Are there any frogs in the countryside?

Jon’s comment freminds me of something I’ve been meaning to write about – the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme run by our sister charity Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

This project is indirectly providing some of the answers to Jon’s question: just how important are garden ponds for amphibians?

You can still fairly regularly read statements like ‘garden ponds are reckoned to be one of [the Common Frog’s] stongholds‘ or ‘Garden ponds are extremely important for common frogs’ – but the data collected from NARRS (as the survey is known) does make one wonder just how much truth there is in this.

In fact, as you can see here on the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation website, about half of the ponds in the countryside seem to have frogs, with proportionately fewer of the other less widespread species. Given that there are just under half a million ponds in the GB countryside, this is probably quite a lot of frogs!

And if you look on the map of Common Frog distribution on the National Biodiversity Network gateway there’s a fairly clear hint that frogs aren’t only found in towns!

The distribution of the Common Frog (Rana temporaria) - they can't all be in garden ponds! Each red blob shows a 10 x 10 km square of the Ordnance Survey national grid where Common Frogs have been recorded.

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3 Responses to “Are there any frogs in the countryside?”

  1. jonspond Says:

    The problem is that there is no real data on common frogs in countryside ponds. Frogs are recorded as present in garden ponds – but a more useful measure would be peak spawn counts – giving a relative idea of the breeding population.

    The NARRS survey revealed 50% of the 400 ponds surveyed had frogs. Urban garden pond surveys in Essex For example in Rochford, Southend, Uttlesford and Brentwood revealed upwards of 80% of ponds having frogs – but again this is just presence and there is no information on relative population status (spawn clump counts).

    An interesting statistic was the low numbers of great crested newts in ponds lower than 17% and in some cases as low as 8% – interesting comments from the wildlife trust about this ‘common’ species actually being rare in garden ponds (which tend to be unsuitable for cresties).

    I suspect that the opposite is true of the common frog it is assumed to be common in the wider countryside on a local scale when it is in fact declining or being lost altogether.

    There are some large populations of frogs in semi natural ponds in Essex – when I say large people probably would think about thousands of frogs
    I recorded around 300 clumps of spawn in three water bodies – two reasonale sized ponds and in the wheel rutts of motorbikes in a flooded meadow – the majority of the spawn was in the shallow water of the wheel ruts with a much smaller number in the two deeper ponds – the reason possibly the presence of newts – avid predators of tadpoles!

    This is from experience in the East of England. I am not sure whether there is any count data in the NBN dataset – so it would be good for the big pond dip to record the peak numbers of frogs found in ponds during the late winter and spring so this can be compared to any count data from the NARRS survey.

    I am looking forward to the frogs finding my new garden pond next spring as I believe that it is designed to be suitable for frogs to breed successfully – a temporary shallow warm pond

    I went out tonight to look at the pond and I have now got two water beetles in the pond!

  2. jonspond Says:

    On many professional surveys the common frog has a low occupancy in groups of ponds surveyed over the spring.

    One survey which was submitted by a professional consultant fulfiling his obligations under the IEEM professional code of conduct – see paragraph 5.7 http://www.ieem.net/docs/05-Code_of_Professional_Conduct.pdf

    Great crested newts were recorded in 42% while common frogs were recorded in less than 12% of the ponds surveyed.

    Some investigation would be worthwhile considering the UK government’s obligations to the common frog under the EU Habitats Directive – where in some states it is legally protected
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/58734/0

    • Jeremy Biggs Says:

      Hi Jon

      I completely agree that we need a good survey of so iconic an animal – NARRS is certainly a good start.

      Jeremy

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