Wildlife - Amphibian Surveys


Species Identification: Newts

  • Palmate Newt
    • adults up to 9cm in length
    • smooth skin that is brown, green, or grey
    • yellow belly, commonly with dark spots, and an unspotted pink or yellow throat
    • during the breeding season males develop a filament at the tip of their tail and black webbing on their back feet
  • Great-crested Newt
    • adults up to 15cm
    • skin black or dark brown with rough 'warty' appearance
    • males have a crest along their backs which is more pronounced during breeding season
    • males have a white flash along the centre of their tail and the females have a yellow/orange flash
    • 'warts' along the side of hte body may have white tips
    • largest newt species in the UK
  • Smooth Newt
    • up to 10cm in length as adults
    • skin varying shades of grey or brown
    • males develop wavy crest during breeding season
    • belly yellow or orange, usually with black spots and/or blotches
    • throat is spotted
    • males have white flash along bottom of their tail
1 of 15

Species Identification: Frogs

  • Common Frog
    • males grow up to 9cm, females grow up to 13cm
    • usually a shade of olive-green or brown
      • can be yellow, pink, red, lime-green, cream or black
    • dark patches on back, stripes on hind legs
    • a dark 'mask' behind the eye
    • oval, horizontal pupil
    • call: soft repetitive croak
  • Pool Frog
    • adult females up to 9cm, males significantly smaller
    • brown or green with dark blotches across back and cream or yellow dorsal stripe
    • pair of ridges run from eyes down the back
    • vocal sacs visible either side of mouth of breeding males
    • oval, horizontal pupil
    • call: loud call, often likened to ducks quacking or rapid laughter
2 of 15

Species Identification: Toads

  • Common Toad
    • adult males grow up to 8cm long, females up to 13cm
    • brown or olive-brown but may be darker
    • belly usually pale with dark speckles
    • skin is 'warty' and relatively dry
    • oval, horizontal pupil 
    • many individuals have golden iris
    • tend to crawl rather than hop 
    • call: high-pitched, rough 'qwark-qwark-qwark'
  • Natterjack Toad
    • adults up to 8cm in length
    • green, brown, or cream
    • dark 'warts' on their backs often with yellow or red tips
    • obvious pale fream/yellow stripe along back
    • green iris with oval, horizontal pupil
    • short legs
    • run rather than walk or hop
    • poor swimmers
    • call: loud, rasping, rolling croak 'err...err...err'
      • can be heard 2km away on quiet nights


3 of 15


  • a 'refugia' is a location which supports an isolated or relict population of a once more widespread species
  • must identify and protect refugia
  • huge variation in the ecological needs and habitats of different species of protected amphibians and reptiles
  • creation on amphibian and reptile hibernacula gives many inverts suitable habitat
4 of 15

When to Look for Amphibians

  • most active during the breeding season (generally March to May)
  • in and around standing water
  • over summer and into early autumn may take shelter on land during the day
  • come out to feed at night
  • may occassionaly revisit ponds
  • winter amphibians will find a deeper frost free shelter in order to hibernate
5 of 15

Where to Look for Amphibians

  • require standing water for breeding
  • any suitable pond or ditch
  • shelter beneath rocks, logs or in crevices
  • need protection from predators
  • protection from exposure in colder months
6 of 15

How to Look for Amphibians

  • visual searches
    • daytime walk around pond edges and surrounding terrestrial habitat
    • could be in the water, under refuges
    • newt eggs on submerged plants (April to May)
    • spawn (March to April)
    • 'green' frogs stay close to water
    • poo and prints difficult to spot
  • netting in ponds
    • net with rigid frame and mesh of approx. 2mm
    • net from bank, do not overreach
    • stop every two metres
    • inspect catch within net
    • avoid handling animals and return to water quickly
  • torching
    • newts most active after dark
    • need a torch with a range of 500,000 to 1 million candlepower
    • should be searched by torchlight from banks 
    • move slowly and torch approx. every 2 metres
    • peak counts used to estimate population size
    • ideal torching weather would be air temperature of 5 degrees Celsius or warmer, no wind, and water temperature ideally 10 degrees Celsius or higher
7 of 15

Searching for Newt Eggs

  • conducted in April and May
  • Inspect submerged aquatic plants or artificial egg laying *****s carefully
  • look for folded leaves/*****s where newts have laid eggs
  • carefully unfold a leaf/***** to see if it contains a white/yellowish egg or a grey/brownish egg
  • unfold a minimum number of leaves/*****s necessary
  • stop immediately if you find great crested newt eggs, as you need a license to survey this species
  • Artificial egg *****s
    • install egg *****s in groups of five
    • useful if there is little suitable vegetation
    • separate groups by 1 to 2 metres
    • remove *****s in August/September
    • make egg ***** cut back black or green bin bag across the joined sides to create *****s about 30mm deep. Cut off one of the joined sides and then cut lengthways into 1-2cm wide *****s up to about 50mm from the remaining joined side. You should end up with a ***** with a fringe of long tassels wrap this around the end of a stick and secure with a staple.
8 of 15

How often to Survey

  • Daytime:
    • March - April: spawn count for common frogs and toads
    • April - June: egg searches for newts
    • May - June: visual/call searches for introduced water/green frogs
    • March - September: Refugia searching
  • Night-time:
    • March - June: torching for all amphibians, particularly newts
    • July - September: torching for newt larvae
9 of 15

Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita)

  • RSPB Mersehead
  • distinctive yellow stripe
  • only sand loving amphibian
  • only found in a few areas nationwide
  • smaller than common toads
  • recorded calls stimulate breeding behaviours
  • greenish iridescent eyes
  • During WW2 bombings many people moved to the habitat of the natterjack toad, driving them out
  • April and May is the breeding season
  • Lay black eggs in strings in the water
10 of 15

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

  • huge lakes on the edge of the New Forest
    • house breeding for Common Toads
  • perfect conditions are 6 degrees Celsius or above, either raining or damp
  • lots of toads get killed on roads
  • toads will travel 3-4 kilometres to the place where they spawned
  • males may start their journey a few weeks before females
  • mild winter of 2016 caused the males to migrate earlier and were waiting for months before females arrived
  • toad population fallen by 2/3 since 1980s
    • caused by habitat fragmentation and destruction
11 of 15

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

  • when the temperature reaches 5-degrees Celsius, male common frogs emerge from hibernation to enter ponds
    • many hatched in the same pond 3 or 4 years ago
  • rough pads on male's forearms allow him to grip to the female
  • predated by grey herons
  • frogs appeared 250,000,000 years ago
  • ranaviruses were introduced to the UK from overseas and have had a negative impact on frog populations
    • cause internal bleeding, ulcers, and loss of limbs
    • in some cases can be fatal
  • in just over a decade, 81% of frog populations in infected ponds disappeared
    • 20% of cases of ranavirus caused by human behaviour
    • pollution and climate change promote the spread of ranavirus as higher temperatures allow disease to thrive
12 of 15

Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae)

  • A species native to the UK, but previously thought to be extinct until recently introduced.
  • English pool frogs belonged to a distinct, and exceedingly rare, northern group of Pool Frogs, also found in Sweden and Norway.
  • As the male calls the vocal sacs extend either side of its mouth.
  • The male makes an almost whirring call. 
13 of 15

Biosecurity: Invasive Plants

·        Invasive plants include Nuttall’s pondweed (Elodea nuttallii), Canadian waterweed (Elodea canadensis), Curly waterweed (Lagarosiphon major), Water Ferns (Azolla filiculoides), New Zealand Pygmyweed (Crassula helmsii), Flowering Water Primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora), Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides), Parrot’s feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum)

14 of 15

Biosecurity: Chytridiomycosis

  • Also known as chytrid.
  • Has been found to affect all native amphibians to varying degrees.
  • Caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (often referred to as Bd or chytrid fungus)
  • Grows on the amphibian’s skin causing problems with respiration and water uptake.
  • Can often affect emerging juveniles.
  • A new chytrid fungus affecting salamanders has recently been found in continental Europe and captive populations.
15 of 15


No comments have yet been made

Similar Other resources:

See all Other resources »See all Animal Management resources »