Common Frog Rana temoraria
Compared to toads they are smooth skinned, no toxic glands. More athletic, leaping about when netted. Dark spot behind eye is the eardrum. Nose is more pointed than in the toad. Front legs tend to be swollen and the hind legs have stripe markings. Lower pitched call than toads.
Colour variation in frogs
These are all the same species. There is only one native species of frog in the UK.
Left side images represent extreme colour variation, images on the right represent more typical colouring.
Very rarely one can come across albino frogs with red eyes.
Occasional large aggregations in excess of 2000 individuals but usually much less.
Often lay spawn in ephemeral ponds which dry up during summer.
Wide range of pond pH recorded 4.5 to 8.5
Like all amphibians far more active at night time.
Non-native frogs include the North American Bullfrog Lithobates catesbeiana – a prolific breeder which has enormous tadpoles 10cm long! Any found in ponds should be reported. There removal is essential to prevent the native frog from being overwhelmed.
Common Toad Bufo bufo
Compared to frogs toads have rough, warty, skin. The nose is much blunter than the nose of a frog.
Less agile than frogs, only juvenile toads can hop.
Thinner forelimbs than frogs. Coppery coloured eyes.
The warts are the glands where bufotoxin is secreted.
Coppery coloured eyes and warty skin.
A male toad grasps the female during mating – called amplexus.
Mating behaviour of toads
The photograph shows multiple amplexus where a mating ball of male toads is formed all grasping one another, or anything else, for example a fish, in order to try and mate with a female toad.
Toads like frogs need warmish damp conditions to breed – just after rain is ideal. A night air temperature of 10°C will trigger migration to ponds in early spring.
Toad and frog spawn
Toad spawn is easily distinguished from frog spawn by its long stringy mature.
The long strands of toad spawn.
Frog and toad tadpoles
On hatching both species are very dark. As they develop frog tadpoles become mottled with bronze spots whilst toad tadpoles remain almost black. The tadpoles remain in the pond for 2-3 months before they reach metamorph and leave the pond.
Image: Phyl King
Shoal of toad tadpoles
Toad tadpoles tend to shoal and the shoal will often move around the pond as the day progresses to follow the warmest spot of water. In contrast frog tadpoles tend not to shoal and remain close to where they hatched. Becoming more carniverous as they develop.
Newt egg laying
Eggs are laid singularly on aquatic vegetation from March to May. Hundred or more eggs will be laid by one female newt.
Eggs are laid in a piece of folded leaf
Do not disturb the eggs unduly as you risk putting them under stress.
The eggs of the Great Crested Newt are white and enclosed in a large globule of albion. The Smooth and Palmate Newt eggs are smaller and buff coloured – the two cannot be distinguised on apperance.
Smooth Newt (male) Lissotriiton vulgaris
Grows to around 10 cm long. Has a crest but not so large and jagged as the Great Crested Newt. Male has blotches which are coloured orange on the underbelly.
Female Smooth Newt
Very slightly larger than males (10 cm).
Darker colouration with less blotches and no orange on underbelly.
Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus
Largest of the 3 types of newt, growing to around 16 cm.
The male has a large jagged crest, the female does not.
There is a distinct notch between the end of the crest and the tail.
Darker and more uniformly coloured than the smooth newt.
The female has a striking yellow underbelly as a warning that it is mildly toxic, having buffotoxin glands along the side of the body – these appear as white spots.
Palmate Newt (male) Lissitriton helveticus
Male does not develop a crest – rather a low ridge running along the back.
Body has. a boxy – square profile.
Toffee coloured stripe on tail.
Image: Fred Holmes
Palmate Newt (male)
Hind feet with webbing like a ducks foot.
Image on right is a closeup of the tail filament.
Comparison of foot from Palmate and Smooth Newts
On the left the extreme webbing of the Palmate Newt, on the right the foot of a male Smooth Newt which in peak condition can develop skin flaps around the hind toes.
Smooth vs. Palmate female Newts
Female Smooth and Palmate Newts look very similar, so to distinguish them we look under the chin.
The Smooth female Newt has spots under the chin whilst the Palmate female Newt does not. The Palmate also has a pinkish colour underneath. To complicate things, very occasionally, a Smooth female Newt has no spots under the chin, but we can then use the absence of the pink colour to distinguish it from the Palmate.
Immature Great Crested Newts
Most immature newts are terrestrial.
Image on the left an immature Grest Crested Newt.
On the right, occasionally immature Great Crested Newts will venture into the water. Their colour is black at this stage.
Newly-hatched Great Crested Newt larva
During early developmental stages newt larvae can be difficult to differentiate. The larva above is about 1 cm long. The bright yellow colour is not found in the larvae of the Palmate and Smooth Newt.
Image: Phyl King
Great Crested Newt (upper image) has a speckled tail filament with irredescent spots.
The Smooth and Palmate Newt (lower image) cannot be told apart at this stage of development.
Yellow – Great Crested Newt
A metamorph – development stage – if its yellow underneath it will be a Great Crested Newt.
Smooth Newt on land showing characteristic fawny colour unlike the black colour of Great Crested Newts at this stage,
Native grass snake (left image) lives near to water habitats where it feeds on frogs and other amphibians. The Red-eyed terrapin is a non-native species. One siting from Castle Pool in Hereford.