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Zoology Student

20 Nov

In case you are thinking I am still in the Sahara, I had better start by saying I am not, and I haven’t even been kidnapped by nomads – I suppose I wasn’t their type. Also, I didn’t steal that camel in the end. There have been numerous animal-related adventures since I last blogged, but I have not had an opportunity to write about them, because – to my great delight – I have embarked on a zoology degree. This is what has been taking up all of my time since I returned to Scotland.

Here’s a photographic catch-up of our Moroccan sojourn.

After Morocco, I went by myself to the Greek island of Corfu, to visit my father and stepmother. They live in a hill village surrounded by ancient olive groves, and their internet connection is not ideal for blogging.

It was lovely to see my family this summer, but it was also lovely to get home and be greeted by all the furries at our wee cottage. They had been well looked after, but even so, the rabbit and cats came crowding round me with enthusiasm and affection when they saw me. The guinea pigs greeted me by clamouring noisily for food.

I am enjoying university immensely. It’s like being eighteen again, only with less angst and less inclination to party all night. I am fond of this graffito outside my faculty building:

"i LiKe MiCe"

Bathing the Snails

4 May

It’s easy to neglect giant African landsnails. Unlike our other pets, they don’t whinge and jump around when they want something: they are the epitomy of decorum. If conditions aren’t to their taste, they withdraw into their shells, seal up the entrances, and remain in a state of suspended animation until things improve.

What with one thing and another, I haven’t fed them for about a month, and they have been patiently waiting to be woken up for breakfast. I do this by soaking them in a dish. Contact with the lukewarm water gradually wakes them up, and they emerge and wallow and drink until they’ve had enough, then ooze their way toward dry land.

I made a sandwich while they were waking up, and wandered off to eat it and browse the web. When I returned, they were more than ready to get out of their bath, and Hieronymus had found my margarine tub. I’m glad I’d remembered to put the lid on.

I expect anyone who’s had dinner at our place will never want to do so again! If it’s any consolation, I did sterilize the plate afterwards.

Spawning Glory

27 Mar

The other day I was traipsing disconsolately through the dusk near the wildlife pond, when the ground started to move. The leaf litter all around my feet heaved and crept like a scene out of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Here is the pond on a sunny day such as today:

As the ground moved, I bent over and peered at it, then prodded at the leaf litter with my fingers. It was clammy.

“Ribbit”, it said.

It was alive with frogs, hopping and scrambling away from me. They were full-grown adults, and they were all over the field and the lane. I remembered that I had released a large bucketful of frogspawn into this pond a year ago, because Bunty’s mother’s teacup-sized pond was so choked up with the stuff that it had pushed out most of the water. The owners of the wildlife pond had shortly thereafter added a shoal of carp to their pond, so I had assumed none of my frogspawn would have survived. I was wrong!

I gathered up several handfuls of frogs and carried them gently to the wildlife pond’s edge. I don’t know whether they were looking for water, but it somehow felt like the thing to do – the pond can’t be seen from ground level, and it is reached over the top of a high bank formed from surplus soil when it was dug out.

I returned this morning, to see if they were still there so that I could photograph them. The leaf litter was stirred only by occasional breezes, and the frogs were nowhere to be seen. I did, however, find watersnails.

I found stubbly little Lymnaea trunculata, and long and elegant Lymnaea stagnalis. One L. stagnalis floated lazily past on its back. At first I thought it was dead, but when I touched its foot with a piece of reed, it curled its foot around it. Lymnaea have lungs and can breathe air, so perhaps it was taking an extra dose of oxygen.

I do love dabbling in ponds. I pottered around the edge, finding diving beetles and water spiders and then, suddenly, I noticed it: drifting among the weeds like the lovechild of a cloud and a coral reef, a conglomeration of frogspawn.

That's "frog eggs" to you Americans

It was close to the area where I had placed my handfuls of frogs. I therefore take full credit. These are my spawn. I made them.