Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Amorous toads given a lift over the road

SPAWNING ponds are being created to help preserve Henley’s toad population.

SPAWNING ponds are being created to help preserve Henley’s toad population.

They will be built on land to the south of Marlow Road to prevent the need for the toads to cross the busy road.

Each year, almost 10,000 migrating toads cross the road to ponds in the grounds of Henley Business School.

Volunteers from the Henley Wildlife Group spend every night during the migration season picking up the creatures in woodland on the Culden Faw Estate and carrying them in buckets to safety.

The Toad Patrol has picked up 1,928 toads so far this year — 1,094 single females and 397 pairs. It has also carried 87 frogs and 42 smooth newts.

The group, which saves about 80 per cent of the toad population each year, recently received a £25,000 grant from Biffa for the creation of two large ponds on land belonging to Urs and Francesca Schwarzenbach.

Work began in the New Year, designed and supervised by Rod D’Ayala, a local ecologist and wildlife pond expert, and has just been completed. Once the ponds have matured and the vegetation established, the Culden Faw Estate, through manager Alex Dick, hopes to arrange visits for children, schools and others interested in wildlife.

Alan Parfitt, of Elizabeth Road, Henley, a co-ordinator of the Toad Patrol, says the cold weather is delaying this year’s spawning period.

He said: “The spawning migration is occurring later than usual, although it’s not the latest we have known it. In 2006, only just over 100 toads had been taken across as the end of March loomed. Then between March 24 and 31 nearly 4,500 toads — pretty much the total for that year — were taken across.

“There is no toad movement occurring at the moment as it is far too cold. It will restart once the temperature rises to around eight degrees. When that will be I do not know, nor do I know how many more toads will appear this year or what the final total will be. Last year it was 7,751.”

In the late Eighties, the country’s first ever toad tunnel was installed in Hambleden in a bid to save toads from being squashed by vehicles. However, the toads didn’t take to it so the volunteers put up a barrier alongside the road so the creatures could be picked up more easily.

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