23 December 2010

Pond advice for icy weather

As Arctic conditions continue to sweep the country Froglife is reminding pond owners to be aware of hibernating frogs.

Some common frogs choose to spend the winter at the bottom of ponds. Buried down amongst the mud and silt, they survive by breathing through their skin. When ice forms on a pond the frogs become trapped with limited oxygen and various noxious gases building up.

In the past, Froglife has always recommended that a hole is maintained in the ice but recent reports suggest this may not make any difference to the frogs’ survival. Instead, the most important thing is to make sure snow is cleared from the ice to allow light to access the water. This way plants will still be able to produce enough oxygen. If you have a pump, leaving this running throughout the winter can also help.

If you do decide to try and make a hole in the ice – to release the build up gases (it won’t make much difference to the oxygen content in the water) – the easiest way to do this is to leave something floating in the water which can be removed once the ice as formed. Otherwise, stand a pan of hot water on top of the ice to melt a hole. Never pour on hot water, chemicals or salt or try to smash the ice as this can be damaging.

Despite your best efforts it may be that you still lose some frogs over this wintry period. You will see them floating under the ice or rising to the surface once the ice has melted. Although this is not nice to see, it is quite natural for frog populations to suffer losses at this time of year and it should not have too much overall impact.

“It’s normally older, male frogs that hibernate in water,” says Lucy Benyon, Froglife’s Information Officer, “The rest of the local frog population will be tucked up elsewhere – behind logs, in compost heaps or under sheds. It can be distressing to find dead frogs but it should not cause too many problems in the long term and, unfortunately, there’s virtually nothing you can do to prevent it.”

To help hibernating amphibians, and reptiles, in your garden in future ensure there are plenty of hidey holes such as log piles and rockeries. It’s also a good idea to give your pond a bit of a clear out in the autumn and stock up on oxygenating weed.

For further advice about amphibians, reptiles and ponds please see the Froglife website.

And remember... have a toad-ally awesome Christmas and a Hoppy Newt Year!

Please note: the Froglife office is closed over the Christmas period and will reopen on 5th January 2011.


Yvonne said...

Thank you for your helpful article on advice for icy weather and ponds.

Last year, we were so distressed to find 40 dead frogs in our pond after a very cold snap. It was horrible picking them out of the pond - they were lovely mature frogs and we filled a bucket up to the top with dead ones. I felt guilty that his had happened and felt I should have done something to prevent this, but, you have said these things happen in the winter months.

I shall certainly go and get the snow off the top of our pond now and give any frogs a chance of survival down there.

Thank you.

She said...

Having lost about 10 frogs last year in my small pond- I read some advice not to clear snow or melt any ice - I'm taking no chances. So .. I'm out clearing the snow off the bubblewrapped pond cover and using my hotwater-filled saucepan to melt a hole every day I can in the ice. Sometimes I look at myself and wonder about this "wildlife" pond which is taking so much maintenance! I think if it was larger it would be less susceptible to weather. Only a few more months of winter to go!

Ann said...

We have just had to remove about 25 dead frogs from the edge of the pond now most of the ice has melted. Some were quite big but a few I should think were last years. Pond is quite large and deep in the middle with a good area of shallow that the young goldfish seem to like, even at this time. I was not able to remove the snow from the ice.

We are in North Gloucestershire

Anonymous said...

Sadly I fished out upto 40 dead frogs from my pond in Liverpool last week. The ice had been up to 4 inches thick in parts. I was surprised by our loss, despite having lots of pond weed and 2 ice guards. Heart breaking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your comments. We've had quite a few reports of dead frogs over the festive period - it's not nice to see but hopefully it won't cause any long term problems.


Anonymous said...

And don't forget to fill in Pond Conservation's Big Pond Thaw Survey 2011 - see www.pondconservation.org.uk


Chris Jordan said...

I have just cleared approx 30 dead frogs from my small back garden pond. Up until now the pond has been quite stable for the past 20 years, with breading frogs and newts during the spring. We have had the odd dead frog, but this year has been exceptionally cold, and now the ice has cleared all of the frogs were at the top of the pond, as if they had suffocated trying to get out.

Chris, Enderby, Leicester.