Toads versus frogs at St Cyrus NNR

Frogs and toads clearly have a lot in common. For many, if not most of us, trying to tell the difference between the two is as confusing as being introduced to identical twins, called Anna and Hanna. But not for much longer because Therese Alampo, Manager of St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, has been studying the reserve’s awesome amphibians…

I will be doing my best to bring nature to followers of the our St Cyrus NNR Facebook page over the coming weeks through pictures and a scribble! After the new measures announced recently, I know how important it will be for many of those who aren’t lucky enough to live within walking distance of an NNR to remain connected. Many of the photos may have been taken from my garden or from my hard drive, as I too am staying at home and will miss the reserve very much.

#StayHome and #StaySafe.

And now for the Toads!

The first picture is entitled ‘Wildlife Selfies‘ as this toad took advantage of our photographer in residence, Pauline Smith putting her camera down and when she returned the toad was posing for a selfie! It’s so full of character!

Wildlife selfie - common toad - by Pauline Smith

Wildlife Selfies (C)Pauline Smith

The Common Toad (Bufo bufo) breeds a little later than the common frog and prefers deeper pools to breed in. Famous for travelling long distances to their ancestral pools to spawn after spending the winter buried in the soil, compost heaps, piles of logs, plant pots, pretty much any nice dark, protected nook or cranny! Look out for their long strings of spawn, two eggs thick, a very obvious contrast to frogs who lay a shapeless mass of spawn.

After spawning they spend much of their time on dry land, feeding on snails and slugs, a great friend to have around your veggie patch and common out and about on the reserve.

Toad (C)Pauline Smith

Toad – warts and all, (C)Pauline Smith

They release toxins from glands on their neck/shoulders that deter predators. If your dog has ever had an unsuspecting encounter with a toad you may have seen them re-coiling and sometimes even frothing at the mouth if they had tried to pick them up.

The toad has characteristic warty skin and shorter legs for crawling and short hops rather than the frog’s elegant jumps! So, a very different creature to the smooth shiny frog pictured below.

Versus frogs.

Common frog by Pauline Smith

Don’t be fooled – that’s not frog poop! (C)Pauline Smith

What a gorgeous lady in breeding colours! Always lovely to see them out and about after a long winter’s hibernation. The common frog (Rana temporaria) is our earliest amphibian to spawn, often taking advantage of breeding pools that may dry up in the summer. Wet, smooth skin and long jumping legs are easy ways to differentiate between the warty, often dry skin and short hopping or crawling legs of the common toad. The females are quite rosy and vivid at this time of year, while the males are often paler around the throat and generally greyer.


Frog or toad? (C)Pauline Smith

She will lay up to 2000 eggs, usually in the middle of a massive scrum of male frogs, one tightly clutching her around the waist in prize position, making full use of the specially developed nuptial pads on their toes to help keep a tight grip! Whilst this male will fertilise most of the eggs, the other males will likely manage a few too.

Females usually hibernate out of water in rabbit holes and nooks and crannies and males will often hibernate in the breeding pools to give them a better chance during mating, luring the females in with their loud croaking. Individuals will often return to the same pool they were born in year after year making the journey overland and often road.


Croakfusion! An overly eager frog holding on to a toad. (C) Pauline Smith

Take care when driving on warm damp nights and try not to squash them on the roads as they migrate. All the very best to all of you and stay inspired – if you do have a pond what a brilliant time of year to study it!

A big thanks to Pauline Smith for these photos!

🙂 Therese

You can follow Therese and see more of Pauline’s photos on the St Cyrus NNR Facebook page.

This entry was posted in amphibians, biodiversity, photography, Reptiles, St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.