Signs of spring: The common toad

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Every hour enough plastic to fill two bin bags is washed into our oceans from canals and rivers.

Spring is one of the best times to spot a common toad. Paul Wilkinson, ecologist at the Trust, tells us more about this colourful creature.

Common Toad lying in grass Common Toad

Spring is the best time to see our common toad. They leave their winter hibernation place and can travel up to a kilometre to reach the site they were born, typically an old established waterbody with fish in it.

In the past, large numbers of toads would migrate across the countryside during March to mid-April (depending on which part of the country you live). They would congregate in a mating mass in and around the water, spawning over a short period, leaving their long string of eggs wrapped around the marginal water plants.

Today, too often, this migration routes takes the toads over a road or several. Our roads are getting busier and thousands of toads are getting squashed on them each spring. To make things worse – the main event takes place at dusk in March or early April – taking the toads across roads during our the rush hour.

Although toads can live for more than 20 years, on average it is more like three to five years due to modern pressures. Female toads grow larger than males, and continue to grow with age. However, due to their relatively short life expectancy now, the size difference is not as pronounced as it was the past.

So what can we do? Well, to find out more information, see if there is a local group carrying out ‘toad patrols’ in your area, where they help the toads off the roads.

The common toad is not so at home in the hustle and bustle of our modern world. Unlike the common frog, toads have not adapted so well to garden ponds. However, we've noticed a slight increase in the numbers using our canals.

Last date edited: 22 March 2016

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The environment team

The Canal & River Trust has top team of committed experts and enthusiasts, who help to protect our waterway environment and improve it for both people and nature. Follow this blog to find out more about the hugely varied work they carry out.

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