Snipping Amphibians …

… is, I imagine, an unpleasant experience and one I try to avoid.

Common Toad – Nov 2011
The gardens at The Priory are watery.  They contain two large ponds, lots of drainage ditches and are bordered on one side by a mighty, broad river.  (Or a little brook – depending on how big you are).  It is a perfect habitat for frogs, toads and newts.  And all of these live there in large numbers.  I see them regularly and am pleased.
Part of the main ditch that connects the east and west ponds – August 2011
Recently, I have been strimming the banks of the ponds and ditches. I allow these margins to grow throughout the spring and summer and they explode with flower and provide superb cover for frogs and toads.  Strimming an amphibian is a real worry when I come to cut them back at this time of year.
The same stretch of ditch after strimming.  I still need to remove all the alder seedlings – November 2011
Though amazingly (as far as I know), I have yet to do so.  But it is a thought always present while wielding the powerful Stihl strimmer and makes me ever watchful – and very tense.  As if that weren’t stressful enough, I even have to be careful when mowing:
Kamikaze frog – October 2011

Luckily for this frog, I saw him just in time – the thought of mowing over a frog makes me feel sick.

Kamikaze Common Frog – October 2011
In autumn, newts aplenty leave the Priory ponds and overwinter on land and, for several months, I have to move pots with great care for fear of squashing them (see ‘Freeloading Ne’er-do-wells’).  I also have to be careful when edging the lawns.  The paving at the Priory has a gap (or, as I call them, gullies), between it and the grass.
The ‘gullies’ on either side of a stretch of path.
They were overgrown and silted up when I started but now I keep them clear and the grass trimmed with super-sharp edging shears.  Prone to fill with leaf litter, these gullies are perfect overwintering sites for newts.  I often find them here, groggy with cold sleep.
 A Smooth or Common Newt – November 2011
So, when snipping away with the shears,  I’m always conscious of how easy it would be to snip a newt in half.  Or remove a newt’s tail.  Or leg.  Anxious?  You don’t know the half of it.
 A Smooth or Common Newt  – November 2011
The other day, having edged the lawns, I was clearing out the clippings and leaves from one of these gullies and  found a Great Crested Newt* – the first I’ve seen at the Priory.  Thank goodness I didn’t harm him.  I took a quick photo and put him to bed in some deep leaf litter beneath a nearby shrub.
Great Crested Newt – November 2011
As well as amphibians, there are reptiles at the Priory.  I have seen slow-worms (but no lizards) and back in September,  I wrote about this chap:
Grass Snake – September 2011

One of my favourite inhabitants of the gardens, the Grass Snake.  (Lots more photos here: Grass Snake)

Grass Snake – September 2011
A few days ago I met David, a chum of mine,  for a pint or two or three or four at a local pub.  And we talked of gardening things and of things gardening.  And I mentioned my worry of accidentally killing amphibians and reptiles.  David winced and a look of pained disgust crossed his face as he told me of inadvertently spearing a toad with a gardening fork and
Grass Snake – September 2011
of cutting a grass snake in two with a strimmer.
I winced and look of pained disgust crossed my face too.  I turned a shade or two paler and gulped my pint.  My fear is obviously justified.
* The editorial staff at would like to stress that the Great Crested Newt is an endangered species and protected under the UK Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and that no Great Crested Newts were harmed in the making of this blogpost.

18 thoughts on “Snipping Amphibians …

  1. Hi Barbara, a little bit of raking is a fine thing. After whole days and days of it however the novelty begins to fade. Luckily, I was able to get very close to the snake – half a metre, I suppose – as he didn't seem to mind!

    Frohe Weihnachten



  2. Your photos are amazing! I wonder how near you were when you faced the snake, almost eye to eye 😉 ! I like these snapshots very much…though I'am glad that we only seldom have snakes in our garden.
    I really do not envy “your” raking of the fallen leaves. You have so many big, big trees! No wonder that I love this raking…we only have a few big trees 🙂 !!
    Wishing you a good time (I'm on the way to check out the weather in Great Britain next week 🙂 !).


  3. Thanks Elaine. I have to say it doesn't seem particularly exciting at the moment. Just mowing muddy grass and collecting sopping leaves.

    Thanks Shirl, that's very sweet of you to say so. The interaction with fellow bloggers is something that didn't even occur to me when I started out back in February. It has now though become a major inducement.

    Because the Priory is rabbit netted we don't get hedgehogs in the gardens – or if we do I've never seen one. I'm always very careful when lighting bonfires (outside the fencing) because of them though. With regards cats – none at the Priory – hoorah! It sits too far, I think, from any neighbours. I'm not a great cat lover just because of the damage they do. At my old house a neighbour bought two cats and immediately we were finding dead birds in our garden. All that is needed is a bell about their necks! (Cat not neighbour, that is. Although, actually thinking about it…).

    I'm not surprised you felt awful, Faisal. I know it's only a matter of time before I do the same.

    Thanks Boys, one tries one's best for one's Luton clientele!

    Hi Jordi, thank you and thanks for visiting and commenting

    Hi Nat, good on you too (mutual slapping on back). My strimming is so very often interrupted by the hurried ferrying of a toad or frog, out of harms way.



  4. So much wildlife, great to take a moment to document it all. Good on you for being conscious of their existence. I do a lot of trimming with one of those as well and I often think about the snakes and toads. So far so good, there has been many the day that I relocate them to a safer spot.


  5. Gorgeous photography as always David! By keeping it in your consciousness to avoid squishing them then you actually avoid hurting them. Long may it continue 🙂 I think the Amphibians prefer to be photographed than get squashed!


  6. David, just wanted to pop by to say Hello and say thanks for all the comments and chat we have exchanged over the last year 🙂

    I do enjoy the images of your garden immensely and love to hear the chat both humorous and informative on what keeps you busy at the Priory. Your photos are inspiring 🙂

    Being honest in this posting I too was cringing at what might come next. Like Janet, I was also thinking of hedgehogs too. I’ve seen some horrific images of them.

    Like others I’m sure, I envy you with your newts and frogs although perhaps not at this time of year. Mm… nail scissors? Definitely a cheap solution although not in man hours. Mm… I’m thinking of a tech solution with a heat sensitive sensor on the strimmer to sweep (power off) the area first 😀

    Cat carnage here as I write this: Heading out to my shed now to unearth my Catwatch piece of tech after coal tit caught by one cat and grey squirrel being stalked by another. Now where are the batteries & will it still work? Feeling sad 😦


  7. Love that photo of the abundance of wild flowers in the ditch. Life at the Priory is full of excitement what with one thing or another – my gardening days seem pretty tame compared to yours. Great amphibian pics.


  8. Sounds grim, Jane. Don't worry – I wouldn't take such a photo let alone post it.

    Hi WW, frogs have jumped out of the way while I've been strimming, thankfully, alerting me to their presence. That owl experience must have been awful. Barn owls, in particular, are commonly hit by cars. They're relatively slow flyers and they get blinded by the headlights. I doubt there was anything you could've done.



  9. Great photos and how amazing to have all those amphibians around. It would be dreadful to strim a frog. I guess you can only hope that the noise and vibrations would scare them off. Although some wildlife seems incredibly unmoved literally)by modern life. We hit an owl a while ago when we were in the car. It was dark, it flew into the headlights and there was no way of avoiding it or even stopping to see if it was ok. We both felt dreadful for a long time after that.


  10. Oh HURL!!!! I scrolled slowly thru' this posting fearing a photo of a mutilated 'ribbity' critter … PHEW!. Just recently, at one of the gardens I 'tender' I was greeted with one trodden on frog & one that looked like he'd been forked. The garden owners refused to dispose of them & it was as much as I could do not to throw up…EUGH! Don't envy you there!! x


  11. Thanks Alison. I suspect it's only a matter of time before I mow a frog – generally they make a movement to alert me to their presence. But not always!

    That's it Janet! Gold star. Nail scissors! As far as I know there are no hedgehogs at the Priory but I am conscious of them being at the other garden I tend. Horrible thought …

    Hi Stacy, yeah the frogs need to evolve a little quicker don't they? I could also do with some fiercely cold weather to put everything to sleep. In the meantime reasonable precautions and “often have a pint” it is then.



  12. When all those little creatures' sense of self-preservation evolved, they weren't really thinking about power tools, were they? That's one oblivious and well-disguised frog–I'm amazed you saw it at all. It doesn't help the concerned (or anxious) gardener that their primary form of defense is to hold still and look like grass and leaves. Beyond taking reasonable precautions, though, what can you do? Maybe every so often have a pint with a non-gardener.

    How exciting to have found an endangered newt at the Priory.


  13. I think you should seriously consider only using nail scissors for all cutting and pruning at the Priory,Dave. As well as the frogs etc you have to be careful of taking chunks out of hedgehogs when strimming….


  14. I get a lot of frogs in my garden, but nothing more exciting than that. I hate the idea of mowing them too. I don't think I ever have but I have been frogged a few times when clearly leaf litter by hand and they jump out at me.

    Great photos as ever.


Any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.