Help toads spawn in my pond

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Toad populations:

  • Toads were once 'common wildlife' in UK but their populations are decreasing rapidly.
  • Toads are 'at risk' and are regarded as a UK Priority Species.
  • You cannot buy toads - this is illegal.
  • Populations struggle because of loss of ponds and loss of suitable surrounding habitats.
  • Changes in habitats due to urbanisation and climate change - hot summers dry out shallow ponds and warm Winters lull the toads out of hibernation too early.

Toads are different to frogs in many ways.

  • A toad looks different to a frog.
  • They have a 'warty' skin and waddle rather than jump and are larger than frogs.
  • Toads' spawn looks different to frogs' spawn - long strings not lumps of spawn.
  • A toad can live up to 40 years.

What do toads do in Spring?

  • When the weather warms up in Spring toads will leave their places of hibernation.
  • They journey back to their breeding ponds - those used by their family for generations.
  • They try to return even if a busy road is now in the way.
  • People operate as 'Toad Wardens" at well known crossing points to help the toads survive by carrying them across the new roads.
  • Toads tend to travel at night.
  • Toads can travel up to 2 km from where they spend the rest of the year.

Toad Mating & Spawn laying:

  • The male toad grabs his female in an 'amplexus' grasp - sometimes even before they reach water.
  • He fertilises the egg strings as she lays them while they swim around together during mating.
  • This is to avoid other males grasping his female.
  • Toads can occupy a deeper area of the pond than frogs as they produce a nasty tasting toxin so they are safer from predators.
  • Even toad tadpoles taste unpleasant and can survive in open water in a pond shared with fish.

Toads spawn:

  • Photographed - the underwater stems of a plant like Caltha palustris has been used by the female toad to inter-twine her spawn.
  • She releases masses of these strings of jelly each about 1/2" wide containing about 2000 eggs in total.
  • She leaves them draped around the plants under the water.
  • Eggs in the toads spawn develop into black tadpoles in 10 days that swim in shoals in deep water areas of the pond.
  • They can lay spawn in deeper water as the tadpoles have a toxin in the skin so predators do not like the taste of them.
  • Before the legs are formed feed them on a vegetable based food – particularly important in a new pond – use Early stage – Tadpole food.
  • Metamorphosis takes place over the next 10-12 weeks and they change from tadpoles to toadlets with fully formed legs ready to leave the pond.
  • In a new pond or with a large number of tadpoles in your pond supplement after the growth of legs with late stage (high protein) tadpole foods.

Toad spawn development images:

A timetable of our toads spawn development 2019:

  • 22nd April - first toad spawn strings with rounded eggs.
  • 2nd May - the eggs elongated into an oval shape inside the spawn string.
  • Some had left the spawn string and were starting to swim individually as oval tadpoles.
  • 7th May - some tadpoles with tails as well as others still lagging behind in the earlier stages of development.
  • June and July - tadpoles were getting larger and swimming freely in the trough.
  • All tadpoles fed with Early Stage Tadpole Food.
  • 8th August - first toad tadpoles with back legs but with their tails still in place.
  • We started feeding Late Stage Tadpole Food.
  • 27th August (4 months from spawn) - some tiny toads hopping amongst the pond plants with 4 legs and no tails.
  • 10th September some young toadlets had ventured out of the water and climbed amongst the moist plants nearby.
  • At each point that we saw some new development there were still others at earlier stages that would catch up within the next couple of weeks.

What do toads do in Summer?

  • The adults leave the pond shortly after mating to return to their hiding places in long grass or under sheds.
  • They sleep all day and forage for insects at night.
  • Toadlets will benefit from the cover and protection supplied by moist Suitable for moist soil (damp but drained) or waterlogged Suitable for waterlogged soil (wet mud) plantings around the pond edge to hide in during late Summer/Autumn as they mature and leave the water. You might like early stemmed plants for toads spawning and food to help tadpoles thrive:

What do toads do in Autumn and Winter?

  • Toads will be feeding well on insects, slugs and spiders ready for Winter.
  • Toadlets will have left the pond.
  • Most will find safety under logs or sheds, in compost heaps or any other damp hiding place they can find.
  • Create wild areas in your garden with log piles.
  • Build an Amphibian House (or Hibernaculum) - use a pile of old pallets and fill the gaps with twigs, wood, leaves, soil, earth, old tiles and anything else that amphibians can bury into or crawl between.
  • If you disturb a toad from Winter hibernation then replace it or place it somewhere as frost free and cover it to protect against predators.
  • Under a shed, in a compost heap, log pile or inside the bottom level of a prepared 'Bug House'.
  • Toads can come out of hibernation in warm spells in Winter so recent warmer Winters have not helped their survival.