First toad spawn sighting added to 2023 PondNet Spawn Survey

23rd February 2023

The first record for Common Toad spawn has been added to the 2023 PondNet Spawn 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 UK to help us learn more about how amphibians use different types of waterbodies to breed.

The sighting was added by nature lover Rogan Jones on 16 February, when he spotted breeding females near the village of Millendreath in South East Cornwall. Two days later, he found two females laying strings of spawn in his garden pond.

Two Common Toads mating in a pond, with spawn being laid.
Common Toad spawning. Photo by Rogan Jones.

For the last seven years, Rogan has conducted a toad patrol along a lane, which runs through a wooded valley between a holiday camp and the beach. On behalf of the charity Froglife, he is now the toad patrol manager for the busy route, which frogs, toads and newts travel along between the woodland and nearby lakes.

Rogan said: “One of the joys of living in Cornwall and being an amateur naturalist is seeing things earlier than most people in the country.

“The toads on my route are actually pretty regular. They start moving towards the pond in mid-January and are on their way home by the end of February. This year they started a week or so later due to low temperatures and dry winds, but are now spawning and heading back to their breeding ponds right on time for this location.”


More than 300 frog spawn records have now been uploaded to the survey, since the first sighting was added on 23 December.

Toads mating in a pond.
Toads mating and spawning in a Millendreath, Cornwall. Photo: Rogan Jones.

Freshwater Habitats Trust Director of Policy and Research Dr Naomi Ewald said: “Our Spawn Survey has really taken off over the last few days and we’re getting new entries all the time. It was really exciting to see our first Common Toad spawn record and we’re now looking forward to more toad spawn records being added from across the UK.

“We now have more than a decade’s worth of data on Common Toad and Common Frog spawn, which is thanks to people like Rogan who take the time to look for spawn and add it to our survey. We’re very grateful to him and to everyone else who’s contributed to our survey, helping us to understand more about how amphibians use different types of waterbodies to breed.”

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. You can also share photographs of your sightings on social media, using the hashtag #SpawnSurvey

Strings of Common Toad spawn under water.
Strings of Common Toad spawn under water. Photo: Kate Wright.

Facts about Common Toad and toad spawn

  • Common Toad spawn forms long chains, whereas Common Frog spawn is laid in big clumps.
  • Common Toad spawn is generally laid in deeper water than frog spawn.
  • The first toad spawn usually appears slightly later in the year than the first frog spawn.
  • Breeding toads congregate in early spring, often a couple of weeks after frogs. After breeding, they return to a solitary lifestyle in more terrestrial habitats.
  • A single toad will lay thousands of eggs. This is because eggs and tadpoles are very vulnerable to predators, so naturally only a few will survive and become adults.
  • It takes between two and four weeks for spawn to hatch and tadpoles to emerge.
  • Common Toad can be distinguished from the similar-looking Common Frog by its drier, more warty skin and its striking coppery eye.
  • Toads move by walking, rather than hopping.
  • Toads have a strong migratory instinct and follow the same route back to their ancestral breeding ponds each spring. Sadly, this annual mass migration can result in high numbers of road deaths.
  • Toad spawn is laid in characteristic strings, rather than clumps. The eggs hatch after around 12 days, with tadpoles taking around three months to metamorphose into adults.
  • Common Toads are most active at night when they hunt for their favourite foods, which include snails, slugs, ants and spiders.
  • Toads hibernate over winter and often retreat under log piles, large stones or flower pots.