GARDENERS across Helensburgh and Lomond are being urged to give a helping hand to frogs and toads now that spring is here.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) says one of the best ways to help them is by creating a small pond.

Dr Mairi Cole, who manages the species team at SNH, said: “Frogs and toads are our friends, particularly in the garden.

“They love eating slugs, snails, ants and spiders. And they are food for other animals and birds like blackbirds, hedgehogs, foxes and badgers.

“They are also good indicators of the health of the wider countryside as they have a porous skin that is sensitive to pollutants.

“If you have a garden, making a small pond is one of the best ways to help them.

“Don’t have fish in there too, though - they not only eat tadpoles, they can pass on disease.

“Also, cut down on the use of pesticides around your garden, especially slug pellets.”

Dr Cole advises drivers to proceed warily if they come across toads crossing the road.

She added: “They often travel back to the same ponds to breed each year in the late winter and early spring and will cross whatever is on their route – including roads. So keep your eyes peeled.”

Peering into ponds at this time of year can reveal the thick, jelly-ish clumps of frog spawn floating free and long strings of toad spawn, wrapped around water plants.

Soon these will turn into a mass of wriggling tadpoles.

The highest altitude a common frog tadpole has been found at in Scotland was in a loch at the top of Ben Macdui – 1,120 metres above sea level.

At first, the tadpoles of frogs and toads are difficult to tell apart but it gets easier as they get older.

Frog tadpoles are speckled and toad tadpoles are a dark colour.

But it’s a tough life if you’re a tadpole: only a tiny number of the thousands of eggs that are laid in a pond each year make it to adulthood.

They get eaten by dragonfly larvae, newts and fish and are vulnerable to diseases.

However, toad tadpoles are protected from predators by having a poisonous skin.