Sunday 14 February 2010

The first newt of Spring!


At this time of year the frogs, toads and newts are thinking about returning to their breeding ponds in order to mate.   Our forebears were much more in touch with nature and no doubt the origins of St Valentines day owe something to the wildlife activity that is now happening all  around us.

Last week, I saw the first newt of the year when the ice on my pond briefly parted.   The newts appear first, followed by the frogs and then the toads.    Toads spend most of the year up to 3 miles from their breeding ponds and spend the winter down old mole and rabbit holes, away from the frost.   Amphibians are ectothermic and need the temperature to reach about 8c before they can move around on land.   

Climate change has lead to earlier springs and this is bad news for the toads who wait until dusk before making their journey to the breeding ponds.   Dusk in mid Feb occurs around 18:00 which is the peak of the evening rush hour.   Many toads find that inconsiderate mammals  have built roads next to their ponds and the toads are ill equipped for coping with ever increasing levels of traffic.  Hopefully this year the cold conditions will delay the toad migration until a date when  dusk occurs later in the evening.  ToadPair

In several places around Norwich  volunteers use buckets to carry thousands of  toads to safety.  Without help, most of those toads would die and whole populations are being lost.

The problem has become much worse in the last 10 years as new roads have led people to make more journeys – particularly leisure related journeys in the evening.     

Amphibians have been on the planet for 300 million years and can survive unaided  in extremes of heat and cold that we humans can only tolerate with the aid of sophisticated technology.   Because amphibians do not maintain a constant body temperature they have very low food requirements.     Climate change will bring challenges for both mammals and amphibians but unlike us, the toads have seen it all before.


  1. I was thrilled to find a toad in my garden for the first time last year and equally dismayed that there has been a decline in frogs in the last seven years.

    Do you have any recommendations for making our gardens more amphibibian friendly (also for those of us who can't dig for ponds)?

    Wishing you and eveyone in Toadwatch the best for a successful spring.


  2. Froglife have advice sheets at

    Growing your own veg is a win/win for amphibians - they like the damp conditions under the the dense foliage of a potato plot and are quick to eat any slug that ventures in. Each night a loyal army of frogs and toads emeges from my ponds to guard my strawberries and other crops.

    Frogs need a pond (can be very small) nearby but toads only need a pond at breeding time and are happy to spend a hot day under some old carpet in a damp corner of the garden.

    A 1m high heap of old bricks and branches, loosly covered with turf and open to the sun makes a pleasant place for a toad to spend the winter. It needs to be big enough to be frost free at the base.