Cornwall frog spawn sightings kick-start national survey

12th January 2024

A sighting of frog spawn in a large puddle near St Ives in Cornwall on 21st December is the first record to be added to an annual national survey.

Led by national wildlife conservation charity Freshwater Habitats Trust, the PondNet Spawn Survey maps sightings of Common Frog and Common Toad spawn across the country to identify Priority Ponds and highlight how amphibians use different types of waterbodies to breed.

The early record from St Ives  was followed by another from a garden pond in the village of Lesnewth in the Valency Valley, North Cornwall, on Christmas Eve.

Freshwater Habitats Trust has been collecting data on sightings of breeding frogs and toads since 2012. Each year since then, people across the country have got involved by recording spawn they have spotted in their garden or community ponds, or in the countryside. Every record is added to a national database, which is made available for research and conservation purposes. 

Common Frogs in pond mating with spawn.

Anyone can upload PondNet Spawn Survey data, adding a grid reference, the nearest postcode or using the What3Words app, on the Freshwater Habitats Trust website. The charity is also encouraging people to share photographs of frog and toad spawn they have spotted on social media, using the hashtag #SpawnSurvey. 

Peter Forse added the record from North Cornwall on 24th December. He said: “I’ve been in the Valency Valley for 50 years and, as a lover of amphibians and reptiles, it’s always a highlight to see the first frogspawn of the year – a harbinger of spring.

“I was surprised to find frog spawn before Christmas this year, another of the noticeable signs of climate change that we are seeing here in Cornwall. I really worry that these marvelous but vulnerable creatures, which I’ve found magical since I was a child, will not be there for future generations of young people to discover.”

Freshwater Habitats Trust Technical Director Dr Naomi Ewald said: “It’s always exciting to see the first entries to our PondNet Spawn Survey and we’re very grateful to everyone who adds their records.

“The fact that the first sightings were in a puddle and a garden pond highlight how these amphibians use a variety of small waterbodies to breed. Frogs and toads are amphibians that live on land for much of the year, but rely on having access to ponds and other waterbodies.

“Around 80% of the freshwater environment is made up of smaller waters and they provide vital habitat for amphibians, including the Common Toad, which is now classed as an ‘at-risk’ species.  Ponds which support breeding populations of Common Toad qualify as Priority Ponds, a statutory definition to identify and protect the most threatened habitats requiring conservation action.

Peter Forse Cornwall Common Frog spawn sighting of 2024 standing next to pond.

“Pond habitats are a critically important but undervalued part of the freshwater network. Together, they support more biodiversity than large waterbodies and, because they are easier to create and restore, represent an opportunity for us to provide habitats for wildlife as we adapt to climate change.”

The PondNet Spawn Survey is just one of the volunteering opportunities running over the winter and early spring . Freshwater Habitats Trust has a range of easy to access volunteering opportunities for people to help them get outdoors over the Winter months and make a difference for freshwater wildlife and habitats.

Map of first Cornwall spawn sightings 2024.