October is the month when frogs search for a spot in which to pass the winter, secure from predators and the icy fingers of severe weather. They may lie dormant in the mud and decaying leaf litter at the bottom of a pond, burrowed into a compost heap or beneath a pile of logs or rocks.
In my garden ponds, I usually count up to 150 frogs at peak spawning time, after which most of them disperse around neighbouring gardens and nearby woods. I had assumed that they did not return in any numbers until the following spring. However, prior to relining a pond one October, I removed the large rocks placed up the bank at one end and was surprised to find 40 frogs huddled tightly together, presumably to benefit from mutual body warmth. Here and there a palmate newt was squashed between them.
During mild winters, our frogs may never truly hibernate and may even come out to forage during warm periods. However, if the temperatures do plummet, they will go into hibernation. Their body temperatures will drop as they reduce their metabolism, breathe through their skin and rely on burning up stored fat reserves. They can survive very low temperatures with a high concentration of glucose in their bodies acting as natural antifreeze.
Their quest for a safe haven can lead them into strange situations. One October, a half-grown frog was found, clinging under the rim of the bowl of our downstairs toilet. I could only postulate that it had mistaken the overflow of the closest pond for a small cave but had then been washed down to where it joined the sewer before climbing up another pipe to end up in the toilet.
So, common frogs can climb, even though they do not possess the toe pads that help tree frogs to grip vertical surfaces. Even so, I still find it hard to believe that another two-inch adolescent frog, which appeared in our bath on the first floor a few autumns ago, had climbed 20 feet up the rough stone wall before dropping through the open window. However, I could think of no other credible explanation.
Frogs are found around the most manicured gardens where they help to reduce the numbers of slugs and snails. In return you can help them to survive by providing piles of stones or logs in which they can ‘sleep away’ the winter. Better still, build them a pond!