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HAVE TERRAPINS GOBBLED UP FROGS AND THEIR SPAWN IN CAMLEY NATURAL PARK?

PUBLISHED: 10:37 09 August 2007 | UPDATED: 14:36 07 September 2010

By Walter Roberts With London s frog population at an all time low and virtually non-existent in great swathes of the Capital, Camden s Camley Nature Park, supposedly one of the last bastions of the beleagured common frog used to provide the perfect habit

By Walter Roberts

With London's frog population at an all time low and virtually non-existent in great swathes of the Capital, Camden's Camley Nature Park, supposedly one of the last bastions of the beleagured common frog used to provide the perfect habitat, both aquatic and terrestrial, for frogs to breed and spawn. But all is not well or so it seems at this idyllic nature reserve. On a near perfect day I took up position at various locations on the pond's periphery shifting weight imperceptibly from one foot to the other in the hope of catching a glimpse of the now uncommon frog (soon available only in pet shops). Yet after an inordinate length of time during which not a ripple broke the surface nor the slightest breeze sought to disturb the reeds and rushes around me I failed to spot or even hear the faintest croak of a frog in the soporific stillness of the surrounding and was left to conclude dejectedly that things were even worse than I thought. In an informal chat with the wardens of the park it appears that terrapins and foxes have invaded the reserve. Not very good news I'm afraid for the poor frog as terrapins have been known to much though frog and fish spawn being omnivorous. They also have a nasty bite and enterprising pond dippers had better beware.

As the Camley nature reserve functions under the aegis of the London Wildlife Trust something needs to be done urgently as the common frog does not appear to have recovered from the devasting virus that decimated its numbers a couple of years ago and although it is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 efforts should be made to include a specific action plan to restore its numbers in both the bio-diversity and habitat action plans for London's ponds owing to the continuing loss of its habitat comprising of ponds, ditches and hedgerows in urban London.

Late spring was usually the time when the croaking of frogs in glorious unison with the chirping of crickets, vociferous birdsong and the occasional buzzing of the bumblebee heralded the lazy, hazy days of summer like no other. Sadly this appears to be a thing of the past. Who amongst the older generation can fail to remember with nostalgia the first few lines of charming little ditties associated with these creatures that went as follows : "Twenty froggies went to school, down beside a rushy pool or Grasshopper Green is a comical chap, he lives on the best of fare".

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