Toad patrol gears up for annual crawl to spawn

West Runton toad patrol volunteers,

West Runton toad patrol volunteers, from left, Keith and Martina Morrow, Pak Chan and Andy Parry and volunteer co-ordinator Carole Davidson. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Why did the toad cross the road? On its annual winter journey to the West Runton pond where it spawns, of course.

Luckily a group of hardy volunteers from the West Runton Toad Patrol will be on hand to make sure the warty-skinned amphibians can survive the crossing in one piece. 

Common toad in a garden flowerbed

A common toad in a garden flowerbed. Each year, the West Runton Toad Patrol helps hundreds of the amphibians successfully cross a road. - Credit: Nick Upton/2020VISION

Carole Davidson, the patrol's volunteer co-ordinator, said that although numbers had been steady over the past decade, these were uncertain times for toads, with unpredictable weather linked to climate change likely to have some effect.

"They don't usually start thinking about moving to the ponds until mid-February, but it depends on the weather," she said. 

"Toads have been known to move in January if it's mild enough - the problem is if they spawn too early, their spawn can get frozen, which won't allow the toadlets to appear."

Carole Davidson, volunteer coordinater, from the West Runton toad patrol. Picture: Danielle Booden

Carole Davidson, volunteer co-ordinator from the West Runton Toad Patrol. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Hundreds of toads make the journey each winter from West Runton Common - where they spend most of the year - to a pond on the other side of Station Road to spawn. 

Thanks to several new volunteers last season, there are now about 20 people who go out at dusk on mild nights to help the toads - which crawl instead of hop - across the road. 

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"It's not a busy road but before we started doing the toad patrol we did tend to get a lot of squashed toads. But now we hardly get any causalities, thankfully," Ms Davidson said.

"We go out in high-vis jackets, with buckets and torches. It has to be above about seven degrees for the toads to move - we spend a lot of time looking at weather forecasts once the season starts."

Ms Davidson said a surprising thing was that toads had a low-pitched squeak rather than a croak - the common sound of frogs. 

She said hundreds of frogs also made the trip across to the pond at West Runton, but because they could hop and move quicker than the toads, they required less human help. 

Anyone from the Runtons interested in joining the patrol should contact Ms Davidson on 07587 186975 or email cgd1959@gmail.com.