Sunday, 03 July 2022

Spawning amphibians slowed by cold nights

MORE than 150 toads plus some frogs and newts have been helped by the Henley Toad Patrol so far.

Volunteers have been collecting the creatures in buckets at a temporary barrier they installed along part of the A4155 Marlow Road at the start of the month.

It was put in place to prevent the toads from being killed by vehicles as they migrate from Oaken Grove Wood to a pond in the grounds of Henley Business School.

Generally cool nights so far this month have meant that relatively few toads have been on the move. The really active period is usually in early March.

Sunday was the volunteers’ busiest night of the year so far with the wet and windy weather brought by Storm Ciara.

Professor John Sumpter, a founding member of the patrol, said: “Toad movement to their spawning pond has been sporadic so far this year. This is normal because on most evenings in February it is too cold for the toads to move.

“Toads and other amphibians need mild weather before they will head for their spawning ponds.

“The evening temperature needs to be 8C or more for amphibians to migrate. Wet weather is also preferred to dry conditions.”

Prof Sumpter, head of ecology at Brunel University, said most of the toads collected so far this year were males.

“This is because males want to arrive first at the spawning pond, where they wait for the females to arrive a few weeks later,” he said.

“The really busy time for the volunteers is usually early March, when mass movement of toads occurs, including most of the females. Many hundreds of toads are helped across the road and occasionally more than 1,000 toads are collected by volunteers in a single evening.

“Over the last 20 years the number of toads collected has varied between a low of 2,088 and a high of 10,501, with the annual average being just over 5,500 toads.

“As well as the toads, a few hundred frogs arrive at the barrier and are helped across the road. In the last few years a reasonable number of common newts have also arrived at the barrier.

“Some of these amphibians will have travelled quite long distances before they reach the barrier.”

The group has about 115 volunteers, of whom 40 regularly take part. If you are interested in joining, email co-ordinator Angelina Jones at amtjones@googlemail.com

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