Donna gives her end of campaign report on the save the toads initiative
In the spring of 2010 I could not drive safely along the A134 at Cranwich after dark in wet conditions! In fact I could not bring myself to drive at all on one occasion, and had to pull over in tears, with my passenger offering to drive for me. I was desperately trying to avoid the toads that were trying to cross the road to get to their breeding pond. Each toad that I successfully avoided was most probably hit by the impatient driver behind me.
My cries of horror were very often met with ‘humorous comments’ and ‘witty remarks’. Water off a ducks back as many years of saving tortoises from a life of rabbit runs and lettuce has hardened me to such humour. Thankfully when I put up posters this January asking for help to ‘do something about this annual massacre of our local toad population’ I met likeminded people who were willing to give their time and ‘risk their lives’, in the case of the A134 site, to help ‘mere toads’.
So equipped with torches, high visibility clothing, free insurance from the froglife organization and on busy nights, buckets! We have spent many an evening on Toad Patrol. We have three sites to patrol. They are at Cranwich, Cockley Cley and Oxborough. All three are registered toad migration routes. Our most successful evening was February 25th, when conditions were perfect for toad movement, i.e. above 10 degrees and wet! 2,305 toads were moved to safety in 3 hours across the 3 sites. Unfortunately just as many died that night!
Toads can travel large distances to breed. They spend most of the year in fields and gardens where they eat slugs and only really spend time in water during the breeding season. They can live up to 20 years and females are only mature enough to spawn at 4years of age. The species is one of many struggling for survival in today’s world. By establishing these annual patrols Toadwatch is attempting to prolong the survival of a fascinating native species for future generations to know, observe and enjoy. As a child I remember seeing newts in garden ponds, this is a rare sight these days. How many children actually know what a newt is or have ever seen one? Our aim is to encourage every village to start up its own patrol where required, to ensure amphibian survival. In fact we found that whilst saving them we also became a toad dating agency! The males hang around on the roads waiting for a female to come along,(much easier to find your mate on the open space of a road) by putting them into buckets with females we inadvertently became match makers.
To date we have moved 3,980 toads and 42 frogs to safety! With more hands we can hopefully save an even greater number next year. If you would like to join us please call Donna 01366 500835 or ask for Zoe at Stoke Ferry village shop. For more information on Toadwatch visit the website at www.toadwatch.org or visit www.froglife.org for other ways in which to help our native amphibians. Our future aim is to push for toad tunnels (with fences to funnel them)at Cranwich, as the high numbers seem to cross throughout the night and traffic on the A134 is relentless. We will more than likely have to fund raise for this option but feel it is the only long term option for such a dangerous road.
Thank you to Accent Fresh for our photocopying and to Trevor at Raptor vinyls for the wonderful warning signs he donated to us. ( I am very sorry to report one at Cockley Cley has been stolen already!) Thank you to K Plant at Stoke Ferry who have offered to loan us ‘Men at Work’ signs for our future patrols and to Paul Groom from highways who is having new toad warning signs installed for us at Oxborough and Cockley Cley. Thank you to all the motorists who slowed down for us and to those who stopped so we could use their headlights, but most importantly THANKYOU Ellen Spain, Mary, Zoe Ager, Holly, Lucy and Jen Hogan, Ben Cannell, Kelly, Holly Sandford, Susie Emmett, Kim Emmett, Bronwen Brewer, Claire Heath, Sam Jones, Craig Ramshaw, Adam Bimpson, Mandy and Victoria Lavender, Jane Luckman, Sharon and Steve Freemantle, Derek Foulkes, Jill Fysh, Sheena Randell, Sid and Doreen Randell, Christine Gatward, Janet Stocking, Chris and Tallulah Stocking, John Reeve, Lydia Beatty, Roger Keay, Shelley Farrow, Eddie Dack, Janis Hardwick, Robbie Robertson, John and Rita Davy for your heroic efforts and dedication. And didn’t we have fun!!!!