Froggy foreplay in a water garden

Getting loved up in the Loving Dalston pond

As the long winter fades into sunlight, male birds are practising their mating arias (arie?) and trees are sprouting buds The common frogs of Hackney are emerging from hibernation and have started to copulate. From the 60cm-deep concrete pond in the small rear garden of my terrace house, I heard the come-and-get-me growl of Rana temporaria on Friday 5 March 2010, about a week later than I first heard such a call last spring.

Today I saw two of the amphibians copulating; both were underwater in a presumably passionate embrace, their lack of motion indicating that the process takes longer than that once summarised by the former pop revolutionary Johnny Rotten as “twominutes and 52 seconds of squelching”. Perhaps it was a subtle form of foreplay. I can expect spawn within the week. Tadpoles will crawl out of the ooze around May.

The frog takes three years to reach sexual maturity and lives about three years. Like the toad, it is harmless to humans, and helpful to gardeners (semi-humans), catching snails, slugs, worms and flies and other insects with its sticky tongue. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is protected.

What will happen when I am thrown off this earthly stage and health-and-safety rules require the filling-in of the pond? Perhaps there will be more garden ponds to which the results of future spawnings can return for the annual coupling. Anybody who wants to start a frog colony in their garden should contact Loving Dalston for a sperm — whoops, spawn — donation.

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