Sunday, 24 April 2016

Orton Brimbles Tadpole Rescue

Julie Howell with bucket and net
With my tadpole-rescuing gear!

I received word from Roger Proudfoot (Green Party Peterborough City Council Elections candidate for Werrington) that tadpoles were trapped in water-logged tyre tracks on some public land near a stream in Orton Brimbles!

So I tooled up with buckets and aquarium nets, put the word out for a couple of volunteers and earlier today we made our way to the location to investigate.

We did indeed find a tyre track in the mud that had filled up with rain water and was teeming with tadpoles.

Why did these tadpoles need to be rescued?

Orton Brimbles Tadpole Rescue from Julie Howell on Vimeo.

Tadpoles may be in trouble if they have been spawned in a puddle that is likely to become low in oxygen or evaporate altogether. Although they have gills by the time they hatch, it will be several more weeks until the tadpoles can breathe air.

Tadpoles cannot survive without a source of food. This is why they need to be in ponds where there is ample supply of the things they like to eat, such as green water plants.

If frogs lay so much spawn why did you bother rescuing these tadpoles?

VERY IMPORTANT: It is usually NOT a good idea to transfer frog spawn or tadpoles from one location to another as doing so can spread both invasive plants and harmful diseases that the spawn or tadpoles may carry with them to their new location. In other words, moving tadpoles may do more harm than good, no matter how good your intentions.

Frogs lay spawn in such large quantities because only about 10% of it ever survives. This is not a problem. Frog spawn and tadpoles are an important part of the natural ecosystem and food chain that supports many other animals (including dragonflies, hedgehogs and newts).  On this occasion, however, the tadpoles could not survive where they were and if left they all would have died.

If you see tadpoles in ponds near where you live, please don't move them!

For information about frogs, frog spawn and tadpoles please visit Frog Life.

Tyre track teeming with tadpoles from Julie Howell on Vimeo.

Why didn't you just scoop them up and chuck them in the stream?

Great care must be taken when moving tadpoles from one body of water to another. If we had removed the tadpoles to water that was cooler or warmer than the water they were trapped in, they may have gone into shock and died.

Some tadpoles can survive in fast flowing water, but their chances of staying alive are greatly reduced. Ideally, they need to be in a still pond for their best chance of survival.

How did you move tadpoles from the puddle to a pond safely?

Before attempting to move the tadpoles, we filled a bucket with water from the pool the tadpoles were already in. This way, when we moved the tadpoles from the pool to the bucket they were less likely to experience a potentially catastrophic change in water temperature and go into shock.

Collecting the tadpoles from Julie Howell on Vimeo.

Now we were ready to move the tadpoles. While we could have used a kitchen sieve(!) it is better to use nets designed for the purpose of moving small aquatic creatures. We picked these up from a local pet supplies centre for a couple of pounds. These nets are ideal as the netting is fine, so the water ran through but the tiny tadpoles remained in the netting where we could see them.

Sandra and David rescuing tadpoles
Sandra and David rescuing tadpoles

We gently and slowly swished our nets through the water. We caught both tadpoles and debris. We carefully picked out any large pieces of debris from our nets. We then submerged our nets containing the tadpoles into the bucket of water. We gently swished our nets so the tadpoles could escape into the bucket. We repeated this process until all the tadpoles were safely in the bucket.

The next thing to do was release the tadpoles into a nearby pond.

Once again, we took steps to make sure the tadpoles would not die of shock when released into water that was cooler or warmer than the water they were already in. We used a second bucket to collect some water from the pond that would be the tadpoles' new home. We checked the temperature of the water in the two buckets and found they were about the same. We then slowly poured some of the water from the pond into the bucket of tadpoles and left the bucket for a while so the tadpoles could get used to any change in temperature gradually.

After about 20 minutes, we used our nets to gently move the tadpoles into the pond until the bucket was empty.

Rescue complete!


  1. Well done Julie! Little tiny things matter just as much! And maybe one or two of these will survive to a ripe old age!

  2. Thank you, Fiona. Carrying the heavy bucket to the pond was the hardest part! Yes, most of the tadpoles won't survive, even with our best efforts, which is why frogs lay so much spawn. Hopefully, now these tadpoles are in a better environment a couple of them will make it to maturity.