After a cold end to March, it feels like spring is finally here – the weather has warmed, plants are growing again, birds are singing and amphibians like frogs, toads and newts are making their way to ponds for mating and egg laying.
On April 1, in the tiny pond at home, there was an overnight appearance of frog spawn, a big clump of it right in the middle of the pond. I didn’t see any frogs (Rana temporaria ), in the pond but movement under the water made the spawn wobble so something was down there. Maybe it was the frog who laid the spawn staying to protect the eggs for a while.
On closer inspection of the water, a smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) was spotted. We know that newts have been coming to the pond in spring since early 2013 when we cleaned out some fallen leaves and they moved straight in afterwards and, whilst we’ve seen frogs in the garden many times, they have never used the pond for mating before now.
If we have frog spawn and newts in the pond, won’t the newts eat the tadpoles? The answer to that is of course, yes they will, but according to the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust this isn’t an issue – ‘Garden ponds are often home to more than one species of amphibian; this is a healthy situation and indicates the pond is functioning well.’
What we can do to help some of the tadpoles survive to become adults is to give them places to hide so they can avoid being eaten. Submerged leafy plants and planters with pebbles provide hiding places which may help their chances of survival. Whilst it will be a bit of a shame if the tadpoles are all eaten by newts, their presence tells us that the pond is a suitable habitat for both frogs and newts and that they are there to find it. A positive change we can make is to put in an additional pond so there is more space for all and we’ll be working on this in the next few weeks. As you can see below, once out of the pond, frogs and newts have plenty of hiding places in the garden.
One thing I haven’t figured out is how the frogs and newts get into the garden, which has solid stone walls on all sides – the only options are for them to walk along the pavement and come under the gate from the street or over the wall from next door. Newts and frogs can both climb, so maybe they climb through the thick ivy that grows on the wall and come in that way. Either way, these eaters of garden pests like slugs and snail are here and we’re pleased to see them.