12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - Four toads a crawling

WildNet - Tom Marshall

Traditionally for the fourth day of Christmas we would be receiving four calling birds from our one true love but instead we've changed it to four crawling toads!

At this time of year our warty friends, Common toads are hunkered down hibernating under leaf litter, log piles, plant pots, compost heaps and may even be hiding out underneath your sheds and other shelters. Toads are not often thought of as a species that hibernate, but they choose to spend the colder months tucked away until the warmer weather that spring brings with it makes them more active.

Often confused with frogs, toads are warty with duller brown skin with less colour variation than frogs. They also have a snub nose whereas frog’s noses tend to be pointier. Another key trait to identify they from each other is that toads crawl to move around whereas frogs tend to jump. You can at times see a toad jump but when compared to their high jumping froggy friends, its not nearly as energetic or high. 

Toadlet

Toadlet - Lucy Shepherd 

Living for up to ten years the common toad will, during the warmer months, spend most of its time out of the water, surprising a lot of people. They tend to only spend time in water in order to mate and they will always return to their maternal ponds which they spawned from. This unfortunately may be a key factor, as well as many more, as to why toads are declining at an unnerving rate. Toads have sadly declined by 68% and lost two thirds of their numbers in a mere 30 years. Their dogged determination and ingrained behaviour to return to their maternal pond to breed year after year, brings with it a whole host of dangers such as new roads and housing developments with no connectivity to waterways to their maternal ponds being filled in. Another key contender for such a sharp decline in numbers is climate change as warmer winters can have impacts on toad’s hibernation.

Luckily for the toads in Ipswich, our warty friends have a group of volunteers, the Bobbits Lane Toad Patrol, who year after year patrol well known migration routes helping them to cross the streets in safety.  This group, which is backed by The Greenways Project and Ipswich Wildlife Group, have helped to save thousands of toads across the road every year to their breeding ground. The patrol runs every February to April and if you would like to get involved and help too then get in touch on toads@greenlivingcentre.org.uk. The Ipswich branch is just one of over 160 fantastic groups countrywide which is coordinated by Froglife.

Toads - Linda Pitkin/2020VISION

Toad crossing sign, ahead of a pond, warning motorists about migratory toads. England: Surrey, Coldharbour, on outskirts of village, March, spring, - Linda Pitkin/2020VISION

However, a helping hand doesn’t just come in the way of patrols. Having a compost heaps, log pile or plant pots with gaps for creature crawl under provide a damp habitat for toads and lots of other species too. Having highways for toads to migrate through would help toads, frogs, and hedgehogs alike. You never know, your garden fence may just be that barrier stopping a toad from getting to its watery destination. Seeing as toads are often thought of as a gardener’s best friend, eating your unwanted slugs and snail, they may just thank you by clearing a few up on their way through in the warmer months.      

So why not treat a toad and make a change to your gardens or wild space and spare a thought for our declining toads this Christmas.