Hopper and crawler

by Richard Jones

Contrary to popular misconception, toads and frogs spend very little time in and around ponds. Mostly, they roam far and wide, sheltering in long grass, log piles and untidy corners.

FrogIt was Disturb-an-Amphibian day in my garden on Saturday. First, a toad had settled down under a pile of empty pots in the honest-I'll-get-round-to-sorting-out-that-bit-next part of the garden. I've been getting round to it for several years so it has run a bit wild and it's a dumping ground for flower pots, buckets, pieces of wood that I once thought could be potentially useful for some reason, mildly interesting boulders found on family walks and all not very well hidden by a brightly coloured canvas windbreak purchased one gale-struck May weekend on a trial camping trip to Pevensey.

The windbreak was required for a new job, to drape over the rabbit hutch at night. I can't think it gives the rabbit much warmth - with its painful juxtaposition of electric blue, lime green and scarlet it's more likely to give the poor beast migraines.

Anyway, there was this toad. We don't see them often, but they are definitely about and they usually turn up, like this one, when I'm doing a bit of autumn tidying. It didn't move, other than the odd belch and my 2½-year-old son looked at it askance, not completely convinced it was a living creature. I could hear his mind working - it was much more likely to be a curiously sculpted rock, or a stunted plant root. We put it back and went on with the day's work of clearing up the garden and smearing mud patterns on the patio.

The frog caused much more excitement. I'm not surprised it took off like a demented rocket - I had just run right over the top of it with the hover-mower. It was only a young one, perhaps 4 or 5cm body length, and beautifully marked with black stipples across its mustard yellow body. We followed its determined, if understandably rather frantic, leaps the length of the garden, before it finally crashed into the fence and went to ground in the long grass round the flag pole (garden furniture and fittings have become very competitive in our street lately). We left it to catch its breath and went inside to tell everyone, very loudly, about the chase.

Contrary to popular misconception, toads and frogs actually spend very little time in and around ponds - usually when they are mating and spawning in February, March and April. Mostly, like those I had so rudely disturbed on Saturday, they roam far and wide, sheltering in the moist seclusion of long grass, log piles and disreputably untidy corners. We do have a pond, but it's not very big and it's raised: a triangle of old railway sleepers the top edge being a good half metre up from the ground. Originally I doubted that we would ever get frogs or toads in there, but south-east London amphibians have turned out to be remarkably good climbers.

I've yet to see a toad up there, but every year we get frogs sploshing about and since 2005 we've also had common newts. Last year was the first time frog spawn appeared, but no tadpoles ever seemed to develop. Now the pond has sprung a leak and 30cm of ugly butyl liner have been exposed. I'm going to have to drain and clear the whole thing and start again. So that's the newts disturbed as well.

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Gardeners' World Web User 25/10/2007 at 10:14

With my new job not far ahead now, i am looking forward to the landscaping part and putting my own ideas to good use. I had, about 4 months ago, aquired 2 of those green plastic ponds, which i couldn't wait to place in the garden, making it a more tranquil place to relax. Since putting the pond in with a lovely trickling waterfall, the frogs that have appeared is quite astonishing. Most nights that i'm in the garden, the lawn always seems to be croaking away and i often here the odd splash from the pond.

They are nice to have in the garden, especially for keeping the bug population down, but they can get in the way when cutting the lawn, oops.

Gardeners' World Web User 25/10/2007 at 17:57

I still have some tadpoles in my pond are they doomed?? legs are appearing but slowly, i think its because its a new pond this year & maybe now enough food?? any ideas.

Gardeners' World Web User 26/10/2007 at 11:21

i have several frogs in a range of sizes and they are all called maureen after a friend who was very scared of them. she passed away recently and since then i have been accompanied in the garden by a gang of maureens - i am sure she is just checking on what i am doing.

Gardeners' World Web User 29/10/2007 at 10:15

Sandie, I too have a friend who does not like frogs - I may call my frogs, who I adore, Margaret from now on!

Gardeners' World Web User 30/10/2007 at 21:13

I've been taken by surprise by our resident toad a few times over the last year, we moved in 2 years ago and didn't make our aquaintances with Mr Toad until late spring last year. Throughout this year we've met recently and he actually seems to live in my green house! Throughout the summer the greenhouse door was open for a lot of the time but now it needs to be shut to protect the overwintering tender plants. I am watching him regularly and he still seems extremely heathly but I am wondering whether I should evict him now before the weather changes. Any ideas?

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