Hunt-ing – (noun) The activity of hunting wild animals or game, especially for food or sport.
Tadpoles are brilliant. Aren’t they? Little muddy pearls flecked with gold, wriggling through ponds and ditches, puddles and streams. Jet beads like gleaming pinheads stare at you impassively, before a flick and a wiggle of that elegant crest of tail sends them off to gulp down water fleas, or nibble pondweed from the rocks. Then, they start to get bigger. Braver. More belligerent. The bruisers of the garden pond. Before long they’ve sprouted legs and are contemplating the concept of sub-aquaticism, pushing their little bodies further out of the water and peering above its surface. Then… BANG. Mini frogs! The size of your fingernail, bouncing all over the place.
Two frogs, alike in dignity.
I didn’t really encounter many frogs when I was a child, until I moved to the UK, so my formative impressions were derived from fairy stories. Tales of witches, hobgoblins, and talking animals. There was something dark and primal about where frogs and toads dwelt, and the particular breed of magic they possessed. Holes full of ancient bones and precious stones deep beneath the ground, and shadowy underwater forests full of hidden, watching eyes. I still get excited when I come across one.
Me, as a baby.
(Not really. The above is titled Toby and The Goblins, and is by Brian Froud – art work for Labyrinth, Jim Henson’s amazing 1980s film starring David Bowie. I could happily live in Brian Froud’s imagination.)
Me, as a young girl.
(Again, lies. This is a still from the 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth, showing Ofelia searching for toads.)
Even when I was a teenager I’d sometimes catch a few tadpoles, and put them in an old aquarium so I could observe them (if anyone thinks that’s odd then learn ye this lesson: things are different in the countryside. People do strange things to keep themselves entertained. Very strange things). This leads me to my most recent activities. I have purchased a fish-bowl, filled it with rocks and water-weed, and am READY. Fish-bowls are unpleasant for fish, but their spherical form is rather captivating, so I’ve created a safe, predator-free little Narnia for my adoptive babies. I mean tadpoles.
The water has to be fresh (chlorine kills them, so tap-water is a no), so I’ve let it stand for a few days to allow the chlorine to evaporate. When I need to do water changes to refresh it I’ll use spring water (Evian – these tadpoles are going to be living a life of luxury). I filled it with rocks so they’d have somewhere to hide, and to give them a platform to crawl out onto when they frog. It’s also full of weed (purchased from Amazon. No joke – it came in the post) from which tiny water snails have appeared. I’ll only be keeping a few, to ensure as many as possible survive, and as soon as they turn into frogs I’ll release them near a pond, but it’s going to be a good couple of months.
This is my pond. I may live in a flat three flights of stairs up, in London, in which I am not allowed pets, but damn it I’m a rebel. You’re looking in the bowl aren’t you… look more carefully, as… they’re not in there yet. They’re on a train with me currently, my little Northern beauties, and I can’t wait to put them in their new home. I’m probably the only person on the national rail network currently transporting frogspawn in a big jar (at least, I sort of hope so). I’ll keep you updated!
Is anyone else looking after tadpoles or do you all think I’m completely mad? Let me know.
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