Every year from February onwards I keep my ears pinned back for the sound of our Toads singing. I often wake in the night and listen to them. They don't go 'ribbit' as people think, they make a soft cooing sound which is so gentle to listen to it often acts as a lullaby and sends me softly back to sleep. Its a sort-of 'Coooo' or 'Boooo'.
If I don't hear them singing first, the first sign that the migration is on is sadly dead toads on our lane, run over by cars in the night. We make signs and put them at either end of the lane warning drivers that they're there and asking them to slow down and every night for as long as the migration lasts we go out on Toad Watch, patrolling the lane with head torches on and escorting our amphibian friends safely across the lane and into the stream.
I love them. I can't bear seeing them hurt. Tonight is the second night of the migration and we found some very badly injured but not dead on the lane, which was utterly heart-breaking. M, who was brought up on a farm, is much better at dealing with sick animals than me. He takes no pleasure in it but he will dispatch them quickly. I wish I were better at it- I consider it a failing on my part.
Fortunately, there were plenty alive to carry across the lane and put gently on the bank or in the stream. There were frogs too- just two of them, having a lovely mate (as L used to call it when he was little enough to still want to come on Toad Watch). I felt rather intrusive picking them up while they were otherwise engaged and putting them in some shallow water, but needs must and at least I know they are safe. One of the Toads even sang to me when I put him down in a safe place- that's never happened before and it was rather magical. Others clung on to me and didn't want to get off even when the water of the stream was slipping over my fingers.
Before you all ask me in the comments, there is a school of thought that says Toad skin can be irritated by the salt in human skin, and ordinarily I wear gloves when I handle them, just in case, but I forgot tonight and they weren't in my hands for long and I figure better safe in the water than dead on the road.
Tomorrow, I will register our migration with Froglife, who run an annual campaign to raise awareness of the Toad Migration- you can find details here. Hopefully, we might get some proper signs from the council on the strength of that to warn drivers.
Toads are very strongly migrational and return to the pond they were born in. They have a strong ancentral pull and this instinct means toad migration routes can be hundreds, or indeed thousands, of years old. They have usually existed long before lanes and houses came along to disrupt the route and this is why so many are killed on the road each year, You find them all over the UK but their numbers are declining. They migrate in large groups. Toads spend the winter burrowed down in deep mud, compost heaps or wood piles. They don't hibernate and will pop out on a mild day to forage for food. They crawl rather than hop (as per frogs) and have characteristic warty skin without the 'Adam and the Ants' black stripe behind the eyes that froggy people have. They are nocturnal.
If you have any water near you now is the time to pop out and check your local vicinity for them. Stand still and quiet and listen for the soft cooing- that's often the first sign that you have toads nearby. If you do find some, please log your sighting with Froglife- these little chap and chapesses need our help :o)
I'll be back tomorrow with Moth Updates as the lamp is lit and the moth box is beaming away in the garden as I type.
Hope everyone is well, and don't forget to check for toads!
ps- If you're reading this outside the UK, please check first about your local toads as some can be poisonous. The Common Toad here in the UK isn't, although as Ted will tell you if you are foolish enough to lick them they can make you feel sick and froth at the mouth :o)