Amphibians, such as frogs, toads and newts, are cold blooded animals who lead a life of two halves, spending much of their time on land where they remain, for the most part, secretive and concealed in a damp dark hideaway, emerging at night to hunt. The breeding period in Spring, sees them migrate over land to ponds and lakes, an environment in which they become more noticeable.
What do amphibians eat?
Toads, frogs and newts are all carnivorous species, and feed on a variety of small invertebrates which includes, insects, spiders, worms and slugs, which makes them invaluable assets to gardeners.
How do amphibians reproduce?
All amphibians reproduce by laying eggs in water, preferably ponds and lakes rather than the flowing water of streams and rivers. Each female frog lays a clump of up to 2000 tiny black eggs encased in a clear gel. By counting the individual clumps you can tell the number of females breeding in your pond. Toads lay a long string of eggs which if observed closely is double layered. Newts lay their eggs on a submerged leaf, taking time to carefully fold the corner over for protection. The offspring develop over several weeks, depending on weather conditions, and hatch as small black legless tadpoles. Most offspring will develop over the remainder of the year to emerge as miniature versions of their parents at the end of the summer.
The tadpoles of frogs and newts are an irresistible delicacy to hungry fish and few are likely to survive to adulthood if fish are present in the same pond. Toad tadpoles, like the adults can secrete a toxin which makes them bitter and repulsive to fish.
What will attract amphibians to my garden?
Most species will travel unexpectedly long distances from water in search of damp areas to stow away and feast over the summer before they settle down for winter hibernation. Consequently you may still be able to attract most British amphibian species to your garden even without having a pond. A little imagination and improvisation and a collection of unwanted materials and garden waste like wooden planks, logs and bricks can be used around the garden to create habitats attractive to amphibians. Piling up logs, placing large plant pots on bricks and leaving leaf piles under shrubs and in corners will provide shaded and damp areas for sheltering during the summer. Just in case these areas are chosen for hibernation it is best not to disturb during the coldest months.
The word ‘amphibian’ comes from a Greek term ‘amphibios’, which can be translated as meaning a “double life”. This refers to the two stages of their lifecycle. They are born in water where they initially feed and grow before changing shape to move onto land where they live throughout their adulthood, returning to water to breed.
There are more than 6,000 species of amphibians, of which six occur naturally in Britain.