The December freeze and amphibians
The big freeze has taken its toll on amphibians this year. A number of reports from around the UK have suggested that amphibians, particularly the common frog, have been unlucky under the ice on garden ponds this winter.
Jeremy Biggs on the garden pond blog reported the results which are coming in from the Big Pond Thaw Survey - the largest mortality of frogs was considered to be around 50 frogs/amphibians in Nottingham -
The BBC's Nature UK blog has a photo of around 60 dead common frogs recovered from a pond in Hull on the 11th January
Find out more on this blog post here
Should we be concerned over these frog deaths? Pond Conservation is running a survey called the Big Pond Thaw 2011 which was initially launched in 2010 and is now being repeated in 2011 - This has previously reported on this website here
Pond Conservation are investigating the ecology of garden ponds, how they can be better designed and looked after for the benefit of wildlife. The advice for looking after wildlife in iced over ponds been changed well 'myth busted' from the research collected in 2010. The criticisms levelled about the 2010 survey are being met by repeating the exercise in 2011.
Update - Pond Conservation has received 250 forms so far for the 2011 Big Pond Thaw Survey - Please do download a form and send in your records!
January sightings of amphibians & reptiles
The first movements of amphibians and reptiles have been reported from Somerset, London and in December adders in Essex.
The WWT at the London Wetland Centre reported the emergence of a juvenile slow-worm and toad in the milder weather, toads have also been reported on the move in Somerset by local volunteers.
You can see the photos of the toad found under a reptile refugia - a favoured shelter for toads - http://www.flickr.com/photos/reservewarden/5364633864/ & http://www.flickr.com/photos/reservewarden/5364022291/
Reptiles and amphibians tend not to properly 'hibernate' and instead 'overwinter' in frost free shelters found in places like under logs, within banks and other suitable habitat. Is this normal behaviour for amphibians and reptiles well they are adapted for cold weather climates and any mild weather can tempt them out on sunny days. In Colchester a consultancy survey revealed 79 smooth newts, 14 toads and 13 frogs underneath artificial cover objects. Amphibians travel large distances to their breeding areas (ponds) so finding them underneath materials which provide shelter from the cold and in the case of dark felt warmth is quite normal. It is possibly due to the lack of recording for these animals in the winter months and the assumption that they do not awake in the winter during mild spells it seems skews the knowledge about these animals. There are other examples such as a male adder was seen basking in the winter sun last December before the heavy snowfall in Hadleigh in Essex. It is quite normal for amphibians and reptiles to move around in the winter during milder weather. 10 degrees with a bit of sun would tempt out reptiles to bask and amphibians would be foraging at night or moving towards their breeding ponds. Frogspawn has already been laid in Cornwall - more info to follow on that....
In previous years the milder winters meant that great crested newts were already in their ponds with full crests waiting for the females to turn up. If you find any amphibians or reptiles then please do contact us and let us know or contact your local ARG group