We all remember the birds in the cold. I know my mum swears they give her evils through the window if she’s late with the morning suet but how often do we spare a thought for the poor frogs over the winter time?
Generally our garden ponds are pretty quiet in winter. The plants don’t grow very much. Toads and most adult newts will be hanging out under logs, buried in mud or in compost heaps only to appear on the sunniest days (Click here for more advice on winter quarters in your garden for these animals). A few baby newts may overwinter in the water but most will have lost their gills in the autumn and returned to land. Many frogs however will be buried in the mud at the bottom of the pond breathing happily through their skin (how cool is that!?). They may occasionally also show themselves on warmer days.
So how can we make sure that our most treasured amphibian stays safe amongst the ooze?
Firstly, it is important to note that no matter what you do, some animals will die. Hopefully, by following these simple tips you can limit the numbers, but death is a fact of life and winter is often when animals are put to the greatest test. The majority of ponds won’t freeze solid even in the coldest weather. As long as your pond is more than 10cm deep, it should still contain liquid water at the bottom so you don’t need to worry that Kermit has found a new vocation as a novelty ice cube.
Prolonged freezing stops gases from moving in and out of the ponds and can lead to a lack of oxygen and build up of toxic gases as plants decompose. The best thing you can do about this is to clear any snow from the ice so light can reach the submerged plants and they can continue to produce oxygen. This will also make the pond easier to see and avoid for any young children (or carefree adults) making snowmen. You could also create a hole in the ice by leaving a pan of hot water to slowly melt through or leave a ball floating in the water. If you make the hole at the edge of the pond it has the added benefit of making drinking water available for other wildlife. I am sure it goes without saying, but please don’t put antifreeze or salt in the pond. It is also not a good idea to smash the ice as shards can damage your liner and the shockwaves can kill animals in the water.
So that’s it really. Clear the snow and make a hole and your frogs will stay comfortable and safe over the cold months. If you do find lots of dead frogs in your garden in the spring it is likely to be just winter kill, but do check out disease pages if you think it may be due to a disease and you can record this and send it to us through the Garden Wildlife Health project.