23 June 2011

Tiny Toads!

Froglifer Cacey has spotted them emerging from her pond in Northampton already – tiny toadlets! Having spent the last few weeks developing from toadspawn strings in the water, it’s getting to the time of year when juvenile toads will lose their toadpole tails and can hop away into the undergrowth. Adult toads, like our mascots Widdy and Wigbert, have done their work, making all the threats they faced along the way worthwhile as the next generation springs into life.

When they first emerge, toads are roughly the size of a one pence piece and a generally a pebble grey colour. It will be a number of years before these tiny toads return to their breeding ponds to lay their own spawn, and become part of the mass migrations Toad Patrollers work so hard to protect. Froglife trustee Rob Oldham has been studying the toads in his pond for over 20 years, and found that male toads reach maturity and return to the water to breed after an average of two years, and female toads return after an average of three.
A tiny toadlet heads off into the world

This summer’s toadlets will spend the next few years hunting for invertebrates in the undergrowth and keeping safe in dark and shady spots like log piles, compost heaps or under garden sheds. Whilst frogs may visit ponds throughout the year, in order to cool off or search for a meal, toads are very much land-based creatures and may not to return to water at all between spawning seasons.

Like frogs, toads lay large amounts of spawn with only a small percentage making it to adulthood. Out of all those strings and blobs of spawn it is estimated that only 5% will leave the water, and only 5% of these survive to breed. And that’s before they have to cross busy roads on their way back to their favourite ponds.

There are a number of things you can do to help toads give them a fighting chance of survival:

• Watch out for tiny toads underfoot or when mowing your lawn

• Create a log pile or a rockery to give toads somewhere to hide and to hunt

• Leave areas of long grass and other plants to create shelter

• Avoid using slug pellets or other chemicals

• Create a pond – don’t forget to plant right up to the edges to stop tiny toadlets drying out in the sunshine when they first leave the water.  You can find more pond tips here

Become part of our Tuppence a Toad Campaign here

Find out more about Toad Patrols and how you can get involved here

Make a donation to Froglife here

So, keep an eye out for toads, great and small, and do let us know about your sightings!  You can share your toad stories here.

You can support our work conserving reptiles and amphibians like toads for as little as £1.50 a month. Sign up as a Froglife Friend and help save species and habitats here.

Photo: Jules Howard

21 June 2011

Safer Pond Fun

To coincide with Child Safety Week (20-26 June) Froglife is spreading the word about pond safety. If you have concerns about creating a pond because you have small children, or if you’re considering filling one in for the same reason, then read on…

The joys of pond dipping
Ponds are vital for the survival of our amphibians, but we know many people care concerned about the risks they pose.  There’s no question that water bodies are a potential hazard to youngsters playing outside, particularly younger children, but there are some simple steps you can take to make a pond safer.

The most effective way is to create a barrier – one which will prevent people falling in to the water but, crucially, still allow access for wildlife.

“People often assume that in order to make an existing pond safe they need to fill it in and our Information Service receives lots of phone calls and emails looking for advice,” says Froglife’s Lucy Benyon. “We suggest that there are other options available. Children’s safety is paramount but if these important amphibian habitats can be protected then everyone wins.”

The educational benefit to children from having a pond in their garden or at school is enormous. They’re a great place to learn about the seasons, life-cycles and wildlife communities; and, if you’re lucky enough to have breeding frogs visiting, witnessing firsthand the incredible transformation of tadpoles into tiny froglets is magical.

So, if you’re thinking about filling in that water feature at the bottom of the garden, or are putting off creating that wildlife pond until the kids have left home, here are our top tips for pond safety:

1. A fence. A physical barrier is the best way to make a pond safe. Make sure you leave a small gap underneath, so frogs, newts and other wildlife can still get to the water, and consider a lockable gate as an extra precaution.

2. A pond grille. Fences are not always practical in smaller garden so a pond cover is an alternative barrier. There are various types of pond grille available so it’s worth doing some research if you go down this route – they range from elaborate sculptures over the pond to simple rigid mesh structures that can easily take the weight of a person. As an example take a look at Creative Pond Covers – these innovative pond grilles are a feature in themselves and can be hinged to provide access for pond dipping. Alternatively, covers such as SafaDeck and DiamondDeck can be installed above or below the water line.

3. Raised or tub ponds. These can still be beneficial to wildlife as long as you provide access via plants, pebbles and logs. If you are still planning to remove a large pond, perhaps you could think about replacing it with one of these smaller ponds. 

 4. Gently sloping sides. Not only are these important for wildlife but they ensure that anyone who falls in can easily get out again.

5. Supervision. Never leave young children unsupervised near any large container holding water. This includes large plant pots, paddling pools and ponds.

It’s also important to encourage children to respect water at every opportunity. This will benefit many children as they grow and could have wider positive impact.

Ponds are a great addition to any garden, allotment or school wildlife area. If you need any further information about creating ponds or making them safe, please see our Just Add Water campaign. 

World of Water Aquatic Stores are also running a wildilfe pond campaign, with discounted kits available.  You can find your nearest store here.

You can support our work conserving reptiles and amphibians and reptiles for as little as £1.50 a month.  Sign up as a Froglife Friend and help save species and habitats here.

Photo by Jules Howard