Giving frogs a helping hand

froggy

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My garden has two ponds, and a small population of common frogs (Rana temporaria) that breed in them each year. However, neighbourhood cats and magpies kill a lot of adults each year, and the adult population is slowly reducing. To add to that, there were a couple of years when the pond went bad and no spawn survived. For the last couple of years (until I had time to clean out the big pond, whihc is frankly terrible) and dig a new smaller one, i have been raising tadpoles in tubs, then releasing some back into the pond once they've hatched (they seem to do well once they have become free-swimming) and kept others in tubs until metamorphosis. I think this has helped to buoy up the population by increasing recruitment, but I want to try to increase the carrying capacity of my garden, as a large area of neglected land is soon to 'developed'. Other than building log and rock piles for hiding/hibernation sites, does anyone have any particularly useful tips for increasing the frog-friendliness of a medium sized garden (obviously this would help newts too), particularly in increasing survival of juveniles?

I know its a bit vagues, but really anything from bedding plants to not-too-obtrusive landscape modifications would be helpful.

Thanks

Chris
 

Azhael

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This might be a bit of a silly suggestion but, i guess a lot of cover, specially provided by plants(which in turn atract insects which serve as food), would probably make a difference. Magpies are unlikely to venture in dense vegetation.
Cats might, but still there would be plenty of unreachable areas.
 

Peter Parrot

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Allowing an area of grass to be left uncut, and keeping the remainder regularly cut short so as NOT to encourage amphibians in that spot and hence reduce strimmer and lawn mower related deaths is a good start.

Dry stone walls are great for newts as are log piles, especially if the bottom most layer is partially buried. Piles of rubble which leave air gaps and nooks and crannies offer refuge to anurans and if native vegetation is allowed to grow through it don`t look too unsightly either. Planting indigenous plants that will boost invertebrate numbers or even french dwarf beans grown in a patch during summer can provide a cool summer residence for anurans as well as an abundant invertebrate food supply and some beans for the table.

Lots of lush vegetation right up to the pond edge is also very frog friendly, as is removing fish from the pond. Do you have any pictures of the ponds and garden Chris?

Do you know whether there are any additional ponds in neighbours gardens also? Some garden ponds can be pretty much isolated from other frog colonies and the resulting reduced gene pool can often be the cause of a declining population.
 

froggy

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Thanks; I will try to persuade my parents to plant the garden up in an amphibian-friendly way....I have a list of plants that are both attractive and good for amphibs somewhere. With regards to log piles, does anyone know what wood is best...I'm guessing oak?

Chris
 

Peter Parrot

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Anything indigenous is good, as it will attract a greater diversity of invertebrate life. :cool:
 

froggy

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Sorrry, Peter, I missed your first post. I will try to get some grass set aside for non-mowing. One pond (the new one) is on the lawn/flower bed and has got lots of vegetation round onje side of it, although it has a bit of growing to do, being new. The other pond was an old Koi pond we tried to ressusitate, and is surrounded by concrete - as i said, it is a bit of a rubbish pond, and is apt to stagnation. However, frogs being frogs, most of the spawn has ended up there again this year. I am thinking of buying some long window-box type planters and putting them along the edge of the pond, with long creepers (ivy maybe) growing out, and a gap underneath the pots as a sort of safer boundary area outside the pond. I also have an outside enclosure in the garden, that used to house alpine newts, but doesn't any longer. It is a bit shaded, but also has a pond. I might take down a piece of fence to allow native stuff in and out (there are already some frogs living in there from tadpoles I added in the last few years), but leave the rest of the fence up to give thge area some protection.

I am at uni at the mo, but will take some pics when i am home in a fortnight. There are a few ponds in the area, but the only close three are almost silted up or fish-filled. There are some lakes near me that have a big frog population (based on the amount of spawn), but there are sa lot of roads between me and them. The lakes themselves have lots of (bread-fed) water fowl and some big fish, so i don't know how well thatr population is doing; whether any good numbers of juveniles metamorphose, or whether its just the same adults going back year after year....

Thanks for all your help.

Chris
 
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Tappers

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I've placed sections of old guttering upside down at the back of a very long border that otherwise lacks cover and mulched over the top of it with bark chips to provide cool and damp dispersal corridors. My other half is a bit of a 'neat freak' so non-wildlife portions of the garden need these discreet tweaks. I've also buried a number of different hibernacula around the garden alongside the regular stone and log piles.

Peter is spot-on about keeping lawns short to discourage amphibians - I've made the mistake in the past of getting behind with the mowing and having to bear lots of abuse as I couldn't mow froglet-filled grass!
 

Peter Parrot

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Chris,

Regarding your concrete edge to the pond; I have another contact which supplies native aquatic and marginal plants in quantity. They have supplied some fairly impressive habitat regeneration projects in urban areas, and can supply netting "sausages" stuffed with coir in which they plant a host of indigenous marginals. These "sausages" can be fitted to concrete sides, as they have used them in several such spots on rivers which have had horrid straight concrete edges created. It works very well and may be the key to your creating a hospitable haul out edge zone for your pond. http://www.salixrw.com/
 

froggy

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Thanks for that link, Peter. However, the problem is really that the frogs have to cross an area of terrestrial concrete slabs, and the overhanging edges (above the water) leave them vulnerable to cats and birds. There are lots of plants in the water itself (we created shallow marginal areas by in-filling), but I wanted to use the planters on the edge of the pond, out of the water to give a screen of plants and stop cats from getting right up to the edge.

Chris
 

Peter Parrot

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Is there scope to pull some or all of the slabs up? Smashed up they would make lovely hibernacula.:cool:
 

froggy

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Unfortunately, I can't really see that happening.....I think pots of plants are going to be the best solution.
With regasrds to hibernacula, how deep beneath ground level should they go? How wet/dry should the position ideally be?
 

doktordoris

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hehe, I thought it was just me that tended spawn and then built a pond for them!

My koi pond was full of spawn, and before the koi ate it I removed it, bought a tank, looked after the tadpoles then bought a pond liner, dug a pond at my grandparents house, lined it, planted it, and then transferred the tadpoles to it.

The pond won't have any fish bought for it, it is just for nature. However I have found a company (through this forum!) called blades and they sell some amazing stuff! I have ordered a pack for my nature pond that contains plants and animals to get an English pond up and running quickly. They sell plants, water boatmen, dragonflies, the lot!
Check the link below for the pack-
http://www.blades-bio.co.uk/shop/product.php?idn=LZJ&idc=439

I have also included a link for the 2nd batch of tadpoles, that I hatched in a bowl before moving them to the tank, because as an experiment I mixed tadpoles from 2 different batches to see how they got on. The one week older tadpoles ate all the younger ones even though there was just 7 days age difference!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vbpe1m1cI5c

The link will give you some indication of the size of my undertaking, that bowl only contained a quater of the total that hatched.
 

doktordoris

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Oh I forgot, here is some general pond advice.

http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profiles0505/wildlifeponds.asp

And for newts and frogs especially it is important that there is one side of the pond with a very gradual slope into the water, also in dry periods resist the urge to fill the pond. Some species need areas of mud to be exposed to air, remember that in nature ponds sometimes dry out completely for some time.

Another thing to bear in mind is that overhanging branches are good for a pond, so are sunken branches and general underwater clutter. It may not look what we expect a healthy pond to look like but a pond with half of the underwater space taken up with submerged dead branches offers lots of spaces for wildlife to hide. Ponds in nature are rarely crystal clear.

I love ponds me.
 
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