “Well Shock

  1. Your photos of the creatures who inhabit your garden have been a great source of pleasure for me, and I’m sure the creatures find it an enjoyable place to be. The Mediterranean tree frog is the most amazing shade of green!

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  2. Wonderful post Amelia, however your day was prompted, I love the tales and photos of the wildlife in your garden, I hope your frog keeps safe too.

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  3. I so envy you you’re colourful amphibians and it’s great, I think, that Peter and Paul were interested/concerned enough to comment and leave advice. But it sounds to me that your well inhabitants are absolutely fine. Dave

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  4. A great story…and with a happy ending. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Amelia,
    I am sorry to say that that plank is too smooth & steep for any creature to climb easily…
    and as for the frog and toads, there would have been nothing wrong with leaving them there over winter…
    they do not look as though they are undernourished to me…
    quite the opposite!

    As I said in my hasty email…
    a rough-barked length of timber is needed…
    but if that plank is all you have, a succession of shallow saw cuts…
    placed roughly every centimetre…
    and they don’t have to be parallel…
    or the same length…
    would be perfect.
    Similar, in fact, to the “ladder” inside a bat box…
    and I would recommend placing a baulk of timber at the wall end, so that the grid is raised where the “ladder” finishes…
    currently it appears that they would get to the top and be faced with the steel grid
    but I honestly don’t think that your assorted inhabitants were in much difficulty.

    The newts and most probably the frog would have had no difficulty in scaling the sides…
    and having met one of our Mrs. Toads at the top of a two metre wood pile here…
    and it gave me a shock I can tell you…
    coming eye to eye with a very large female toad…
    when you weren’t expecting it…
    I am pretty certain that she didn’t get there by flying!!
    She climbed it to be near the light that was attracting insects!!!
    And to get there, she had to negotiate an almost vertical climb….
    with overhangs that she could only have got round by climbing the rough finish on the wall behind.
    But your toad would have been more than likely to scoff the worms that your husband saw at the bottom.

    But your well is, as you say, old…
    it is constructed from flat slabs of stone that if mortared, are now missing that…
    it is alive, I tell you, alive…
    to quote an old movie line…
    I had been unable to put time to this problem for you…
    I’d diaried it for next week…
    but getting the chickens run done has taken longer than I’d planned for…
    far longer.. and it isn’t finished yet.

    Wishing you a Happy and Bee-autiful New Year…
    and may 2015 be kind to you and the bees!

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    • Thanks for all that, Tim. Point taken about my log, it has got bark and litchen on it but I will find an improved log and get it roughed up. I have only been back a few days. Best Wishes for 2015 Amelia

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  6. At least with an escape route available, if you find the well full of amphibians again you’ll know it’s because they like it there.

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  7. I would have left them in there, and just provided a way out, but it’s nice of you guys to care for them and their fate. Although I agree . . . the world outside may be a tad more dangerous for them . . .

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  8. Looks to me as though your well is a “cosy” little home for an awful lot of life! That camouflage is amazing isn’t it. Really had to look hard for the frog. Hope he’s a sensible fellow and avoids the road.

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  9. How alarming! At least this batch of critters has new habitat and any new ones have a way out, if they choose to take it.

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  10. I think you’ve done the right thing. It seems like an awful lot of creatures for a small space so my guess is that some of them would have chosen to leave if they could. I think the tree frog would be perfectly capable of making its own way out — having grown up with them I can tell you that vertical porcelain is no problem for them (they lived in our toilet). The toads and the newts are the ones to watch I think, and make sure they can negotiate the escape route. Newts aren’t very bright and young ones often get themselves into situations where they dessicate and die eg coming inside the house.

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    • I agree with you about the tree frogs, we often find them high up on our patio doors. I do love the newts but here again I agree, they are very docile and don’t appear too bright. Peter (Arc) has also explained that they will find most of their food in the litter of the woodland floor and they will not take flying stuff like moths or flies. It is going to be an on-going project. Amelia

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  11. PS Have you let the guy at ARC know what you’ve done? I’m sure he will be interested in your ongoing observations.

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    • We are in contact and he is obviously very knowledgeable about his subject and has made some further suggestions about making the well amphibian friendly. I hope to take up his suggestions and also learn a bit more about the animals too. Amelia

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  12. Wow, what a story – the power of blogging! Amazing that Paul spotted your post and alerted you to rescue the frogs from the well. I must say that they look happier for being rescued – great ‘before’ and ‘after’ images.

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    • I am going to continue to work with Peter and Paul to provide an improved habitat for the animals. I think it is an ideal place for some of them but I need to assure a sure escape route for the ones that cannot get out easily. Amelia

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  13. Hi, I have nominated you for a Liebster award for new blogs. I have only been following you for a short while but I really enjoy your posts. This is a bit of a chain letter thing though and involves answering a few questions and linking back to me, having just done this myself it wasn’t difficult just a little time consuming. If you look at my latest post I think all will become clear and you will find all the questions you need to answer there too. Thank Sue Turner.

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  14. Simply loved this story and photos…

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  15. That’s an amazing story. We have a deepish pond in our garden and I have tried to give the amphibians better access routes. They seem to come and go as they please irrespective of what I do!

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    • I must admit I thought the creatures were more capable, so I am very grateful to Peter and Paul for having the patience to explain it all to me. In addition, it is always interesting to learn. I am hopeful that once I get it all sorted out it might provide more of an opportunity to study them more. Amelia

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  16. The well looks full of life to me, Amelia; I’d be surprised if the amphibians in there weren’t doing just fine on their own, especially the smaller ones who could probably scale the walls quite easily (as they have plenty of gaps and plants) and get through the large grid of the safety grate.

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  17. A lovely post. I love all your frogs and toads. The little green Mediterranean Tree Frog is a delight.

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    • The little green frog is really special. It can be very noisy during the breeding season and then at other times it will be very quiet and come to sit quite close to you enjoying sun on a branch or a plant. Amelia

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  18. Interesting dilemma – intervene or (so to speak) leave well alone. I always thought frogs & toads could live happily down wells (not ones full of water, obviously). They seem to have a microclimate and I’d assumed other creatures (slugs, snails, insects, worms (as you found) live down there too. Anyway, maybe the best solution is to provide an exit strategy as suggested, and the amphibs can take their own decisions! HNY, by the way, Amelia.

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    • HNY to you too. It seems all a question of depth, steepness and smoothness and the lack of climbing ability. The solution will be installed shortly, well before the newts need to get out to breed. The marbled newts are real sweeties but a bit on the slow side. amelia

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

  20. Hard to know when to intervene and when to leave well alone. We rescued some ducklings that looked as though they would end up squished on a busy road. Took them to a nearby river where we think they ended up as eel fodder, unfortunately. 😦

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