17 February 2016

You may start to see toads making their way to nearby ponds over the next couple of weeks so we thought we’d tell you a little more detail about why this is happening, what a year in the life of a toad looks like and how you can create safe spaces for them in your garden.

 

Toad. Photo credit Mike Griffiths

Not sure what the difference between a frog and a toad is? Not to worry, we’ve asked our amphibian experts to help out and have pulled together this cheat-sheet on the differences.

During winter, toads spend the winter buried deep in mud and dead leaves, under compost heaps or hiding in piles of logs or even under the shed. They don’t hibernate so when we have mild days throughout the winter months (and we’ve had plenty of these this year) they may come out to find food.

On a mild damp evening in early spring, adult toads begin to come out from their winter hide-outs to start travelling towards a pond ready to breed. They tend to return to the same large breeding ponds and lakes along routes used by toads every year.

This means you might see hundreds of toads making their way to nearby ponds over the next couple of weeks – they may even have to cross over roads so be careful when you’re out and about. Don’t forget to record your sightings with us.

Males wait near to the pond and ‘piggy back’ on females. The females lay strings of spawn (eggs) which get wrapped around vegetation in the pond. Depending on weather conditions, two to four weeks later tadpoles will begin to hatch. The tadpoles are black and will begin to grow back legs after around 16 weeks, followed by front legs.

By summer the tadpoles have fully absorbed their tails and begin to leave the water as tiny toadlets usually after it has been raining. Adult toads spend little time in water and may remain in one area for long periods over the summer months – hunting for slugs, spiders and insects at night.

By the time autumn arrives, toads are beginning to prepare for winter and seek out a winter hide-out.

Now is a great time to start making changes to encourage frogs and toads to your garden. Add toad friendly features to your garden like a log pile, compost heap or rockery in a shady spot – amphibians need shelter that will stay cool and damp and provide plenty of insects and slugs! At Chester Zoo throughout half term (15 – 19th February), our zoo rangers are running daily workshops showing you how to build your own toad abode; find out more details here.

Build a toad abode at Chester Zoo this half term

You can also create a small pond or watery walkway to encourage frogs and toads into your garden, and perhaps even persuade frogs to spawn in your pond next year.

We want to hear from you too – tell us what activities you’ve done to make your garden more wildlife friendly. Share your fab work with us here.