The Ice Age Pond’s Easter Egg Hunt (non-chocolate version)

Easter is just around the corner and the #IceAgePonds second blog is all about the eggs you can find in ponds in springtime. A different sort of Easter egg hunt to the ones we are used to but hopefully one just as enjoyable and definitely less sickly, written by Rose Ellis Ice Age Ponds project trainee. Happy Easter from the #IceAgePonds!

Happy Easter everyone! Spring is here and it’s bringing with it everyone’s favourite chocolatey holiday. But not all eggs are made of chocolate and that’s probably for the best, after all, it can all get a bit sickly. Here is a roundup of some of the Ice Age Pond teams’ favourite eggs. Some you’ll no doubt recognise and some you may have never seen before – eggtastic! Eggs are an exciting part of any life cycle and usually have specific habitat requirements so it’s always a pleasure when you spot some first-hand.

The first is a crowd-pleaser at Easter time – frogspawn.

Hand reaching into weedy water lifting frogspawn above the water

Spawn of common frog (Rana temporaria)

A female common frog may lay up to 4,000 eggs in one spring and usually choose shallow, well vegetated ponds to spawn in. Often frogs will return to the pond in which they were born to spawn themselves, so it is important not to move frogspawn if you find it. There may seem like a lot and it may even appear to fill the pond, but that’s okay as only about half the frogspawn laid will mature into adulthood.

Next up we have eggs of the avian nature, from the moorhen.

Five speckled eggs in loosely woven nest of straw amongst grasses

A nest of moorhen eggs (c) Will Watson.

The moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) is a widespread black wading bird and a regular sight at ponds and lakes. They’re recognisable with yellow legs, red beak and white patches on its body and also lay in springtime, classically forming untidy nests in emergent vegetation. The breeding is an interesting watch, with males swimming with their beaks submerged towards the female until they nibble each other’s feathers, they then defend their nests fiercely.

We couldn’t do a blog on eggs and not include the Great Crested Newt.

Green leaf above weedy water with small yellow ball attached to underside

 

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) egg (c) Bruce Shortland

The great crested newt is just that – great. Also found around Easter time, the largest and rarest of the UK’s newts likes to lay its eggs on the underside of pond leaves, sometimes folding them over for protection. The presence of these rare newts is a good sign of water quality as they will often travel vast distances (1km) to find their perfect pond. Evidence of these fantastic dancing newts is often found in healthy Ice Age Ponds; a wonderful Easter treat.

Another frequent pond visitor is the azure damselfly.

Delicate blue damselflies above weedy pond water

Azure damselflies (Coenagrion puella) laying eggs (c) Giles King-Salter.

These bright blue aquamarine beauties start flying at Easter time so keep your eyes peeled around inviting water bodies such as small ponds or ditches. Eggs are laid in tandem, as shown in the photo, onto the floating or submerged leaves of pond plants. The male is often seen in a vertical position, protecting the female as she lays.

Amphibians are big ballers in the pond world and definitely deserve a second mention with the smooth newt.

Fingers holding two blades of grass ech with a small pale yellow ball stuck on it.

A smooth newt egg on the left and another great crested newt egg on the right.

Smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) are also known as the common newt and as this suggests, are the most common species and the one you’re most likely to come across in your garden pond. Their eggs are smaller than the great crested newts are, and they’re recognisable as adults with their grey-brown colouring and orange belly with neat black spots all over it. During the breeding season the males have a smooth crest, not to be confused with the great crested newt, which has a striking orange belly, warty skin and a crest along the body. They breed in ponds but spend most of their life cycle elsewhere and will have just came out of hibernation in March, just in time for an Easter find.

Here in the Ice Age Ponds team, we are big fans of Easter time. As well as eating chocolate eggs until our heart’s are content, it’s also a great time to see lots of other eggs in our ponds and all over. So, when you’re out having the annual Easter Egg Hunt, have a look and see what else you can find. Healthy ponds are teaming with life and spring underway, good luck!

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