Friday, 8 March 2013

Toad Patrol

I spent a wet Thursday evening helping one of the biggest toad migrations in the South East of England. The A4155 that runs between Henley and Marlow in Oxfordshire, runs right through the middle of an ancient migration route for European common toad (Bufo bufo) and frog (Rana temporaria). On one side of the road is a huge pond that is a key breeding site for a large percentage of the southern Chilterns toad population and the other is a large woodland that leads into the Chiltern Hills.

The amphibians are most active during the 2 hours after dusk which is also when the road is most busy with rush hour and therefore a large percentage of the toads would be killed on the road. The solution is that a new pond is planned to be built within the woodland which eventually may be used by many of the toads as an alternative breeding site. It will take many years for this to start as even when the pond is established, it will take time for the toads to change their habit which is to return to the place where they were born for breeding.

To avoid huge losses in numbers a reptile fence has been erected for the duration of the migration to prevent the toads and frogs from crossing the road. Volunteers then collect them up in buckets and transfer them safely across the road, but to make sure they are not disorientated and head back towards the road they are released across the field and directly into the pond itself. Everyone taking part is asked to count the number that they release from each bucket.

On the evening of the 07/03/2013 conditions were perfect for toad movement as the temperature had risen and it was drizzling. We rescued 126 single toads, 21 pairs, 11 single frogs and 1 pair of frogs.
Over the course of the migration 7000 toads ae thought to collected and rescued. This is very direct conservation as nearly half this number could be killed on the busy road without the volunteer effort.

The volunteer help is co-ordinated by the Henley Wildlife Group.

Over the weekend I spent some time at Warburg BBOWT Reserve hoping to see or hear lesser spotted woodpecker. I had no luck with the woodpecker but did find several woodland species including at least 8 marsh tits throughout the reserve and bullfinches drinking from a pond.

Before I headed home I took a look around the Turville area, where I almost always find several herds of (introduced) fallow deer. I soon located 2 very large herds and crept closer for nice views.

I also noticed a carcass of a young deer that was attracting several red kites, common buzzards and a pair of ravens!