Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 24th and 25th February 1921

Viola notes the daffodils blooming at the back of Gargunnock House on the 24th of February.

The next day, Viola records having found ‘tadpoles or rather tadpole spawn’ which she is keeping in a jar. Most people who spent their childhood in a rural area will have gathered frog or toad spawn in an old jam jar and watched it hatch into tadpoles. Viola describes there being frogs and toads in the little pond near her house. The spawn differs, frogspawn being laid as a mass of small jelly spheres in shallow water whilst toad spawn is laid in gelatinous threads, often attached to the leaves of aquatic plants.

The Common frog is, as the name suggests, the frog species most commonly found in the UK. You can read more about it here.

Similarly, the Common toad is the toad species most usually found in the UK. You can read more about the toad here.

Viola describes the process that the tadpole goes through as it becomes a frog or toad. This change is called metamorphosis. The tadpole hatches from the spawn with gills that enable it to breathe in water. Over a few days, it develops first back and then front legs, the tail shrinks away and the gills disappear to be replaced with lungs. At this point, the amphibian leaves the water and breathes air. Viola has drawn a series of diagrams at the bottom of page 17 in her diary showing this process. Interestingly, she is misinformed in the book that she mentions at the end of this diary entry: all tadpoles grow their back legs first, then the front legs.

Feb 24. House (back) 6.00 pm

Daffodills nearly out over furnace & boiler house.

Feb 25. House (inside) 12 noon.

I have got some tadpoles or rather tadpole spawn in

a jar. Some of the spawn has hatched. At present they only

move their tails a little. The spawn came from a Hollow

in the field just above the house. There are hundreds of

frogs and toads up there too, and on a sunny day

the noise they make is like a motor bicycle in the

distance. When anything comes near they disapp

ear under the spawn most marvellously quickly. I

lifted one up the other day and it evidently

objected to the heat of the sun, for it put its

forlegs with the toes spread out above its head.

I suppose it was afraid of sunstroke. Added July 13

I find from a book that frogs forelegs grow first and toads hindlegs.