Spring in the City: Frogspawn season

breeding toads

Every spring, thousands of frogs and toads leave their over-wintering sites and begin the journey back to their birthplace to reproduce. 

Migration can occur at any time between January and April, but frogs and toads generally emerge after a spell of damp, mild weather.  Toads gather en masse to return their ancestral ponds to take part in their courtship, which last a couple of weeks. Once the spawn is laid, the adults depart. By July, after spending late spring and summer developing, the tadpoles are ready to leave the water and make their way onto dry land. 

Hundreds of frogs and toads spring into action at the Centre for Wildlife Gardening.

Video by Daniel Greenwood

Common frog

Common frog

Common frog credit Daniel Greenwood

The common frog (Rana temporaria) breeds in ponds during the spring and spends much of the rest of the year feeding in woodland, gardens, hedgerows and tussocky grassland. It varies in colour from green to brown and even red or yellow and has smooth skin, a dark 'mask' behind the eye and long back legs, covered in dark bands. It hops and jumps rather than walks.

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Common toad

Common toad

Common toad at Centre for Wildlife Gardening credit Daniel Greenwood

Like frogs, the common toad (bufo bufo) breeds in ponds during the spring. They are known for their mass migrations back to their breeding ponds on the first warm, damp evenings of the year and  tend to breed in larger, deeper ponds than common frogs.. They hibernate over winter, often under log piles, stones or even in old flower pots!

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Frogspawn or toadspawn? How to tell the difference


Frogspawn is laid in big, jelly-like clumps. Spawning takes place during early spring, sometimes starting in the South East as early as January.

Tadpoles take up to sixteen weeks to grow back legs, followed by the front legs. Then they begin to metamorphose into froglets, leaving the water in early summer. As tadpoles grow, they become speckled with a gold/brown colouration.

Close up on frogspawn in pond

Image by Krisz Feteke


Toadspawn is laid like a long strings of eggs. Toads take up to 16 weeks to grow legs, much like frogs. Once their tails are fully absorbed, the toadlets leave the pond, usually after rain. Toad tadpoles are jet-black and may swim in shoals.

Toad in pond with toadspawn

Image: Linda Pitkin/2020VISION

Did you know?

Frogs have the ability to breathe through their skin, which lets them stay underwater without drowning for prolonged periods.

Busy roads often block migration paths for toads, making it difficult for them to reach their ancestral breeding ponds. It is estimated that 20 tonnes of toads are sadly killed on the UK’s roads every year. 

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