Nature

Okey-croakey - volunteers help with mass migration of toads

Thousands of toads make perilous road crossing in Castle Cary, Somerset

Toads set out on there adventure

Each night a sleepy corner of the country is being turned into a march of the amphibians as hundreds of toads and newts make a perilous journey across a busy road to breed.

This mass migration to the Woodland Trust owned Haddon Wood, near Castle Cary, Somerset, is being charted for the first time by a team of hardy volunteers

On suitable evenings, after dusk, the plucky volunteers hop into action by sticking on their boots, donning hi viz jackets and shining torches and spending hours helping the slimy creatures hop and crawl across the road towards the woodland, to safety. Here they are taking a journey from spending the year in vegetation and damp areas - towards a pond to spawn.

A group of toads getting down in a pond - credit Ben Lee

Woodland Trust Volunteer Hilary Harrison said in the last few weeks she has helped “save” hundreds of common toads, as well as protecting great crested and smooth newts – and the migration is set to continue for the next few weeks.

She said: “When the land for Haddon was donated in 2013, the Woodland Trust agreed to install a pond. With their help and that of a group of volunteers we made a natural pond which we decided to leave for nature to takeover. Clearly lots of amphibians have taken a liking to the pond; they’ve spawned here before and this year the mass migration shows they are coming back to do so again.

“We’d heard that hundreds of the creatures were being killed crossing the road on the way to the pond and wanted to do our bit to help them across where we place them in the wood – it’s helping them on the way.”

The volunteers are out from sunset to 10.30 on evenings when the weather is right - toads only launch their journeys when it is wet and the temperature is higher than 5 degrees. The volunteers’ job is to encourage traffic to slow and aid the amphibians across the road from Alhampton.

A toad braves it on the road - credit Ben Lee

Dave Boyer organises toad patrols in south Somerset on behalf of the local Reptile and Amphibian Group and was alerted to this migration by a lorry driver who uses the route and was concerned to see the numbers of toads that were being squashed. So far, despite best efforts he said that over 150 toads have been killed but prior to patrols that would have been hundreds if not thousands.

He said: “Toads generally always go back annually to the pond they were born in – the same days each year. They migrate on warm damp evenings towards the spawning pond from mid-February until March – same period every year. The adults then gradually disperse into the countryside - somewhere within mile or so - to damp vegetation in the following months. It is a fascinating journey”.

Success! Spawn is created - credit Ben Lee

Woodland Trust site manager Paul Allen added: “This migration of toads is a success story amongst a climate change nature emergency. This hardy group of volunteers worked tirelessly to create the pond and nature has just taken over.”

The toad march comes just weeks after the Woodland Trust launched its Emergency Tree Plan, setting out how many trees need to be planted to go some way to addressing climate change.

The land at Haddon Wood was donated to the Trust in 2013 and planted as new native woodland. It also features open glades wide sweeping rides, the pond and community orchard.

To join the patrol or find out more email Hilary at: hilary@harrisonhall.co.uk

More about Haddon Wood: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/woods/haddon-wood/

Volunteer Emily Lee

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