COLUMN: Pond-ering the life of frogs and toads

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What happened to the frog who parked on double yellow lines? He was toad away!

Yes, a terrible joke to start this month’s column. But a great way to introduce the subject, frogs and toads. Do you know you might have them in your garden, even if you haven’t got a pond?

Although they need ponds to breed, the adults can move away to find food and are happy in any damp corner. Toads have been known to live up to 3km away from ponds. A damp shady spot with cover will do them fine. There they will live, catching and eating bugs, beetles, flies and all sorts of other garden pests. Quite the gardener’s friend!

Mind you, March and April is the time when both frogs and toads are likely to be only found at ponds. We are now in peak breeding time. From all around, they will have made their way back to ancestral ponds, or any other small ponds that might catch their eye. But at night you may be able to see them as they make their dangerous journeys, across paths and roads which humans have built across their path.

Once they have reached the pond, then there is a bit of a scrum as the males fight to find and then hang onto an interested female. Once the mating is done, the eggs are laid. Frogspawn is a mass of little black eggs, each surrounded by jelly and hanging together in a clump.

Toadspawn is rather different, strands of jelly with the eggs forming a double row inside, rather like a twinset of black pearls.

So what is the difference between frogs and toads? Toads have shorter hind legs than frogs and tend to crawl rather than hop. But the biggest difference in their skin. A frog’s skin is moist and smooth. A toad’s skin is dry and warty, with a particularly large lump just behind the eyes.

Dr Chris Andrews, RSPB