This weekend (17-18th March) another cold spell of weather has been forecast by the Met Office with further outbreaks of snow and widespread freezing conditions. By now, many common frogs, common toads as well as newts will have made their way to breeding ponds and are at risk from sudden periods of cold weather. Adults in ponds, as well as those migrating towards breeding areas, are prone to winterkill which has already caused a high incidence of mortality in common frogs this year. In addition, spawn laid by common frogs and toads is prone to freezing in hard frosts. Reptiles are at less of a risk since the majority have not yet emerged from hibernation and breeding does not commence until later in the year.
To help common frogs and toads during periods of cold weather there are a few actions that you can take. First, if you have a garden pond, periodically break any ice on the surface to promote oxygen exchange. This will allow amphibians to survive in the water beneath the ice. Second, you can try floating a small object e.g. tennis ball, in the water which prevents ice formation. However, this only works in moderate frosts and in severely cold weather, breaking the ice is the only option. Third, provide piles of leaves or areas of dense vegetation and scrub close to your garden pond as this will provide areas for amphibians to take refuge during periods of cold weather. If you have frog spawn, the upper portions may freeze, but the spawn which is underwater should survive. However, if you have a very small pond and/or it is shallow and prone to freezing throughout, you can temporarily place your frog spawn into a bucket of water and place in a garage, or similar place, out of the freezing conditions. Once the cold weather has passed, ensure that you return the spawn to the original place within the same pond to allow it to continue to develop.
NB: The majority of reptiles have not yet emerged from hibernation