The air is full of the sound of frogs a wooing at the moment.

During the day, but especially at night, all we can hear is this.

The male and female frogs mated and the female laid the spawn between February and April depending on the temperatures. There is always a lot of frog spawn because it is food for a lot of the creatures which live in, on or above the lakes and ponds.

 

Usually it is laid at the edge between the reeds as a way of hiding it from newts, fish and other creatures.

Over time, the eggs evolve into tadpoles as this is a wonderful time lapse video shows.

Gradually the tadpoles develop legs, whilst living under water, then they drop their tails and eventually emerge as tiny little frogs.

Walking at the moment can be quite hazardous as the young frogs are hopping around in the grass. You see one jump and then the next thing you know there is a loud plopping noise, as it launches itself into the water.

Over the summer those young frogs which manage to survive predators will grow up.

If you look carefully along the edges of ponds, sometimes you can see a frog watching you!

In winter the frogs either go down to the bottom of the pond and bury themselves in the mud, or they find a place on land, under dry leaves or in a log, and hibernate.

When the weather begins to warm up the frogs will come out of hibernation and go back to the pond they left at the beginning of winter. Ready to start mating again.

Bye for now.

Susan and Toby

 

 

Great tits are the bigger relative of last week’s blog bird the blue tit. They are very colourful as you can see below. Although bigger than the blue tit, they are still quite small.

They are very common woodland birds, however they are also regular garden visitors where they enjoy the bird tables and feeders as they like to eat seeds and nuts as well as insects such as caterpillars.

Their nests can be found in all sorts of places from nest boxes to pipes and letter boxes. In fact anywhere where there is a hole will be a potential site. The nest are made of twigs or dried roots, and then it is lined with moss and soft material such as hair. If you are putting up a nest box for them it should be small and the hole should be 28mm in diameter.

The eggs are white speckled with brown, and they normally lay 7 to 9 between March and early July. They take 13 to 15 days to incubate and then the youngsters leave the nest after 18 to 21 days.

 

Bye for now

Susan and Toby

 

 

This week we are looking at a another lovely bird, the blue tit. These beautiful  little birds which flit around so happily with their bright blue and yellow feathers are easily recognizable, and they are very common in Europe, Asia, North West Africa, and throughout the UK, everywhere except the tip of Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph courtesy of Stuart Lilley Photography.

 

The blue tit’s diet is varied, they eat small insects, seeds, nectar spiders, and you will see them in your gardens enjoying the nut feeders of course.

Their song is easily recognisable.

As with most of nature they time their egg laying to coincide with an abundance of food, which is normally in April/May. They have been known to lay another clutch later in the year, although this is unusual in the UK.

Their nests which are normally built in a hollow or hole in a wall or tree, are made of moss and grass which is then lined with feathers, hair and wool. The eggs are incubated for 12-16 days and both parents look after the chicks.

In next week’s blog we will take a look at the blue tit’s larger relative, the great tit.

 

Bye for now – Susan and 

 

Probably the most easily recognised and most favourite wild bird is the robin. His chirp is easily recognisable and because of his love of being around us, he has, over the years gained status in our folk-law, in that many people believe that when a robin is near it is the soul of a dearly departed visiting them.

The robin red breast is also very popular on Christmas cards, however it is only the adults of both sexes which have red breasts, young robins breast are speckled golden brown.

The above lovely photograph is courtesy of Stuart Lilley Photography.

 

Robins are very territorial and will aggressively see off other contenders.

Their nests usually can be found in nooks and crannies, hedges and climbing plants. The nest, which is cup shaped, is built by the female out of moss and dead leaves, she then lines it with hair. She will normally lay 4 to 6 beautiful blue eggs.

If you fancy having a go a making a robin next box, they are one of the easiest boxes to make because robins are open nesters which means the box doesn’t have a front on it.

Below is a video with some easy to follow plans, remember though to make sure the box is well hidden place.

For those who would like to have a sneak peak inside their box, please resist the temptation, the mother will abandon the chicks. Instead why not take a look at this excellent time-lapse video.

They are the gardeners friend as they eat seeds, fruit, earthworms and bugs, and they are also good companions as they sing most of the year. Below is a video of their song.

In our next blog we will look at another favourite bird the Blue Tit.

 

Bye for now…

Susan and

 

 

Winter is a hard time for birds, their food is scarcer, and water can often be frozen.

At Toby’s Tails children’s books we love to feed the birds, we have a wide range which visit us from starlings and sparrows to the beautiful chaffinches. The old seed heads of the thistles, and suchlike provide food for the flocks of goldfinches which we enjoy watching. There are still some insects flying or crawling along the ground, however putting out extra food for them helps tremendously.

Bird tables can be bought or constructed very easily.

However, along with bird tables or instead of if you prefer you can buy or make feeders, here are a couple of suggestions on Youtube, there are many more tutorials available.

The birds will also be grateful for fat and seed balls which you can hang from trees, or your bird table.

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This is a simple water feeder.

There are many species of birds and this useful video will help you to identify some you may see.

Enjoy your bird feeding and watching.

Susan and Toby

 

Well, firstly I have admit, it’s not fun for everyone, but it looks nice, and Toby just loves to play in it.

The cats are not too sure, Cleopatra is three and so she sensibly decided to pass the snowy days curled up on the a chair, however it was the first time Domino has seen snow and so off the intrepid little hunter went. Unfortunately as soon as he got off the patio and onto the field the snow went over his shoulders…

 

And so he came in and spent the day asleep on a different chair from Cleopatra, getting over the trauma.

When we went out to feed Marine the horse, and give her some water because her trough was frozen, all he wanted to do was to go for a play.

 

 

 

How could I resist those pleading eyes, even if I did have to stifle a laugh at the snow on his nose.

So we went for a lovely walk around our neighbours frozen lakes.

What better way is there to spend a winter’s afternoon out in the snow, with the sun shining, and your best friend acting like a two year old, instead of the nine years he is?

 

Until next time…

 

Susan and Toby

 

We live on the edge of a national forest and so we are very lucky to see many wild animals, including wild boar.

Wild boar are wild pigs, or more to the point pigs were once wild boar, before humans domesticated them, and in fact if a sow pig escapes into the wild it can settle down and mate with a wild boar.

Like pigs the male is called a boar, the female a sow, and the babies piglets.

These beautiful animals get a lot of bad press, however, like most wild animals they will only attack if they are afraid and are cornered.

You should never let your dog chase wild boar because the boar if threatened could attack and even kill your pet.

It is a sad fact wild boar are hunted for their meat. Did you know, in yesteryear brushes and toothbrushes used to be made out of the hair on a wild boars back.

Wild boars have four toes on each foot, although they actually walk on the two middle ones. Below is a foot print we found in the forest.

 

 

Like pigs, wild boar are very intelligent animals, however, whilst pigs tails are curly, wild boars are straight!

They eat all sorts of things from frogs and fish to nuts, fruits and even small mammals.

They have a very strong sense of smell but poor eye sight.

The wild boar live deep in the forest usually in small herds of 6 -20, although really large groups of about 100 have been recorded.

The sow gives birth usually to between 4 and 8 piglets, however there can be as many as 13.

Here is a lovely video of a wild boar sow and her piglets.

 

Bye for now, Susan and Toby

 

 

Where we live there are still lots of Praying Mantis around even though we are in November.

Did you know, these very exotic looking insects have triangular heads which can turn 180 degrees, like humans, large eyes AND they can fly!

Here’s another interesting fact – they only have one ear, and you will never guess where it is. It is on the underside of their belly in front of its back legs. The ear detects ultrasound, which is the sound that bats make, this is very handy since bats are predators of mantis and try and catch them in flight.

They got the name praying mantis because when they are waiting for their prey they hold their front legs like they are saying their prayers – but beware they are not!

They are normally green but we have also seen sandy and brown coloured ones at Fantasy Farm.

They eat other insects and catch them with their front legs which have spikes on them. The spikes close in such a way as to enable the mantis to get a very firm grip on their prey whilst they eat them alive!

For those of you with a strong stomach, this rather gory video shows a praying mantis catching flies.

Toby was very worried when he saw this one as a puppy.

The mantis was sitting on the underside of our tractor and gave my husband a nip when he ‘rescued’ it. You can find out more about the praying mantis encounter in the first Toby’s Tails book https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tobys-Tails-Fantasy-Farm-Tales-ebook/dp/B00ZG6O874/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1510160886&sr=8-3&keywords=toby%27s+tails 

The male praying mantis attracts the female with a courtship dance.

Even so, sometimes the female really does eat him after they have mated.

The female lays her eggs in a protective case which looks like brown foam.

The cases are called ootheca and contain between 20 – 400 young mantis, so watch out if you bring them in doors you could be overrun with tiny mantis! If you want to see them hatch, perhaps it would be better to watch this YouTube video instead.

You can find out about all kinds of wild animals, birds, and creatures, as well as enjoy the adventures of Toby and friends in the Toby’s Tails series of children’s books on the home page http://www.tobys-tails.com/

 

Bye for now Susan and Toby

 

This weekend was very social one for Toby, he met up with his his canine friends old and new, and this made me think about the importance of socialising your puppy.

It is very important to socialise your puppy, although you should only do so with other dogs which you know are in good health, have up to date vaccinations, and the meeting should be at your home or a place where strange dogs haven’t been, because your puppy will be very vulnerable to diseases until itsfinal set of jabs.

Friends and family will want to see your new puppy, however you mustn’t let it become overcrowded and scared, this could affect it for life. If young children are present they should be taught to be quiet and gentle when they approach and play with the puppy. Young children can unintentionally be rough to dogs without realising it, and it is your, and the parents responsibility to ensure both parties find the experience a nice one.

We were lucky that our Toby was brought up on a farm and was used to cats, sheep, goats, chickens etc., and so when he arrived at Fantasy Farm he took in his stride all the animals we have here. Even if you live in the town, it is a good idea to get your pet used to livestock when it is small and can be held in your arms and easily controlled. There are sometimes reports of dogs chasing livestock and scaring them, whereas this may well be avoided with a little training early on. Incidentally, being a Border Collie is no excuse for chasing things, our Toby was taught very early on the ‘leave’ command and I think it is a very important command. Leave is very simple to teach as it applies not only to joggers, cyclists, animals etc., but also to food and articles. It can easily be taught by dropping something on the floor you don’t want them to have, and saying (not shouting) ‘leave’ very soon your dog will know not to pursue an interest with anything you have said ‘leave’ to.

This year has been very exciting because my daughter Michelle and her partner decided to get a Border Collie puppy called Tom who is nearly 6 months old now. Toby and Tom met when Tom was about 16 weeks and so are firm friends now.

There is Tom and Toby at 16 weeks

Now he is about 6 months and a lot bigger, he’s nearly caught up with Toby!

 

Then he met the latest edition to our family my niece Abbie’s 11 week old Border Collie puppy Tilly. Toby was the first dog that Tilly had met outside her birth family so we were careful not to let Toby’s exuberant nature worry her, however it wasn’t many minutes before the two were playing happily together.

And of course, no holiday to the UK would be complete without a visit to nanny and granddad’s where he got to play with his friend Pickles the Lassa Apsa.

Socialisation is very important for all young animals and helps prepare them for their life ahead, just remember EVERYTHING is new to them, and they will look to you for protection. The added bonus to this is that in looking to you you will also be strengthening the bond between you.

Wishing you all the close bond of friendship Toby and I have.

 

Susan and Toby

What a difference a year makes!

It doesn’t seem possible that the wonderful young cat who now shares our life here at Fantasy Farm was once a tiny scared kitten, his transformation has been a joy to see.

When we came back off of a short break and decided to sit outside on the patio that September evening last year, we were really surprised to see a tiny black and white kitten crawl out from a crack under a window further down the building, and peer hesitatingly at us.

 

From the other cats distainful behaviour it was obvious that this little mite would have to stand his ground, and so he has.

Quickly taken under the wing by the eternal dog Father, Toby, Domino, as the kitten is known as, quickly decided he was a dog, after all the colouring is the same and Toby acted as his mentor, and general source of cuddles.

Eventually our ‘little street fighter’ learnt to stand his ground, and under the protection of his Dog Father he was soon languishing in front of the fire last winter, and rewarding our cuddles with deep throaty purrs.

As the winter gave way to spring and then summer, his naturally inquisitive nature and love of a good cuddle has made him a very special member of our family.

It is hard to imagine who could ever have abandoned him at our house, but one thing is for sure – it is their loss, he has found his forever home and repays our love for him in so many wonderful ways.

 

Bye for now

 

 

 

 

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