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: froglife.org/ what-we-do/toads-on-roads