As the weather warms up there are signs of spring starting to appear all around us. One of the most iconic of these is frogspawn in our local ponds. With our froggy (and toady!) friends getting frisky across the country, we’ve had lots of enquiries about breeding and spawning behaviour and about the resulting spawn.

Common frogs usually breed earliest, spawning in south-west England, south Wales and southern Ireland sometimes as early as January. Then breeding spreads north and east as spring temperatures gradually move across our the country. Common toads ‘normally’ breed at least a few weeks later than frogs, and follow the same pattern. The data shows a trend towards getting breeding starting earlier which is an indicator of a changing climate.

During mild spring evenings, often during or after rain, common toads migrate en masse with waves of animals travelling from their hibernation sites to breeding ponds, ditches and lakes, sometimes travelling up to a kilometre. After breeding, toads gradually return to their previous summer habitats to forage, and will migrate to their hibernation site again in late autumn. Common toads sometimes cross roads as they migrate. Some roads have thousands of animals crossing and, inevitably, traffic can lead to the deaths. See our Common Toads and Roads leaflet for more information.

Male frogs and toads can get a bit over excited at this time of year and will latch on to all manner of things, including fish! You will also sometimes find several males trying to mate with just one female. If you do find one of these ‘mating balls’ you can very gently and carefully separate the ‘spare’ males away from the main pair and return them to their pond. Unfortunately, some females do perish during this time of year and, although this is very sad, it is part of the natural process and completely normal.

Both frogs and toads lay large amounts of spawn but only a small number will survive to develop into tadpoles and even fewer to adults. Any spawn that doesn’t develop should be left in the pond as it will be a great source of food for the remaining tadpoles and other wildlife.

Once the spawn is laid the adults will leave it alone to develop. But which spawn do you have? Frog and toad spawn differs a lot in appearance. The simplest way to tell is that frog spawn forms clumps and toad spawn is laid in strings. Take a look at our Amphibian ID Guide for more information.

If the spawn in your pond is being eaten by fish or birds you could remove it and put it in a tank / container until the tadpoles hatch. You can then return them to your pond or rear the tadpoles on, feeding them on cold water fish flakes, until they grow legs. It is very important that all spawn and tadpoles are returned to their original pond so as not to spread amphibian diseases.

Our friends at Freshwater Habitats Trust (FHT) would love to hear about any spawn you do see. Why not take part in their Spawn Survey? We work together with FHT and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK to build a better picture of what’s happening across the county and to improve the advice and support we give. You can also record you adult amphibian sightings on the Record Pool.

If you have further questions about spawn, tadpoles or amphibians in general please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions section