March­ing or­ders

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Contents -

Count­less warty bod­ies will soon be stir­ring. Un­like frogs, toads only visit wa­ter to breed, and the tim­ing of their an­nual mi­gra­tion varies enor­mously from year to year, ac­cord­ing to the weather in early spring. The ‘big push’ – when toads move en masse to an­ces­tral breed­ing ponds and lakes – oc­curs on damp, driz­zly evenings when the tem­per­a­ture at sun­set hov­ers at or above 7–8°C. The event usu­ally oc­curs in March or April in north­ern Eng­land and Scot­land.

All too of­ten, the peak move­ment clashes with rush-hour traf­fic, lead­ing to am­phib­ian car­nage. John Lewis-Stem­pel, in his new book about ponds, Still Wa­ter (pub­lished by Dou­ble­day this March), de­scribes the sick­en­ing mo­ment when toads and driv­ers meet: ‘Sta­tion­ary, they are white lumps, al­most leaves; the car head­lights hit their pul­sat­ing throats, just be­fore the tyres hit their bod­ies. We weave, we slow to a sym­pa­thetic toad-speed crawl but it is im­pos­si­ble to save them all.’

For­tu­nately, how­ever, there is some­thing we can do about it. If there is a lo­cal, manned Toad Pa­trol, con­sider vol­un­teer­ing. It’s fun, sim­ple and ef­fec­tive. On a busy night, in a few hours you could save over 100 toads.


De­tails of Toad Pa­trols and how to help: what-we-do/toads-on-roads

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