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16 October 2014

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Give a helping hand to amphibians...


Frogs about to spawn, Mike Hartwell.

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As amphibians are jumping at the chance to get hot under the collar with their cold-blooded mates, garden owners are being urged to pull on their wellies and get digging to help our common frog and newt, remain, well common.

Kelly Muldoon from the Ulster Wildlife Trust explains: “As the weather warms ups, frogs and newts are starting to make their way en masse to the nearest pond to breed – but it’s not always plain sailing. Almost 70% of natural ponds were lost during the last century and of the few that remain, only a shocking 8% are in good condition. What’s more, once beetles, fish and birds have had their fill of irresistible tadpoles, only a handful will make it to adulthood."

Here are the Ulster Wildlife Trust’s top tips on how to help maximise their chances:

Make a wildlife pond
When creating a pond, choose a flat sunny spot in the garden away from overhanging trees. Dig a deep section (around 1m) in which amphibians can hibernate and provide lots of shallow water (less than 20cm deep) in which to spawn. Make sure the pond is watertight and ideally fill it with rainwater.

Don’t put fish in your pond
Goldfish might look pretty but they’ll quickly finish off tadpoles and frogspawn, and even tiny sticklebacks are likely to prevent newts from breeding. If you want a healthy population of amphibians, forget fish.

Plant wisely
A wide variety of native underwater plants will ensure a successful pond. Particular favourites for breeding amphibians include water starwort, water forget-me-not and water mint. Avoid non-native species such as floating pennywort and Australian swamp stonecrop as they can take over ponds completely, leaving them choked-up and lifeless.

Never move spawn, tadpoles or wetland plants between ponds
Although it’s tempting, it’s best not to introduce pond life yourself as you could spread amphibian diseases such as red-leg virus, which can wipe out entire frog populations locally or transfer invasive aquatic plant species by mistake.

Let your grass grow
Amphibians love to head straight for the cover of long grass after a swim, so let it grow nearby. You could even make a wood pile or a rockery - shelter from which they can emerge to hunt for slugs, snails and invertebrates.

No garden, no problem!
If you don’t have space for a pond, don’t despair – make a mini container pond instead. Simply fill half a barrel or sink with water, stock with some native water plants and pile up some stones in a corner right up to the edge, so animals can easily climb in and out.

more from the Ulster Wildlife Trust>>
Last year's frog fest >>

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