Great Weather for Toads!

by Guest Author Sustainability Spotlight on Nature Author - Kate Wolstenholme

Members of the Roundhill Community have been finding new ways to appreciate the soggy weather we’ve been having recently… by heading out to their newly-registered ‘Toad Crossing’ site to look out for urban amphibians!

Between Round Hill Crescent and Richmond Road, a stepped alley-way known to the neighbourhood as the Cat Creep, has for a number of years been providing an important migratory route for local frog, toad and newt populations – and late winter / early spring is the time to see them!

When temperatures get mild enough (above about 5 degrees C after dusk) and there’s been a good spot of rain, amphibians begin to emerge from their hibernation sites (underground nooks & crannies such as around tree roots or beneath log piles or paving stones) and embark on their annual journeys to their breeding ponds. Many amphibians, especially toads, have powerful natural instincts to return to the same ponds each year, and therefore rely on safe passage to these ponds for their populations to persist.

[Partly due to this vulnerability, common toads Bufo bufo are a Schedule 41 (S41) ‘Species of Principle Importance for the purpose of conserving biodiversity’ under the 2006 Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act.]

Kate Wolstenholme is a nature-lover and Ecologist by trade, who lives in Roundhill and this year has been co-ordinating a ‘Toad Patrol’ – a small team of neighbours and fellow Cat Creep amphibian-appreciators who have been heading out in their waterproofs and wellies after dark most nights to monitor the amphibian numbers and spread awareness amongst passers-by.

Image by Jason Smart

The Cat Creep is a popular cut-through in Roundhill, but parts of it can get quite dark and this means that, sadly, our nocturnal amphibians are at risk of getting squashed underfoot by users of the Cat Creep if they aren’t aware to keep their eyes peeled! As well as carrying out basic amphibian surveys, the Toad Patrol team encourage everyone they meet on the steps to use a torch or their mobile phone light and mind how they go when on Cat Creep after dark at this time of year.

Kate first heard about the toads of Cat Creep and local residents’ concerns to protect them last spring, through her neighbourhood community group (the Round Hill Society), which she has been helping out on the Committee for over the last few years. Kate registered the site with leading amphibian charity Froglife as part of their ‘Toads of Roads’ campaign. (You can see it on the sitemap here!)

Kate and the local community have been enjoying discovering more about the history and behaviours of the famous toads of Roundhill! So far nearly 150 amphibians (114 toads, 5 frogs and 29 smooth newts) have been recorded since they first started migrating on the 1st February! – but sadly this includes four newt casualties.

This is the first year of ‘official’ monitoring, so it’s a bit of a mystery how things will continue into spring – but the team hope for lots more healthy sightings and will continue to do their best to safeguard these slimy charmers for as long as required!

Once the migration is over, Kate will submit the data to all the relevant environmental record centres and amphibian charities.

If you’d like to help monitor and raise awareness, or just find out more, please get in touch with Kate – no experience or expertise needed, she’d be very pleased to hear from anyone! kate.wolstenholme@googlemail.com

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