“Earliest ever” Scottish frogspawn sighting added to national survey

23rd February 2023

“Earliest ever” Scottish frogspawn sighting added to national survey

An unusually early sighting of frogspawn in Scotland has been added to a national survey after it was spotted in a forest in Three Lochs, near the village of Kirkcowan in Wigtownshire, South West Scotland, on 3rd February. This was the earliest ever Scottish entry to the PondNet Spawn Survey, which is led by national wildlife conservation charity Freshwater Habitats Trust.

The PondNet Spawn Survey maps sightings of Common Frog and Common Toad spawn across the UK to help us learn more about how amphibians use different types of waterbodies to breed. The sighting broke Scottish records by a day: the previous earliest entry to the survey from Scotland was from 4th February 2017, when spawn was found in a garden pond in Ayr.

David Baird, who lives in Kirkcowan, spotted the spawn at Three Lochs in a shallow ditch, when he was walking his dog in this popular woodland area, which is managed by the Forestry Commission. He said: “I see frogspawn here every year, but I was very surprised to find it in early February as I wouldn’t usually expect it to appear until the beginning of March.

“I was encouraged to add the sighting to the PondNet Spawn Survey after sharing it with a local wildlife group. It’s an unusually early sighting for Scotland so it’s important to record it.”

Close up of frog spawn in a ditch with vegetation behind.

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 gardens or in the countryside.

The first sighting to be added to the 2023 PondNet Spawn Survey was from the Isles of Scilly on 23rd December, with more records from Cornwall, Devon and across the South West of England and Wales soon following after that date.

Close up of frog spawn in water.

Freshwater Habitats Trust Director of Policy and Research Dr Naomi Ewald said: “In the last few weeks we’ve had lots of entries added to our PondNet Spawn Survey and it’s always exciting to see new sightings from different parts of the UK.

“We’ve now had a number of entries from South West England, the New Forest and Wales but I was surprised to see such an early sighting from Scotland, which is most likely due to the mild weather. Data suggests that that climate change is bringing the spawning season forward and the PondNet Spawn Survey is helping us to understand more about these changing patterns.

“David’s sighting of spawn in a shallow ditch also illustrates how adaptable frogs are. These amphibians don’t only breed in permanent ponds: winter-wet hollows and very temporary pools are just as good. Each year, we hear about spawn sightings in wet bogs, ditches or just trampled areas of wet ground with standing water. So, if you’re looking for spawn, don’t just check traditional ponds: keep an eye out in temporary puddles, pools, ditches and any wet ground.

“We’re really grateful to David for adding to our Spawn Survey and look forward to more sightings from across the UK over the coming weeks.”

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