helping amphibians to survive

Ashwellthorpe Patrol - 2018 report

This year was a long season for the toads migrating from Ashwellthorpe Wood to their breeding pond In the grounds of Wood Farm in The Street. The human Toadwatch patrols are organised at twenty-one sites across Norfolk to help the toads reach their breeding ponds from their usual habitat. This is, of course, to stop the toad, frog, newt mortality rate from traffic along roads, large and small, so the toads – when spotted – are lifted, placed gently in a a bucket and carried to the site or as near as possible. At the end of their breeding season, the amphibians are helped back across the road.

 The current Toadwatch patrol scheme in Ashwellthorpe started in 2010 and this year had 25 volunteers with Patrols running from Monday 19 February until Thursday 12 April, with breaks in between owing to the cold and snowy weather – twenty-nine nights had patrols. Toads, especially, will move only when it’s damp or wet, after dusk and with a temperature of over 5C to 6C. Monday 19 February proved to be a false dawn (or false dusk!) as there were no more patrols until 6 March. Depending on dusk times, the patrols ran between 5.45 p.m. and 9.15 p.m. , each patrol of two people doing a 45-minute stint.  

Many more toads were carried to safety this year, 119 in all – both on their way to the pond and returning to the wood – than we had helped before; there were, unfortunately, still 11 fatalities. Ashwellthorpe’s previous best toad “rescues” number was 89 in 2015 and when the patrols started in 2010, only 11 were helped. A great improvement, and hope for our toad colony to continue to thrive. Some nights, when raining and mild, saw the toad patrollers dashing up and down the pavement or grass verge as they tried to keep up with the movements. 177 frogs and 29 newts were saved as well, although there were 14 and 1 loss respectively.  

Thanks must go to all the Toadwatch patrollers who faced all sorts of weather conditions and periods of boredom when nothing moves! I think it was very helpful for parish councillor Ian Bishop to put the SAM speed limiting signs on that stretch of The Street for most of the period and, most of the time, the motorists drove very slowly past us and sometimes stopped to help carry something over  the road.      

Jennifer Robbie, 19 April 2018