As the days begin to shorten and night time temperatures fall, amphibians and reptiles will start to look for places to spend the winter. Amphibians, such as common toads, frogs and newts will seek out secluded places to spend the colder months. They will often enter gardens and find their way into piles of leaves, loose soil, areas of long grass and other dense scrub or vegetation. Amphibians will commonly enter gardens in the autumn even if there is not a pond nearby. Most species will move several hundred metres from their breeding ponds in search of suitable terrestrial habitats. Therefore, if you come across an amphibian whilst tidying up your garden in the autumn, do not be concerned.
Loose soil is ideal for common toads, frogs and newts which will bury themselves up to a depth of 30 cm beneath the surface.
By early October most of our reptile species will have entered their winter hibernation. The majority of the UKs reptile species will have favoured hibernating sites but some, particularly slow-worms, common lizards and grass snakes, will make use of piles of dead logs, leaves or compost for the winter. It is important that reptiles are not disturbed during their hibernation period since it takes them longer to recover if they have to become active.
Long grass and dense scrub is ideal for hibernating common lizards.
Here are some actions you can take this autumn to help amphibians and reptiles in your garden:
- Leave piles of leaves in a secluded area of your garden for amphibians, grass snakes and slow-worms to seek refuge and hibernate.
- Avoid burning and disturbing piles of dead leaves and other vegetation – these are ideal habitat for amphibians and reptiles to spend the winter months.
- Provide areas of loose soil which amphibians will bury into and spend the winter. Being able to bury beneath the frost zone is important for their winter survival.
- Leave some dense long grass or shrubs in your garden for amphibians and common lizards to seek refuge.
- Loose paving slabs and wooden boards are ideal for amphibians – leave these on top of loose soil to provide the best habitat.
- Avoid too much tidying up of your garden – some wilder areas will provide very suitable habitats for amphibians and reptiles.
- Try building a hibernacula: pile up logs and stones, then add soil to fill in the gaps (see below). You can even bury these into the ground and plant flowers in the soil on top. Click here to find our activity sheet on how to do this.
This hibernacula will be very suitable for a range of amphibian and reptile species including common frogs, toads, newts and grass snakes.