Memories are made of this
It is getting very near the time that the bulk of the frogs will start to lay their spawn in the pools and ponds around Bute. There are the usual areas that start very early, and have been known to spawn as early as the 6th of February, but you still have plenty of time to look out that “Jeely Jaur” that has been stuck in the cupboard with a little jam left in it.
Empty it out, a quick wash, then try your hand at tying a string round it. It is not an easy task, and many jars have hit the deck and smashed when they were filled with water and spawn, leaving an almighty mess, much to the embarrassment of the ‘would be scout’ who tied his best ‘granny knot’, and much to the delight of his grand children who, when seeing the stunned look on his face, burst into peals of laughter.
The frogs eggs would not be happy either , as it is very hard to pick up the eggs at the best of times, but almost impossible when they are covered in shards of glass A dry run (wet) is recommended at home while there are no children about.
I wrote about the eggs last year, but the Buteman was short of space for my photo, so I thought that I would submit it again to give you a ‘visual aid’, so that it may bring back memories of the times that you filled up your jars with your Gramp's in charge, and help you to get the notion to show your grand children how it is done. I will not tell you where to go, you should remember where you went all those years ago, if you don’t, then ask your grand children as, nowadays, children know about everything. If you are successful and get a jar full of eggs, then remember. as they start to turn into little frogs and climb over the lip of the jar, they will be looking for food, and will soon be a nuisance, so take them back from whence they came with your grand children, and release them at the pond’s edge and watch them scamper away,( not the children, the frogs) a very enjoyable experience for all concerned.
First published in the Buteman 2004.
When we were young, a great deal of time was spent collecting things. One of the favourites was " Frogs Spawn". I don't think that there will be many that never took a "jeelly jaur" with a string tied round the rim, and forming a loop so that it could be carried, out to the pools of still water and filled it with frogs eggs. These filled jars were then taken home and put on a window ledge and left alone for nature to take it's course. In a few weeks things would start to happen as the eggs developed, small tails which got bigger as the days passed by and very soon you had full grown tadpoles swimming about in your jar.
We used to gather chickweed for them to feed on as we were told that was what they ate. As time went on legs would appear at the rear of them making them look extremely funny as they still had their tails at this time. These would soon disappear and then the front legs and the head would be formed giving you dozens of frogs in minature. At this point they required differen't food so I would help myself to my dad's goldfish food, "Ants Eggs". This scenario did not last for very long as as the frogs got bigger and bigger they became more adventurous and climbed out of the jar giving my mum a hard time, so they would be gathered up and taken back to the pond.
I suspect that in a few houses that they were sent to the sea via the loo, as I can remember my friends complaining that theirs had gone missing. Frogs are not supposed to lay their eggs until march, but as the birds sometimes build nests and lay eggs at the wrong time the frogs are doing the same. The earliest that I have found spawn was on the 6th of February 2000. at the north end of Bute, and in other years I would always find it before the middle of that month in the same area, except this year as the heavy frost has delayed them from laying until the 1st of March when I first found them. If there is a mild spell and they lay, then there is heavy frost then a lot of the eggs near the surface will die, and the deeper the ice the bigger the loss. The dead ones turn white, so that is the ones that you do not take home.
There will be losses but as there may be millions of them around the island, it will not result in them dying out. As the laying season reaches a frenzy you will hear the frogs long before you see them as they can be very noisy as they try to mate. A male will hold on to a female very tightly and then another male will hold on to the first and so on until there maybe as many as five males in the queue waiting to mate with her. The pond will soon be full of spawn leaving very little surface water. Wall to wall eggs, or rather bank to bank. Over the years I have not seen many children carrying jars with the eggs in them, maybe this practise has discontinued due to plenty of modern games to play and videos to watch.
It is terrible to think that there could be many children and even teenagers out there that don't know what frogs spawn and tadpoles look like and many other things that lurk below the water, like the little flounders that we used to find at Scalpsie Bay, by walking barefooted and feeling them rather than seeing them. It was a funny feeling doing that, as instinctively, if you felt something moving below your foot you would lift it, then you would lose it. You had to hold your foot down and get you hand down very quickly or you would lose the little fish. Into the bucket and look for more, or beg, borrow, or buy a net on a stick and try to catch sticklebacks. Once you got fed up playing with the fish you could always pick a a few handful's of " wulks " or as the good book says Periwinkles ? In organized trips to Scalpsie or Ettrick bays there always seemed to be a man with a fire with a big pot on top of it full of cooked wulks. If you took him a tin or jar of fresh ones to him, he gave you back the same amount cooked. Then you would sit beside your mammy and borrow a pin to prize out the delicacy that lurked within the shell.
They were delicious to eat in those days. A few years ago I got an old pot, built an open fire, picked some wulks and cooked them. Used a pin to get the flesh out, and that was when my troubles started. I kept telling myself that I enjoyed them when I was young, so I should still like them. Wrong! I had emptied ten of them and put them in my mouth and tried to chew them for a few seconds, but as I tried to swallow them they parted company from my throat at high speed. Never again. I will leave them to the punters south of Carlisle who seem to love them .
First published in the Buteman 2007