a french garden


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Well Shock

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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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.