Willing wildlife volunteers are wanted to help protect annual migration web-footed lovers near Sleaford

Hitching a ride. Female toads carry the males piggyback style to the breeding ponds. EMN-180131-121040001
Hitching a ride. Female toads carry the males piggyback style to the breeding ponds. EMN-180131-121040001
  • Toad Facts. Toad (Bufo Bufo) can live up to 30 years.
  • They need only feed 3 to 4 times a year.
  • The only time toads are in water is in the breeding season.
  • Females are much bigger than males.
  • Their tongues are T-shaped at the end and very sticky.
  • The females carry the males piggyback style to the breeding ponds.
  • Toads have 9 stomachs.
  • Toads will walk around 3/4km to get to their ancestral breeding grounds and their navigation is amazing. When moving to the breeding ponds, they orientate themselves to the lines of force to the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • Alas, do not kiss a male toad, he will not turn into a handsome prince!

A group of conservation-minded locals each year take turns to patrol a stretch of a country just south of Sleaford making sure amorous toads get across safely on their annual migration to mate and spawn.

The team do their best to spot toads in the road and escort them across to avoid them being squashed by passing traffic as they cross between the ponds located in woodland either side of the asphalt.

A nocturnal traveller cross White Cross Lane outside Sleaford. EMN-180131-121019001

A nocturnal traveller cross White Cross Lane outside Sleaford. EMN-180131-121019001

The group was set up by Fiona Cousland and have signs up on White Cross lane, off Mareham Lane, warning motorists during the peak migration season in the spring. She said: “Last year our toad group did a fantastic job in all weathers. A bit disappointing as numbers were slightly down.”

She believed there were a number of possible reasons including natural predation, contamination of the lake/ponds or disease.

Fiona said: “Chytrid has been identified in 19 populations of toads in the U.K. This disease is capable of wiping out whole populations. Also, ranavirus which can be carried by all amphibians. Since 2008 this virus has killed over 85,000 frogs.”

There has been a massive 68 per cent decline in common toads in recent years.

Looking for love. A toad on the march to the breeding grounds. Photo Fiona Cousland. EMN-180131-120959001

Looking for love. A toad on the march to the breeding grounds. Photo Fiona Cousland. EMN-180131-120959001

She added: “As a group we have been greatly concerned that we may be facing a further decline in numbers this year, as there has been disturbance in the woodland in which and through which, our toads hibernate and migrate. The woodland is owned by a large farming estate, which has been felling some trees and gathering a lot of brushwood. Due to this there has been disturbance to the woodland floor by heavy vehicles.”

She feared this could have a serious effect during the migratory period on toads, frogs and newts.

She added: “We have been informed by the estate that clearing up work will be completed this week and that the woodland will then be left.

“Our group of volunteers give up a lot of time to patrol the road at White Cross Lane. We all realise the pressure nature is under and the vital importance of ecosystems and foodchains. Destroy a habitat and all the fauna and flora that live there either perish or move.”

There is a pre migratory season meeting on Saturday (February 3) at 10.30am at Four Seasons Garden Centre, Silk Willoughby.

Fiona said: “We are desperate for new volunteers. Please come along and meet our friendly caring group. If you can spare one or two hours a week between 4pm 10pm during the six week period of the toad migration, that would be fantastic.”

For details contact Fiona on: 01529 415162 or 07876707358, or Martin on: 07763103846.