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Toad Patrol – Volunteers Near Hardway Protect Toads on the Road

Monday 12 May 2014, 15:07
By Penny Ashton

Toad Patrol sign

As the temperatures at dusk climb gradually over a minimum of 5oC and the air becomes damper, the toads throughout our country begin to stir with the knowledge that once again it is breeding time. Unlike frogs, toads need a deep pond in which to spawn, and so are likely to return to the pond in which they hatched. They move at dusk, and wander slowly towards their breeding ground.

Unfortunately toad parents do not teach their young the proper way to cross a road, and some stretches of even the quietest of our roads can be fatal for these slow moving creatures. It is at this time that the toad patrol steps in - a band of not quite super-heroes, unlikely to be dressed in brightly coloured tights and capes. It is more likely that they will be wearing waterproofs, wellies and hi vis, and carrying a torch and a bucket.

Our nearest patrol takes place on the road between Hardway and South Brewham, not far from Alfred's Tower, and this year I joined them for the first time. The patrol is carried out under the auspices of Somerset Wildlife Trust, and most of the patrollers are members. Two or three of us convene at The Bull at Hardway shortly after 6.00pm each night – the exact time depends on the time of sunset - and patrol for an hour or two carrying any toads we find in our buckets to a pond on private land along our stretch of road. A good torch is a must, as toads in poor light look just the same as small stones, leaves or lumps of mud on the road, and don't move much faster!

Toad in the hole?

Patrols have been taking place on this stretch of road for a few years now, and the numbers of toads found varies – in one year exceeding 1100, but this year our count was just over 500. A count is also kept of the number of toads found that have been run over, and any frogs or newts seen – although these are not as common.

Most of the toads found – about 90% - are males, although nobody is sure why this should be. The males, which are smaller, can often be found waiting at the side of the road for a female to pass, and if they get lucky they will climb on her back for a lift to the pond where they will then be in an ideal position for mating when they arrive!

I was not aware until this year, that toads 'sing' – a high pitched squeaking noise made by the males when more than one male is in dispute over a female, and this can be heard as you carry your bucket to the pond. One of the patrollers this year also found a young and inexperienced male who had climbed on to the back of a female facing backwards – his chances of breeding this year don't look good!

Toad in the bucket?

More patrollers are always welcome, and if you would like to help with next year's patrol, please contact Helen Deeming at: or Libby Nye at . The work tends to be cold and wet, but it is satisfying to know that most of the toads in this area make it safely to their breeding pond ensuring more toads next year to help keep down the of garden pests and continue the biodiversity of this area.




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