Helping amphibians to survive

There were two weeks of extremely mild and damp weather at the start of February and the toads took the opportunity to move to their ponds.  We are used to seeing males moving early but it was surprising to see so many females on the move so early.   As a consequence, patrols saw toads leaving the ponds from mid February.   

The weather turned colder on 23/02 and movement was much reduced at all the patrols.  Conditions will be warm and damp enough for movement on Wed 28/02 but we have no idea whether some toads will continue to arrive.   It is a fair bet that the female toads that were in the pond last week will have spawned and will now want to get home.  Some males may hang on and hope that more females arrive.   The weather conditions are unprecedented so there is no past experience to guide us.

Many patrols have noted much reduced frog numbers - the total is about 15% of that seen in a normal year - whereas some patrols have already seen as many toads as last year.  This is strange because the frogs are normally seen early, as they are not travelling from as far away as the toads.   Male toads often overwinter in the pond, so as to be on the scene first.  So there are these possibilities - 

  • The frogs moved before the toads and were already there when the toad patrols started
  • The frogs were not tempted by the mild start to February and we will see them in March
  • The frogs are avoiding the newts (which have been increasing dramatically and eat frogspawn) by breeding in temporary ponds/puddles that have been created by the wet weather - frogs prefer temporary ponds because there are fewer newts.  Frogs can sense the presence of newts in the water 
  • Frogs have been hit by disease or loss of habitat - seems less likely as the absence of frogs is widespread, even where toad numbers have been good

Toad numbers at Selbrigg continue to decline without any obvious reason - only 268 so far, against 11,500 in 2015.

Over 300 toads have been helped at Carleton Forhoe but none were visible in the water last week. We wonder if the large amount of rainfall has swamped the normal breeding sites in the reeds.

The toadspawn in the pond at John Innes appeared a month earlier than last year - 19/02/24 vs 20/03/23.

On the plus side, there has been good press coverage and many patrols have had good numbers of new volunteers. 

The full moon often brings a peak in toad movement but the full moon on Feb 24th coincided with colder weather so there was little movement then.