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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Nature Notes 1: Frogs

The frogs have been spawning in my pond and three clumps of frogspawn have appeared. Spring is when frogs and toads are most active (from February onwards to be precise) as this is the breeding season when they migrate to the spawning ponds. Very often frogs and toads return to the same pond every year and this is usually the one in which they were born. Toads tend to be fastidious about this, while frogs are more likely to try a new garden pond. When frogs start migrating varies and they won't travel on frosty nights, but usually they are on the move by February. Once spawning begins, the males make their 'purring croaks' and the water is alive with splashes, kicks and frogs scampering about everywhere.

UK Frog and Toad Decline

There are three species of frogs and two species of toads in the British Isles. These are the common frog, edible frog, marsh frog, common toad and natterjack toad. It is common frogs that reside in my pond. Frogspawn can be distinguished from toadspawn because it is laid in clumps while toadspawn is laid in strands. Toads are squatter in appearance than frogs and move with a clumsy walk rather than hopping. Modern farming practices, urbanisation and pollution are devastating frog and toad populations around the world, with almost a third of global species under threat.
In the UK, numbers of natterjack toads have declined by 75% since 1900. According to a 2011 report by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) Trust, common frogs are becoming less common in the south of England, especially in areas which have experienced most development in recent decades.

Common Frog

Natterjack Toad
You can find a list of amphibian and reptile conservation groups in the UK here:
Amphibian & Reptile Groups in the UK   

How To Encourage Frogs and Toads into Your Garden

Frogs have declined so much in the open countryside due to modern farming methods that gardens are now a vital habitat, indeed it is probably the case that without gardens frogs and toads would be extinct across whole areas of the UK. To encourage frogs and toads into your garden you need to create a 'frog & toad larder' ie don't try to get rid of slugs, snails and plant-eating insects. Let the frogs eat them. Also you need to build a pond. A pond can be a small, ready made plastic one from a garden centre (like mine). Almost any garden pond is likely to be suitable for frogs. The pond can be shaded but not too shaded as tadpoles do better in warm water which gets some sunshine. It is good to leave some long grass and a rockery around the pond.

Further Reading:

"Frogs & Toads" by Trevor Beebee (Whittet Books, London, 1985)

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