Tales in Cold Blood

Our world of amphibians and reptiles.

FLORA AND FAUNA AND THE FOREST WORLD

Joan

8/10/20234 min read

Once upon a time at Domaine des Rochers, one was always stumbling across a reptile or an amphibian . As soon as the weather began to warm up, these cold blooded creatures would appear. First to turn up would be the toads, and before long our garden pond would become a frenzy of mating amphibians, though we have never seen frogs. It's not unknown for two or more male toads to target the same (larger) female, and very occasionally we would find one drowned. Shortly after this mass gathering we would notice strings of toad spawn wound around the water plants, after which the developing tadpoles were left to themselves. The adult toads had vacated the pond. On a summers night we might well stumble across an adult toad close to the house , but generally they would remain hidden.

Mating toads in past years
Mating toads in past years

This year however things have been different. Only one female toad turned up this spring, and we later found her secreted in our study. Perhaps it was the same one that we found in the garden a few weeks later. It seemed to have been attacked or injured, for its skin was stained blood red, and the toad had puffed itself up to almost twice its size in self defence. It eventually made its way to the pond where we left it in peace hiding amongst the flag irises. Hopefully it survived, for we have not seen it again.

A lone injured female toad
A lone injured female toad
Safe in the pond at last
Safe in the pond at last

Once the tadpoles have emerged, we have often witnessed the arrival of the couluevre (or grass snake) who swims through the water in search of a tasty snack. But snakes are a fairly rare sight around here, even though we know they are present. I have occasionally seen a young snake slither across our path, and on one memorable occasion B. witnessed a large 'Couleuvre de Montpellier' with a toad in its mouth. Fortunately the frightened toad was released, and quickly made off. Also, when walking on the top of our mountain many years ago our dog 'Black' disturbed an adder in the bushes and was bitten. Our vet gave him a 50/50 chance of survival. Fortunately for us our adorable pet did make it. Whether snakes are becoming rarer nowadays, I cannnot say, but perhaps it is always best to remain wary.

Grass snake swimming.
Grass snake swimming.

But one reptile that we have seen aplenty is the lizard. With the first warm rays of the sun, every year we would see common wall lizards darting across the patio . Towards the end of summer more and more of these small creatures would have lost their tail. No doubt our cat of the time had preyed on them. This is a defence mechanism that they use, whereby they drop the tip of their tail , which then continues to wiggle, thus distracting the stalker. Clearly , from the number of tail-less lizards, this trick worked exceedingly well!

Common wall lizard
Common wall lizard

We also enjoy seeing larger Western Green Lizards from time to time. For a year or two we knew of a large male, close to a metre in length, with its bright green skin and blue markings living in our wood shed. But sadly we no longer see these so often. That is until today when I scared a small green lizard by our door. It was so alarmed it streaked into the house and vanished behind the book case. All we could do was set up a small barricade to channel it back out and hope and pray the cat was not in the vicinity.

Western Green Lizard visitor