The snowdrops are out and birds are singing, spring is definitely on its way. Soon to follow will be the great migration of common toads. Toads spend the majority of their lives on land, under rocks, in compost heaps and in vegetable patches. But like all amphibians they must return to water to breed.
Common toads favour large, deep ponds with areas of clear water such as farm ponds, reservoirs, fish ponds or village ponds. They also tend to return to their ancestral breeding ponds, travelling along the same routes every year.
They may be small, but toads can move, sometimes over 2km to get to a preferred breeding pond. However unfortunately over the years, barriers and obstacles such as roads, housing estates and garden fences have been built across their path. Toads migrate at night and nothing will get in the way of their amorous intentions, even busy roads. Sadly this means that scores of toads are run over every year by cars that don’t see them until it’s too late.
As part of the Arun and Rother Connections (ARC) project, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Sussex Amphibian and Reptile Group are trying to find out where the toad migratory routes are and if toads are being killed on roads. Over three years, they aim to reduce the number of road casualties occurring every spring by mapping the crossing and warning drivers with road signs and toad patrols. They need your help and would love to hear from anyone who knows of a toad crossing point or sees one in the next few months.
You’ll definitely know a crossing if you see one – the road is likely to be covered in dead toads. Please do let the Sussex Amphibian and Reptile group know if you find a crossing. You can fill in their online form.
Migration can occur anytime between January and April, but toads most commonly emerge at dusk after a spell of damp, warmish weather. So next time there is some warm spring rain keep your eyes peeled, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation website can help you with toad identification.
There are crossing sites on the Litlington Road near Seven Sisters; Beechwood Lane, Cooksbridge; Town Littleworth Road north of Barcombe; on Plumpton Lane and at Golden Cross.Some of these are actively patrolled by volunteers, but not all of them.
Additionally there is a very active site in Ridgewood near Uckfield. The group who patrol the area are looking for new volunteers to help. They have already helped a few toads to cross this year, so the full migration will probably happen soon.
Please go along and help - children (with an adult) really enjoy this activity! All you need is a bucket, torch, warm clothing and preferably wellington boots, as it can be very muddy at the pond. (They may even be able to provide a high-viz jacket. )
Harlands Pond is the breeding site. If you live nearby and would like to take part in this interesting and extremely rewarding exercise or want more information please ring Caroline on 01825749741 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org