Following the Go Toads project begun by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust in 2016 with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, toad patrols have been running each year in Bodenham between February and April to try and prevent them from being run over as they cross the lane from where they have overwintered in the woodland on the way to the lake where they mate and spawn.
Toads instinctively head to the same ponds and lakes each spring on the migratory routes followed by their ancestors. As the roads which these routes cross become busier each year, the toads find themselves in mortal danger as they make their migration. In addition to this peril, many ponds are also being lost from our landscapes through development and because they are largely redundant as watering ponds for livestock on farms. This has led to a serious national decline in toad numbers: a recent study by Froglife and partners from The University of Zurich and using data collected by Toads on Roads volunteer patrollers has shown that on average common toads have declined by 68% over the last 30 years in the UK.
Things are looking up for the toads of Bodenham however as this year’s count of toads was more than double that of previous years with over 1,000 helped across the road. In 2016 we helped 202 toads, last year that rose to 339 and this year the total was 1012. Though this is not enough evidence to draw definite conclusions, it looks like the toad patrols are having a positive effect on toad numbers.
The Bodenham toad patrol group began the year with an introductory meeting and training session run by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s Sophie Cowling. Sophie commented: “We had a great turn-out for our first meeting but what has been so fantastic is that volunteers have kept coming along throughout the season with more volunteers joining throughout the weeks of patrolling. We’ve had around 25 volunteers helping on some nights and 53 people in total come out on patrols – it’s great to see the local community taking this project to their hearts. Aside from the period of snow, we have had lots of evenings with the perfect conditions for the toads – fairly mild and damp – so we’ve had some bumper nights!” This year, the volunteers were also joined by the Marden Navigators who proved very enthusiastic patrollers!”
Patrolling has now finished for the year and the volunteers have been rewarded by lots of toads and toad spawn being spotted in the lake. Volunteer Vivien Quinn who has been keeping the tally of toads each evening said: “This has been such a great community project to be involved in. It’s wonderful to get up close to this iconic species. Some people don’t think of toads as charming or characterful but they really are! They all start squeaking when they’re in a bucket together and it feels great when we release them close to the lake at the end of each patrol.”
For more information go to www.herefordshirewt.org/bodenhamtoadpatrol