Friday, 14 January 2011

The Jelly Chronicles, Part 2.

My quest to identify the mysterious jelly-like material I found at the farm recently (see last Blog entry) has led me into some very interesting territory. A correspondent on the Natural History Museum's identification forum, who goes by the user i.d. bombusleucorum, reckons that it looks suspiciously like the expanded crystal gel found in nappies. They are super absorbent sodium polyacrylate crystals which hold several hundred times their own weight in water and when fully saturated turn to a gooey gel. It's the same stuff sold in garden centres to add to compost to hold water. I suppose it's possible that a gull scavenging on a tip has managed to get a soiled nappy tangled in its feet and then kindly discarded it on the reserve, but I think this is unlikely, especially as there isn't a tip within miles of us.

Then we have the possibility that it's "Star Jelly", which according to folklore is believed to be deposited during meteor showers and has been widely reported since the 14th Century. More information on this can be found here.

At the moment I'm leaning towards agreeing with the 18th Century Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant, who was of the opinion that it is something vomited by animals or birds. That something is semi-digested frog- or toad-spawn. There has been masses of frog-spawn all over the farm lately. Today I even found a great clump of it on top of a fencepost. If this was not dumped by a bird, then we have some exceptionally agile frogs!

Lots of duck on site today, 104 of them to be precise: 51 Wigeon, 23 Teal, 13 each of Shoveler and Mallard and four Gadwall. I also saw the first Mediterranean Gull I have ever seen on the reserve, a nice adult, and a good flock of Fieldfares numbering around 200 birds. And the sun was out :-)

1 comment:

  1. i like the sound of athletic frogs andy. Your "substance" certainly is a mystery.