Tadpole Tails and Water Dragons

An overheard conversation between mother and child during a local stroll made Biodiversity Opportunities Adviser, Zeshan Akhter, wonder if lockdown is providing many people the time to look deeper into the nature that surrounds them…

To convince myself the wider world still exists, I have been exploring my local area and soon enough I found myself on the path to the local community woodland on the hilly outskirts of Glasgow. It’s a little oasis of impossibly tangled green; rustling leaves; calling birds with views clear over to Dumbarton Rock and the Kilpatrick Hills. I spotted the low slow dignified flight of a heron on one of my first expeditions.  A little way around the path, I encountered two large ponds. In snippets of socially distanced conversation with passing fellow lockdown escapees, I learned that the ponds were thriving with tadpoles, and there were rumours of newts. So the ponds, thick with the darting black spots of tadpoles, have become part of my regular route.

Frog Life Cycle Realistic Image

Poster with adult amphibian eggs mass & tadpole with legs.               https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flower”, Flower vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com

On my most recent visit, I came across a family with a child of about six or seven years old. The child was at the centre of a physical huddle and a negotiation was in progress. The child’s mother was trying to prise her daughter away from the pond but the child was disinclined to comply. Finally, the mother had a brainwave. She described the slow changes that they would see in the tadpoles’ appearance over the following weeks if they kept visiting each week. In an impromptu lesson, she described the sequential changes that would take place and ended with “…and one week, we’ll visit and the pond will be empty because the frogs will all have hopped away.” This was accompanied by appropriate hand gestures representing hopping frogs disappearing into the surrounding greenery. The only slight wobble in the mother’s description was that she told her daughter that the tadpoles’ tails would turn into legs. The child however, was mesmerised by her mother’s story and agreed, reluctantly, to come back another day. Perhaps her mother’s tactic was successful because it seemed to her daughter as if the intervening time between visits was somehow essential to the tadpole magic that would take place.

If the family does keep going back and observing the tadpoles’ changes, then I’m sure that the child will make her very own intriguing discovery that the tadpoles keep their tails for a time whilst at the same time growing legs. Lockdown may provide that child, and others, the time to notice nature in a way that they may not have had before.

Perhaps the tadpoles’ journey of metamorphosis will be a lockdown memory that stays with the little girl and help fuel her imagination in some way.

Now, to try and spy the water dragons…or newts by another name!

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