Pond Maintenance: Tips for Keeping Wildlife At Your Pond

Ponds are an incredible edition to any garden and are perfect for attracting a whole range of wildlife; from the fish you may have purchased to the frogs, toads and newts you hope might come and visit. Ponds are a delicate ecosystem; the perfect blend of fish, oxygenating marginal plants and natural wildlife is sometimes hard to get right, but one of the things that can definitely help is maintaining your pond properly.

garden pond lush green and beautiful

All ponds need regular maintenance to prevent them from turning into glorified bogs. Regular cleaning is a good idea to prevent silting up.  Autumn is generally the best time for cleaning as much of the wildlife is less active or beginning to hibernate. Firstly, it is important to create a holding tank for your fish and other creatures and also your deep water plants using some of the pond water. Marginal plants should be alright as long as they are kept moist. The pond needs to be drained and the fish and creatures removed carefully and put into the tank as they become visible. Any decaying plant material may contain smaller creatures so place to the side of the pond so they can make their way back.

Remove any silt from the bottom of the pond. Most of this can be added to the garden to improve soil structure for your plants but do keep some in hand for replacing at the bottom of the pond.  This is important for maintaining an ecosystem for smaller organisms which are beneficial for the pond.

The next step is to clean the liner with a brush and then refill the pond, preferably using rainwater collected from a water butt. Finally return the fish and other creatures and also the deep water plants to the pond.

After cleaning it can take a while for the pond to recover, which is the reason an autumn cleaning is generally preferred.

Water Iris surrounding pond

Another good practice to get into is maintaining your pond pump efficiently. If your pond does not have a pump they are readily available from retailers such as Swell UK in the UK.  If you notice the pump is going slower or has stopped completely it might be that the pump is just clogged or suffering from a build-up of blanket weed. Alternatively there may be a problem with the electrics and cabling. The first thing to check is the electricity.  Ideally you should have a circuit breaker and a switchbox.  The circuit breaker will trip if there is a problem with the electrics; and the switchbox will isolate the different cables on the off chance you have accidently cut through a wire.  If you have both of these you can diagnose the problem at the pump.

This problem is relatively easy to remedy; you can usually remove things easily enough from a pump.  Pumps are relatively easy to take apart and put together again.  If the pump looks green, then you have a problem with blanket weed, otherwise you need to look for the impeller (which is where the water from the pond is sucked in).  This is where the blockages will be – use a screwdriver to clear out the cavity. Pond pumps need regular maintenance if you do not look after your pond properly.

And there you have it; a happy clean pond and a suitable working pond pump make for the perfect habitat for fish, frogs and other wildlife.

Oase Pond Pumps


– Guest post by Chris Plum, pond and garden products advisor


Calling Amphibian Monitoring Project (CAMP)

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ coordinates the statewide Calling Amphibian Monitoring Program (CAMP). The object of this program is to assess the distribution, abundance, and health of New Jersey’s amphibians. This is part of a larger initiative called the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program (NAAMP) and the data collected in New Jersey will be submitted into the National database.


Each of the 16 species of frogs and toads in New Jersey has a unique vocalization or “call” that can be heard during their mating season.

Here’s a list and call quiz of the Frogs in New Jersey:
Eastern Spadefoot (Scaphiopus holbrookii)
American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)
Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans)
Pine Barrens Treefrog (Hyla andersonii)
Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)
Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor)
unknown gray treefrog species (Hyla chrysoscelis/versicolor)
Cope’s Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis)
Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
New Jersey Chorus Frog (Pseudacris kalmi)
American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)
Carpenter Frog (Lithobates virgatipes)
Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans)
Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)
Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris)

The Amphibians that are listed as Endangered or Threatened in New Jersey:

Endangered Amphibians
Salamander, blue-spotted – Ambystoma laterale
Salamander, eastern tiger – Ambystoma tigrinum
Treefrog, southern gray – Hyla chrysocelis

Threatened Amphibians
Salamander, eastern mud – Pseudotriton montanus
Salamander, long-tailed – Eurycea longicauda
Treefrog, pine barrens – Hyla andersonii

Volunteers participating in the CAMP project conduct roadside surveys (after dusk) for calling amphibians along designated routes throughout the state. Each 15-mile route is surveyed three times during the spring (March, April & June), during the given four week period. Each route has 10 stops, where you stop, listen and record for 5 minutes. A structured protocol is followed to determine which nights to survey, how long to survey, which species are calling, and how to estimate the total number of individuals calling at each site. All volunteers receive a Calls of NJ Frogs and Toads, CD with which to familiarize themselves with the calls.

The results of these surveys will provide ENSP (Endangered and Nongame Species Program) and the United States Geological Survey with valuable data on the calling amphibian populations in New Jersey. Because each route will be surveyed at the same time and for the same amount of time, routes can be directly compared within a given year and between years. This allows for trends in populations to be identified over time and if needed steps may be taken to protect these populations in the near future.

— Larissa Smith, Biologist/Volunteer Manager, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ


Enhancing Your Eco-Friendly Garden to Attract Frogs and Toads

Guest post by Jeriann Watkins

There are a few different reasons you might want frogs and toads in your garden. They do a great job of keeping bugs away. They’re fun to watch after rainstorms when they hop in puddles and through wet grass. They serenade you to sleep at night (ok, that may be a bad thing, depending on whether you like croaky serenades).

As much as you may like frogs and want them in your yard, you should never take it on yourself to place them there. Frogs do not do well when removed from their habitats. Also, you want to be sure that your garden is home to native species, not invasive ones that will do more to harm your private ecosystem than help.

The best way to attract any wildlife to your garden is to emulate what the land would do itself. Trees, shrubs, bushes, and vegetation that would normally grow in your area are most likely to attract native insects, which will in turn attract frogs and toads.

To the human eye, frogs are pretty unassuming. Some people don’t like the slimy appearance. Whatever your opinion, you probably don’t see them as vicious. But they are fierce predators with large appetites, so if you have the environment and the bugs, they will come.

Courtesy of New England Nature Notes: Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Courtesy of New England Nature Notes: Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Choose plants that retain moisture and offer shade. Frogs love cool damp environments, mostly out of necessity. Mulch and compost piles are also great for attracting frogs. They’re a).moist b). full of bugs and c).dark.

There are a lot of plants that are poisonous to frogs. If you have a vegetable garden, you’ll want to avoid planting these items near your pond or areas where frogs are likely to congregate:

Eggplant, Rhubarb, Snowpeas, Potatoes

For landscaping and flower gardens, you’ll want to avoid:

Honeysuckle, Azalea, Hydrangea, Daffodils, Hyacinth

For more info, check out this more exhaustive list of plants that are poisonous for amphibians and reptiles.

Frogs and toads are important for the environment, and are great for maintaining healthy eco-systems. While displacing wildlife to improve your garden will always backfire, you can enhance your garden and landscape to attract creatures that do need food sources and shelter. It’s a symbiotic relationship in that you’re helping them so they can help you.


God and an Endangered Toad: Faith Traditions and the Environment

A couple of weeks ago, there was quite a brouhaha in the news about the inclusion of God into the Democratic and Republican party platforms at the convention. Personally, I don’t think God cares too much about party platforms.

But I do think God might wish that we humans were better stewards of this beautiful planet and the animals that inhabit it along with us. Around the time of the conventions, the Zoological Society of London published a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission that listed the one hundred most threatened species of animals. These animals are unique and interesting in their own way, but they may die out simply because they don’t offer obvious benefits to humans. Are we being good stewards by letting this happen?

Although it’s rare, sometimes faith and conservation do join forces for good. Recently, I read a post by Brandon Loomis in the Salt Lake City Tribune:  Utah Group Goes on a Divine Quest for Rare Toads.

Volunteers in Utah from Interfaith Power & Light, a faith-based environmental coalition, went on a search for the rare boreal toad (Bufo boreas), which occupies only 1 percent of its historic breeding places and is under evaluation for possible Endangered Species Act protection.

The most serious threat to the boreal toad is the chytrid fungus, a disease that is devastating amphibian populations worldwide. Biologists believe habitat protections can help reduce stress and can keep outbreaks in check.

Boreal toad. Photo courtesy of the State of Utah Natural Resources Department: Division of Wildlife Resources.

The interfaith group didn’t find any boreal toads, but their excursion wasn’t in vain. One of the volunteers was quoted in the article as giving her reason for the importance of their outing, other than the fact that kids love frogs and toads:  “More and more we become so disconnected from nature. We might go to church on Sunday, but I feel like we’re called to do more than that.”

The search was organized by Jason Brown, a Mormon with theology and forestry degrees who teaches ethics at Utah Valley University. As quoted in the article, Brown said: “Depending on the faith tradition, biodiversity can be sacramental of God, or [indicate] God’s presence.”

We say Amen to that.

For more information:
The Interfaith Power and Light website has links to articles about different religious faith traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and others) and the environment.  Please
click here.
Vernal.com for more information about the boreal toad.


A Green Frog (at Frogs Are Green)

At Frogs Are Green, we’ve posted about tomato red frogs, blue frogs, and yellow-and-black spotted frogs, but I don’t think we’ve ever written about the Green Frog (Rana clamitans).

Green frog camouflaged in grass. Photo by Mary Jo Rhodes

Recently I visited my sister, who lives in the woods in Connecticut. On our first night, there was heavy downpour. When I woke the next morning, I heard what sounded like someone plucking a loose banjo string. Coming from the city, I was thrilled: it was my welcome call from a Green Frog outside! My sister has built a couple of frog/koi ponds on her property. Although fish and frogs aren’t supposed to co-exist (fish eat the frogs’ eggs), somehow it has worked out.

Frog pond in CT

The Green Frog is mainly aquatic, but they often rest by the side of the pond, leaping in when danger approaches. Males have a tympanum (external hearing structure) twice the diameter of the eye and a bright yellow throat.

Green Frog. Notice the large eardrum behind his eye. Photo by Mary Jo Rhodes.

Green frog in reeds. Photo by Mary Jo Rhodes

You might see Green Frogs in ponds, lakes, and swamps—they are one of the most common frogs in the eastern U.S.

Just in case you’re out in the country this summer, here is what it sounds like:


Learning about Nature in the Concrete Jungle

Recently we received an email from Kelly Rypkema, a New York area naturalist who is the producer and host of the video series Nature in a New York Minute. Kelly has just released an episode about the Amphibian Crossing Project in New Jersey, a volunteer-based effort to conserve amphibians in the Northeast.

In the Amphibian Crossing episode, we learn about the manmade obstacles that frogs, toads, and salamanders face each spring as they attempt to migrate, obstacles that threaten their very survival. Kelly joins a team of biologists and volunteers who are working to save these animals by taking matters into their own hands – literally.

If you’re a city dweller with an interest in nature around you, please take a look at Kelly’s site. For nature-oriented news and events, you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to her blog.