Adult female Common Toad

In the UK we have two species of native frog, the Common Frog and the Pool Frog. There are also at least two species of non-native Green Frog that are breeding here and these are the Marsh Frog and the Perez's Frog. The UK has two species of native toad, the Common Toad and the Natterjack Toad, as well as the introduced Midwife Toad. The UK has also previously seen introduced breeding populations of the European Tree Frog, however it is believed that most, if not all of the Tree Frog populations have now gone extinct. 

There are three native newt species in the UK. the Common / Smooth Newt, the Palmate Newt and the larger Great Crested Newt. We also have breeding populations of the non-native Alpine Newt.


The Common Toad    (Bufo bufo)

The Common Toad grows to around 10-13cm in length for females and 8cm for the smaller males. They can be recognised by their warty granular skin. Common Toads can live for up to 40 years in captivity, but in the wild they have an average lifespan of 10-12 years. Their main predators are the grass snake and hedgehogs which unlike most predators are not put off by the irritant fluids secreted from the toad's skin. These toxins are also found in the tadpole stage of the Common Toad too. Common Toads are also hunted by Badgers, Brown Rats and many birds including Herons, Corvids, Raptors. Corvids are known to specifically target the internal organs of frogs and toads and it is common for these amphibians to be found dead with puncture wounds to their sides after being killed by corvids.


The Common Toad returns years after year to the same breeding pond at the end of winter, usually around February or March. Toads generally prefer larger, deeper ponds to the Common Frog. On a damp evening when the night time temperatures are around 7 degrees or higher the toads simultaneously begin their mass exodus back to the pond. Males generally arrive first and females arrive shortly after. Many will pair up before they reach the pond. Breeding occurs for about a week and spawn is laid in long double strings of jelly-coated eggs. Once mating has finished the toads will leave the pond and begin their journey to their feeding grounds. Common Toads are frequently encountered in gardens and woodlands.                   



Common Toads are most active at night and prefer warm damp nights where they will go out in search of insects, slugs and earthworms to feed on. Common Toads have shorter legs then Common Frogs and tend to walk rather than hop as they travel across land.



 

Studies have shown that Common Toads appear to be able to sense the approach of an earthquake and have been known to quickly evacuate an area just days before an attack.





In February - April, at the first signs of Spring approaching, adult toads begin their migration to the breeding site. This often means having to cross busy roads on their way and many fail to survive the journey. One possible solution is to construct 'toad tunnels' beneath our roads to allow the travelling toads safe passage.







 






How can you tell the difference between a Common Frog and a Common Toad?
From a distance the two species are often confused but there are plenty of keys to separating the two species. The most obvious difference is the skin. Toads have dry, warty skin when compared to the smooth skin of the frog. Toads tend to walk along, whereas frogs tend to jump. Frogs also have far longer back legs than the toad, which allows them to jump so well.
Toads have a swelling behind the eyes, which is the parotoid glands, responsible for producing the toad's irritant excretion they use in defence. Frogs usually look far slimmer and more athletic than the stocky toads. Frogs also have more a pointed face in comparison to the blunter and broader face of the toad. Common Frogs have a dark eye-stripe on either side of their head that is not found on toads. Frogs tend to have more yellow / golden eyes when compared to the more orange eyes of the toad. Toads are only found in water during the brief breeding season in the spring but frogs are rarely too far away from fresh water.








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The Common Frog   (Rana temporaria)

The Common Frog is found right across the UK. It is also found right across Europe even into the Arctic Circle.  Living for around 7-8 years the common frog could exist in numbers of up to 8 million in Great Britain but research suggests that this number could be falling.



Building a pond with shallow areas in your garden usually attracts breeding frogs within 2 or 3 years if the conditions are right.




Attracting frogs into your garden by building a pond  is a great way to control the numbers of slugs and snails without the use of harmful pesticides.  Frogs often lay thousands of eggs in their frog-spawn during early Spring.  This vast number of eggs is necessary as only a handful out of every few thousand eggs will mature to adult breeding frogs.




Most adult Common Frogs are between 6-9cm in length. Some can be considerably larger especially the females which are usually bigger than the males.



 

The frogs ability to breath through its skin enables it to hibernate at the bottom of ponds beneath mud and rotting leaves for several months if necessary. The Common frog is mostly terrestrial outside of the mating season and can be found in gardens, woodlands and grassy fields but usually not too far from water.









 

It is widely believed that Common Frogs have the ability to lighten or darken their skin over time in order to match their surroundings. There are claims that Common Frogs also have the ability to change colour as well as shade but to what degree is unproven at the moment.




 

The skin colour of the Common Frog can vary from grey-green-yellow-brown. Occasionally reddish examples like these are found but these seem to be more common in Scotland than the rest of the UK.



 






 






 






 






 










Adult female Common Frog looking notably swollen with eggs. Photographed at night in the rain in my garden in SE London, 16th November 2020








Sub-adult Common Frog. Photographed hunting for slugs and worms amidst the autumnal leaves at night in the rain in my garden in SE London, 16th November 2020.




 

These six Common Frogs were all residents of my back garden. This photo shows the variation in colours, shades and shapes that Common Frogs can be found in even on the same site.




This female adult Common Frog shows the classic speckled throat as opposed to the plain pale throat found on the male. She also displays rich red / yellow marbling on her belly, and granulated flanks which are smooth on males. This granulated skin may assist male frogs to secure on embrace during the mating process.




 

An adult male Common Frog.




Young Common Frog

At 17mm in length this Common Frog had only left the pond 3 months ago. Young frogs are usually only around 20mm in length when they hibernate for the first time.







It's important to have over-hanging vegetation around one end of any garden pond to enable froglets and toadlets to climb out of the pond for the first time when they are ready.




A tiny froglet sitting on a lilly-pad in my garden pond, ready to leave the pond for the first time. June 14th 2020.







A tiny froglet sitting on a lilly-pad in my garden pond. 
Some of the froglets had been hanging around my pond for two weeks after emerging from the water for the first time.  June 20th 2020.







This tiny froglet was only 8mm in length and had just left the pond water for the first time. Juvenile frogs may hang around the edge of the pond on floating vegetation for some time before dispersing onto dry land.




Common Frog - Froglets, photographed underwater.

With both front and back legs now fully developed and the tadpole now beginning to take on the shape of the adult frog it won't be long before these froglets start to leave the pond.






Common Frog Tadpole, photographed underwater.

Tadpoles develop their hind legs first, and then the front legs. When all four limbs are fully developed the tail will start to shrink. Once the tail has almost disappeared the newly developed froglets are ready to leave the pond and begin their terrestrial life.







15-20mm Common Frog Tadpoles at 5 weeks. Photographed underwater.







Common Frog tadpoles at 3 weeks old, feeding on the last of the jelly from the spawn.







Common Frog tadpoles at 17 days old, feeding on the last of the jelly from the spawn.







One of 12 male Common Frogs attempting to mate with just 2 female Common Frogs in my 3 year old garden pond in 2019. 

In 2019 the first two weeks of February were very mild and dry with daytime temperatures of 14 - 21 degrees. Once the nighttime temperatures reached 7 degrees the first male Common Frogs started appearing in my pond to accompany the Smooth Newts that started appearing at the end of January. Heavy rain on the 28th February brought the amphibians out in good numbers and on the 1st March I had 8 male frogs, 2 female frogs, one clump of frogspawn and 6 Smooth Newts in the pond. On 2nd March I had 12 - 13 male frogs, 1 - 2 female frogs, at least 2 clumps of frogspawn and 6 Smooth Newts in the pond. By 3rd March the temperatures had dropped and in the blink of an eye all the frogs had left the pond and vanished. 




Another of the 12 male Common Frogs attempting to mate with just 2 female Common Frogs in my 3 year old garden pond in 2019.







Adult male Common Frogs February 28th 2019






Adult male Common Frog February 28th 2019






Adult male Common Frogs February 28th 2019






Adult male Common Frogs February 28th 2019






Adult male Common Frogs February 28th 2019






Adult male Common Frogs February 28th 2019






Adult male Common Frog February 28th 2019






This adult female Common Frog was the first to discover my newly created garden pond in 2016.



 

In 2020 the frogs arrived at my garden pond on the 15th February and over the following week deposited 8 clumps of spawn.








In 2021 the first of the male frogs arrived at my garden pond on the 16th February. Female frogs joined them by the 24th February. 
By 28th February I had 18 male and two female frogs in the pond and around 10 clumps of spawn deposited. Two days later and the frogs had all left the pond.







Adult Common Frogs on a mass of frogspawn in my garden pond 28th February 2021.









The sound of male Common Frogs croaking during the breeding season.







Just 17 days later the spawn had developed into a mass of tiny 6mm wriggling tadpoles.

It's interesting to observe that even at this very early stage in the frog's development the tadpoles already exhibit a variety of different colours and shades. At this stage the tadpoles stay with the nutrient-rich jelly of the spawn, from which they are still feeding from.







Click here for:  Amphibians Page 2




 All photos on this page were taken using the Canon 40D Camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L  Macro IS USM lens