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It’s that time of year again for frogs

February is the start of the amphibian breeding season, and wildlife charity ASPAS says this is a great opportunity to teach children about their lifecycle. Many amphibians live mainly in woods and gardens, migrating several kilometres to lay their eggs in water.

The easiest way to tell frogs and toads apart is by their skin. Frogs have smoother, slightly moist skin and toads have dry, thicker, more crusty-looking skin.

Having laid their eggs, amphibians leave the water. On land they tend to seek out shady places during the day, only coming out to feed on insects in the evening.

Frogs’ eggs are laid in a mass, and toads’ eggs are in long chains. They then hatch as tadpoles (têtards) – frog tadpoles start off black but gradually become mottled brown, whereas toad tadpoles remain black.

Once their legs have developed, their heads become distinct from their bodies, their eyes transform and grow eyelids, and their tales shrink until finally they are ready to leave the water and start their lives as adults on land.

Frogs and toads are valuable links in the ecological chain, being both prey and predators. Being extremely sensitive to pollution, they are also good bio-indicators: if there are frogs and toads in a pond, it is in good organic health.

Threatened by road traffic, pollution and habitat loss, as well as habitat fragmentation (for example, a train line built across a marshy area) they are under pressure. In your garden, help them by building dry stone walls, and leaving piles of stones, and broken, upturned flower pots in shady corners.

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