The recent warm spell brought the first sightings of frog spawn in Bedfordshire, but amateur recorders have expressed alarm at the state of breeding sites. Last year’s drought and relatively low winter rainfall has left many favoured ditches and ponds less than half full.
With East Anglia, Devon and Cornwall still in official drought status after last year’s heatwave and inadequate winter rainfall, there have already been warnings that a dry spring or hot spell this summer could mean disaster for farmers and homegrown crops. Wildlife would also suffer.
River levels in these areas are already well below the seasonal norm, which concentrates pollution and is bad news for fish, but for amphibians, particularly frogs, it is the ponds and ditches normally topped up by winter rainfall that are already badly depleted. Even in better years it is often a race against time for tadpoles to turn into miniature frogs before their seasonal ponds and ditches dry up. This year, unless there is an unusually wet spring in the east and south-west, it will be a disastrous breeding year.
Fortunately, wildlife groups and suburban gardeners are increasingly aware of the declining populations of frogs, newts and toads and are providing new habitats – the most important being our garden ponds.