Specieswatch: wet winter is good news for the common frog

Britain’s most recognisable amphibian has had a rough few years because of dry winters

The copious rain all over the UK this winter is good news for the common frog (Rana temporaria). Our most seen and recognisable amphibian has had a rough couple of years, at least in the south, because dry winters and warm early summer weather dried up many of its natural breeding sites leaving tadpoles stranded. The frog is still relatively common only because it has moved into urban areas and breeds readily in garden ponds. Out in the country, the combination of farmers filling in ponds and poisoning ditches and other breeding places by overusing fertiliser and pesticides means that many cereal-growing areas are now without frogs at all.

The species started breeding in the far south-west this month and, as the weather warms, their spawn can be found during February and March gradually spreading further east and north. The timing of the rush to the breeding ponds is driven by warmth, so the climate crisis and mild winters have moved this process forward by as much as three to four weeks since 1990. The warming has also confused frogs. They once seemed to have a common signal about when to arrive at a particular pond. Now pioneers and stragglers turn up to spawn at different times, making breeding success ever more chancy.

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