With spring now upon us, the Heart of England Forest’s population of frogs and toads are at their most visible as they embrace breeding season. It is a great time to spot both, but you’ll have to look carefully as they are often well camouflaged and will keep very still unless disturbed.
Common frog or common toad?
There’s a good chance of seeing a common frog, and occasionally even a common toad in the back garden, but it’s around ponds and pools where they tend to cluster. Walkers walking the Heart of England Forest’s Haydon Way Wood or Coxmere Wood trails will encounter natural ponds, so at this time of year it’s a good opportunity to look for both adult species and their spawn.
Telling frogs and toads apart is relatively simple. Frogs have smooth, moist skin and long, stripy legs, and tend to keep to damp habitats. They make long jumps when unsettled, and their green or brown colouring can often feature random black blotches. Meanwhile, common toads have a much broader torso, shorter legs, and prefer to crawl rather than jump. They have rough, warty skin, golden eyes, and two distinctive lumps behind their eyes. When disturbed, toads tend to remain still. The colouring of the common toad is mottled green and brown. Occasionally it’s possible to find very colourful common frogs or toads; while these are often thought to be some exotic species, the reality is that they are probably just healthy natives that simply have unusual colouring!
Frogspawn vs. toadspawn
With the weather warming up, frogs and toads emerge from their winter hibernation and head towards favoured breeding grounds. Toads are very particular about where they breed, and often return again and again to the same ancestral breeding pond, following the same route each year – even if it means running the gauntlet across busy roads. Frogs are less fussy about where they spawn; our forestry team have even found frogspawn in water-filled wheel ruts in the woods! It’s easy enough to tell the difference between frogspawn and toadspawn: frogspawn is laid in big clumps of jelly, while toads lay a long string of eggs, a bit like a pearl necklace. By April, both types of spawn will have hatched into tadpoles. While toad tadpoles remain jet-black, frog tadpoles are mottled greenish-grey with gold speckles.
Once spawning is over, most frogs and toads leave the water completely and become more difficult to spot, hiding away from predators such as herons, otters and even hedgehogs. In general, frogs and toads are very good at staying out of sight, but who knows – you might just be lucky enough to spot one when you visit the Forest!
If you spot either frogspawn or toadspawn (or even a fully-grown version) when you visit the Heart of England Forest, do let us know. You can share your pictures on our social media pages or via Flickr. Hop to it!