Volunteers helped move over 800 amphibians to safety when the annual bedding plants were changed in Victoria Park’s Sunken Garden.
The densely-planted bedding plants, in addition to producing a stunning display of colour through the summer, provide perfect foraging habitat for frogs and other amphibians. The plants provide dense cover, their flowers attract insect food, and regular watering ensures damp conditions, ideal for a frog. With West Lake nearby for breeding, the flower beds are summer home to good numbers of frogs.
But twice a year, the bedding is changed – the summer bedding is planted in the spring, and replaced in autumn with the winter/spring bedding. The old plants are all stripped out over a couple of days, removing all the amphibians’ cover and leaving them exposed to predators such as crows, magpies and gulls. Last spring, the Biodiversity Officer received reports that large numbers of small frogs were killed by predators when the bedding plants were stripped. Green Team staff working on the flower beds did their best to move large frogs to safety, but simply didn’t have time to round up the numerous small frogs.
In a bid to avoid a repeat of this, the Biodiversity Officer contacted the Friends of Victoria Park, who put out requests on social media for Frog Rescue Volunteers. The response was good and the first week of October saw a series of volunteers joining the Biodiversity Officer and Green Team staff while the bedding plants were stripped. The results were little short of staggering. Over the two days it took to strip plants from the beds, over 700 Common Frogs, about 85 Common Toads and 30 Smooth Newts were captured, kept in buckets, and released in the safety of nearby shrubberies. That’s a very large amphibian population for an inner London park!
The weather was fine and warm throughout, the volunteers had a great time, and passers-by, including a class of primary school children, were fascinated to see buckets full of frogs and toads. The only ones who looked unhappy were the local crows, several of which stalked fruitlessly over the recently-cleared beds before giving up and flying off to find a meal elsewhere!
The success of the rescue means it will become a regular twice-yearly event when the bedding is changed. The next change of plants will be in April or early May 2017. If you would be interested in joining the volunteers rescuing amphibians next spring, please e-mail the Biodiversity Officer.
If you don’t want to wait till spring to help wildlife in Victoria Park, why not join the Community Park Rangers for the regular monthly “Make Your Mark on Vicky Park” conservation task? These are held on the last Sunday of every month except December. For more information e-mail the Community Park Rangers. There are also lots of events in the park. See the full autumn/winter events programme in Victoria Park here.