a french garden


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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.

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