The nat­ter­jack Project

Landscape (UK) - - In the Kitchen -

In 1989, a project started to rein­tro­duce the coun­try’s rarest am­phib­ian, the Nat­ter­jack toad, to Hengist­bury Head. This has been suc­cess­ful, and now there are thriv­ing pop­u­la­tions in the old mine-work­ing ponds and sev­eral oth­ers. “The pop­u­la­tion is sus­tain­ing well,” says se­nior ranger Brian Hep­pen­stall. “On av­er­age, these toads, which look just like nor­mal toads, al­beit slightly smaller and with a yel­low stripe run­ning down their backs, lay ap­prox­i­mately 20 ‘strings’ in a year. Each string con­tains ap­prox­i­mately 4,000 eggs. “The beach huts are lived in from March to Oc­to­ber. These lit­tle toads have been known to hi­ber­nate in the foun­da­tions, mean­ing they are in­hab­ited all year round.” Late spring is the ideal time to wit­ness the Nat­ter­jack’s mat­ing rit­u­als. In May, at dusk, their dis­tinc­tive purring call can be heard. The toads, no big­ger than the av­er­age palm of a hand, can reach a tremen­dous vol­ume to at­tract fe­males, audi­ble up to two miles away.

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