Posted by: Glow-worm PJ6 MAY 2009
Some weeks ago, during one of our regular Saturday morning walks, my son and I chose a route that took us for a short distance along a surfaced track alongside a reservoir. After a few yards we noticed a dead toad squashed into the tarmac, presumably by a passing vehicle.
We continued, and spotted more dead toads, until at the end of the three hundred yard stretch we had counted over 50, remarkable given the lack of traffic.
The mating season of the common toad (Bufo bufo) can run from the end of January to the end of March, depending upon the weather in late winter and early spring. The toads make their annual migration to breed in the same ponds where they themselves were tadpoles, often travelling up to half a mile across fields and busy roads to reach their destinations.
Toads remain loyal to the same road crossing points each year and, unfortunately, the timing of their appearance, on mild, damp evenings, often coincides with the evening rush hour.
The UK has some 300 toad patrols, with volunteers donning high visibility jackets and using buckets for toad-lifting. They help thousands of toads across busy roads, working shift systems, but even these can incur heavy casualties.
Some local councils have responded enthusiastically by putting up signs and even enforcing road closures for up to three months a year to cover the mating season. One road, into the Nottinghamshire village of Oxton, was in its 10th year of closure for the entire month of March.
However, this year (2009), because of persistent cold weather in February, fewer toads made the journey to the spawning grounds. Research suggests that the toads require a temperature of at least 7C over several nights to stimulate mating and the early spring cold spell seems to have deterred them, although this will not affect next year’s numbers.
The charity Froglife, which is involved in the conservation of amphibians and reptiles, recently highlighted toad crossing points on Google Earth, as part of a campaign to draw attention to the country’s 700 amphibian crossing points, which employ specially designed fences to direct the toads towards tunnels running beneath the road.
Froglife is inviting public participation in its project, and provides information on registering crossing sites, as well as becoming involved in toad patrolling.