Toads crossing the roads with help from volunteers in Cirencester and Cricklade

Members of the Cotswold Water Park Trust's toad patrol

Bufo bufo, the common European toad

First published in News by , Reporter

JUST like humans, toads are creatures of habit. Every year at the Cotswold Water Park, the toads move from their hibernation sites and travel to breeding grounds despite the dangers they could encounter from traffic.

Volunteers from the Cotswold Water Park Trust (CWPT) have been getting together to help the toads across one of the main crossing points in the area, the busy Ermine Street near Latton, in order to reach their breeding grounds.

A total of 102 toads were rescued by the team of 16 volunteers who patrolled the busy road with torches during twilight. Using buckets the team took it in turns to usher the toads across the road and safely to their breeding grounds.

However, compared to last year’s figures, there has been a huge decline in the number of toads the volunteers are discovering.

CWPT spokesman Jill Bewley said the toad patrols had found just 25 per cent of the number amphibians than last year but she said it was not yet cause for concern.

“Numbers vary depending on the weather, the real telling sign is when all the figures come in and we can compare them with other areas,” she explained.

The data collected by the volunteer teams will be passed on to Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust which will analyze the findings. It will also be handed to the national charity Frog Life.

Ben Welbourn, biodiversity manager for CWPT, said: “Wildlife doesn’t stick to a script, you can never be 100 per cent sure. Things such as previous bad breeding years, changes to the areas where they spawn or an increase in the number of predators can all have effects.”

Toads are known to be creatures that choose to mate depending on the moon’s position and the teams reported that the animals were mostly spotted on evenings either side of a full moon.

Ben added: “We don’t know that the moon has an effect for sure, there are many hypotheses. When the moon is fuller it could cause them to come out due to the extra light.”

The CWPT are now making a note of moon phases when the toads come out to see whether there is a pattern.

Helping toads cross the road is not the only CWPT project that volunteers can get involved in.

The range of activities being run at the Cotswold Wildlife Trust is extremely broad. The next scheme that needs helpers is one to clear the invasive plant Himalayan Balsam.

The alien invader needs to be pulled from local ponds and other areas due to the massive amounts that are growing and overpowering native local plants. Anyone interested in helping local wildlife should contact Paul Attaway on paul.attaway@waterpark.org for more information.

Toad fact file

  • Toads have double eye lids
  • Only male toads croak
  • Toads are toothless
  • Scientific name for a toad is Bufo bufo
  • Toads have dry, leathery skin
  • The main prey for toads are insects, worms and spiders
  • Life span for toads are normally 2-4 years however the oldest domestic toad was 39
  • Toads wipe their mouths after eating
  • Toads puff up to intimidate predators. Common predators are foxes, grass snakes and hedgehogs

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