This wetland has long supported Portbury Wharf’s amphibians. Now the disruption of house building is over and gardens have matured these native amphibians have moved back in and enjoy the rich pickings of garden slugs, worms and insects.
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(The common frog is Rana temporaria – not quite so catchy!)
February and March is the time when we are most likely to see them as large numbers converge on their breeding ponds.
They will have been overwintering in hedges, in muddy ditches, hiding under stones and plant pots or hunkered down under compost heaps. As the winter draws back a rise in temperature triggers the beginning of the breeding season.
Frogs become increasingly active in garden ponds just before the migration begins, a sure sign that movement is imminent. If weather conditions are favourable (mild, damp evenings) the onset of migration is sudden and they will begin, en masse, to head to their breeding ponds. Typically frogs migrate earlier than toads.
They take the quickest route along ancestral pathways to the ponds in which they were spawned. This often brings them into conflict with people.
They return to the ponds in which they were spawned. These routes take them along ancestral pathways bringing them into perilous contact with cars, cyclists and pedestrians.
Males are smaller than females and you might spot some of them hitching a ride on the back of their chosen female in order to ensure that they are present to fertilise the eggs when she releases them in water.
Toads are generally brown in colour, their skin looks dry and warty and their eyes orange. They have shorter back legs than frogs and tend to crawl rather than jump.
Frogs have smooth skin, mainly green and brown, but also yellow, red, orange and black. They have a black patch on their heads behind each eye and two ridges running along their back.
Newts are much harder to spot than frogs and toads.
Smooth newts are small, 10cm at most in length, including a long tail. They present as brown but have striking orange skin with black spots or patches underneath. They also have spotted throats.
The Great-Crested Newt has a black warty back, but with a vibrant orange underside with black patches. It has orange and black striped fingers, ending with orange tips. Males have a white flash along their tail. During the breeding season the crest along their back becomes more pronounced.Great crested newts are a bit of a rarity so are protected under UK and EU law. It is illegal to handle them without a licence. Thankfully moving a great crested newt out of danger is allowable. So you can move a great crested newt from a footpath or road to a safe place nearby. Though they can be difficult to spot on wet tarmac as they are well camouflaged.
Frogs, toads and newts are active at night and eat:
Larger toads may even take
Tadpoles live on pond algae and only become carnivores as they mature into adult frogs, toads and newts.
Frogs and newts have lots of predators:
Create garden habitats to encourage frogs and toads to move in. The best thing you can do is to create a garden pond. You will love it when the frogs come calling in February and March!
Perfect places for amphibians to hide:
Remember, frogs and toads are useful garden residents as they eat slugs and snails.
Find out more at : http://www.froglife.org/info-advice/frogs-toads-in-my-garden/
Portishead Toad Patrol help frogs, toads and newts survive their annual migration across roads in the Village Quarter and The Vale during February and March.
They collect about 1,500 creatures each year from roads, footpaths and driveways, and place them close to the ponds to which they are heading.
This frog used one of the ladders that the Portishead Toad Patrol installed in a gully pot.
This number demonstrates what an important habitat this is for Portbury Wharf’s amphibians and for the declining common toad in particular. Helping to prevent road casualties is a good way to mitigate the effects of increasing urbanisation within their ancestral territories.
If you do not live in Portishead there may still be a local patrol for you to get involved with. Froglife has links to patrols all over the country, so to help a frog or two have a look at: www.froglife.org/what-we-do/toads-on-roads/tormap/
For a month by month guide of what to look out for on the reserve see What’s Happening
References and further reading:
“Portbury Wharf’s amphibians” photos courtesy of Helen Mason and www.pixabay.com.