As we fast approach the spring and our amphibians and reptiles begin to stir after their winter period of relative dormancy (known as brumation) we can expect sightings to increase in frequency. Whilst the occasional pioneering common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) or adder (Vipera berus) will emerge from their hibernacula to bask in winter sun, it’s the UK’s amphibians that bring the most herptile activity to this time of the year. This is reflected in the sightings that have been reported to Froglife’s Dragon Finder App so far in 2023.
At the time of writing (mid-February 2023), we’ve verified 42 reports submitted to the App; 24 sightings of common frogs (Rana temporaria), 6 encounters with common toads (Bufo bufo), 8 palmate newt sightings (Lissotriton helveticus), 2 smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) sightings and 1 sighting of a great-crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and an alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris) respectively.
All this amphibian action heralds the commencement of their breeding season. Common frogs lead the charge; the earliest report of frogspawn this year came to us from the Isles of Scilly, 45km south-west of mainland Cornwall, reported to us on the 9th January yet seen on Christmas Eve! UK common frogs spawn earliest here due to the archipelago’s unique climate – the moderating oceanic influence on which means that winters are warmer there than anywhere else in the UK and consequently snow and frost (potentially detrimental to spawn) are rare. We’ve received a total of 11 frogspawn reports so far in 2023, with the majority of these coming from Devon & Cornwall, reflecting the relatively warm winters experienced by the southwest more broadly. We’re now looking forward to witnessing reports of frogspawn slowly popping up in increasingly northerly and easterly locations as we pass through February and into March and April.
We’ve received 6 reports of common toads, but only one of common toad spawn, reported from Devon. Interestingly, the Dragon Finder App user that made this sighting was also able to spot a number of instances of a frog and toad engaged with one-another in ‘amplexus’, the act of the male using rough nuptial or ‘thumb’ pads to clasp onto the female whilst she deposits spawn. Common toads often begin to migrate to their ancestral breeding ponds from February, waiting for a comparatively warm and wet evening to do so.
Therefore, be sure to keep a keen eye out for reptiles and amphibians as the winter draws to a close and make sure to report your sightings through our free Dragon Finder App – the data we receive provides a wonderful insight into what our species are up to, as well as when and where this activity is occurring. Happy spotting!