The sudden changes in weather this spring could give us the best chance to see and track the country’s declining toad populations in a decade.
Celebrated in ‘Wind in the Willows’, toads were once a common sight on the waterways, but numbers have declined in recent years due to a combination of causes including loss of habitat and increased road traffic.
Experts say that the colder temperatures during March followed by the sudden rise in temperature through April means that the toads are now likely to have migrated en masse, and should benefit from breeding in larger groups.
The last decade of milder springs has seen a steady migration over a longer period, often starting in early March and continuing until May. This has made it more difficult to track the animals, and identify their breeding grounds.
Amphibians such as toads are triggered into breeding by changes to temperature and moisture, and can face a lengthy trek back to their breeding ground. This annual process offers the best opportunity we have to see the toads, who otherwise hide away in shady spots until nightfall.
Paul Wilkinson, ecologist at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Toads are one of the real characters of British wildlife, and often choose to breed on our waterways. The weather this year gives us the best chance in years to see them and find out which areas on our waterways are important for them to breed, which means we’ll be able to protect those areas in the future. Also, as they’re more likely to breed in groups, they’ll have strength in numbers and tadpoles will be more likely to survive into toads.
“Canals provide a perfect place for toads to spawn, as the fish in them deter frogs from also trying to lay their eggs in the same spots. We’re asking people to keep an eye out for toads or their toadspawn - which looks like long strings of frogspawn - on their local canals. People can also keep a look out later for black tadpoles in swarms, these are different to the brown frog tadpoles that try to hide away due to the fact that they are much tastier to predators.”