The 12 days of (a wildlife) Christmas – 10 toads a-leaping

Common toad by Nick Upton

For day 10 of our 12 days of (a wildlife) Christmas we’ve swapped 10 lords a-leaping for 10 toads a-leaping.

Toads tend to hunker down for the colder months and will often be found in compost heaps, log piles, dead wood or gaps under decking, sheds or old brick walls. Frogs and newts can be found in similar places, though frogs can also be found over-wintering in the sediment at the bottom of ponds.

Toads, like hedgehogs, may emerge during milder spells through the winter and will emerge for breeding in the spring. The spring migration can be a perilous journey – they return to the pond they were born, regardless of what hazards and barriers may have been introduced earlier in the year. This often means crossing roads, sometimes very busy ones, in search of mates and the safety of the pond. Males often start this migration first, sitting up tall at dusk and dawn waiting for the arrival of the larger females. To mate, animals will undergo amplexus - males will jump onto the back of the female and hold on very tight, often with the female still crawling around with male in tow! The breeding season varies according to temperature so can begin as early as January through to March and will result in ponds full of strings of toad spawn. Check out some tips here for distinguishing being toad and frogspawn.

Earlier this year we came across lots of toads during our field work antics in north east Ipswich. The two pictured below were in amplexus and were found whilst patrolling the pavements in search of hedgehogs, whilst many more were found in Colchester Road Allotments – males sat upright, their small silhouettes visible along the grassy path along the edge of the allotment. We certainly saw more than 10 toads a-leaping towards their breeding pond!

Toads need our help - they've seen a 68% decline in toads in the UK since 1985. You can help toads in your local patch by ensuring your garden is amphibian friendly and if you fancy some hands-on experience, why not join a local toad patrol? Patrol volunteers help toads safely cross hazardous roads on their spring migration routes and help collect useful data for monitoring trends over years. The toads on roads project is coordinated by UK charity Froglife and you can find your nearest registered toad patrol on their website, here. The toad patrol in Ipswich Bobbits Lane is coordinated by Greenways and Ipswich Wildlife Group and is a brilliant example of communities coming together for a brilliant common cause. Watch out on their website for their spring training! You can also learn more about the amphibians and reptiles found in Suffolk by coming along to a talk by county recorder Dr John Baker early next year.

Toads amplexus

© Ali North