Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Volunteers brave chilly nights to save spawning toads

Volunteers brave chilly nights to save spawning toads

VOLUNTEERS installed a 1km barrier along a main road near Henley to protect toads and other amphibians from traffic, writes James Burton.

About 20 members of the Henley Toad Patrol spent three hours setting up the blockade, which is made of plastic sheeting secured with wooden stakes, along a stretch of the A4155 Marlow Road.

This will prevent the toads, frogs and newts which live in Oaken Grove Wood, part of the Culden Faw Estate, from crossing the road to spawn in a pond on the other side at the Henley Business School at Greenlands. Instead, when they awake from hibernation and begin migrating in the next week or two, the team will collect them at the barrier every night and carry them across in buckets.

The breeding season begins when temperatures reach about 7C at dusk and lasts up to eight weeks.

By the time it finishes, the clocks will have gone forward so there is less traffic on the road when the creatures are active and they can cross safely by themselves. They also move faster in search of food after fasting all winter. Henley Toad Patrol, which was formed in 1987, typically rescues between 6,000 and 10,000 specimens every year. About 30 members take part every night.

While carrying out the work on Sunday morning, the volunteers came across about half a dozen hibernating toads. They carefully moved them to a safer spot to wait out the last few days of winter.

Co-ordinator Angelina Jones, who has been a member of the group for more than 20 years, said: “They can only get to the pond by crossing the road so we have to put up quite a long barrier to catch them. They cannot cross safely so if we didn’t do this every year the local population would be decimated. We’re thankful to the Culden Faw Estate for allowing us to carry out this vital work.

“We mostly catch ‘common toads’ but that’s a bit of a misnomer as they’re not common any more. They’re up against poisoning from slug pellets, traffic, loss of habitat from people filling in ponds and various diseases.

“This is an amazing group effort and a great example of grassroots conservation at its finest.”

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