Lorna Williamson (Patrol Manager of Milngavie Library & CE Centre Toad Patrol in East Dunbartonshire) writes about her first season running a Toad Patrol.
It was with a mixture of sadness and relief that I stashed away my toad road signs and head torch. My first official season as a Toad Patroller had been a busy one, with 382 lives saved over a 31-day period. It had started modestly: first came the toads on 12th March, followed by frogs two days later, until a melting-pot of amphibian-hopping-madness on 22nd March! Up to that point, I’d merely made the patrolling area official on the Froglife website, but the need to be omnipresent to cover everywhere at once spurred me into putting an urgent call out to a community action group I was loosely connected with. A few days later, we had our first volunteer! We met every night in the library car park for the next two and a half weeks, each with our own toad-gathering equipment, which on more than occasion for me was an old food-waste bin, deep enough to prevent jumping escapees! I was quite nervous on our first patrol that the main ‘spectacle’ might have passed for my eager helper, but finished the evening with 18 toads, two frogs, and one newt. I am aware that these are modest figures compared with busier patrols taking place on main roads.
During the five-week patrolling period, I found it practically impossible to stay in as the critical dusk hour approached – I was addicted! Hopefully other patrollers are familiar with the sensation of closing your eyes at night and being filled with images of yet more toads – all the little lives you’ve given a ‘hopping’ hand to! Once, when I looked out of my bedroom window late at night, ignoring the little voice in my head – “Don’t do it!” – I spotted the unmistakable movement of a toad ambling awkwardly over the road. Groaning, I threw on my waterproof trousers and coat to hide my pajamas and ran down the three flights of stairs in our block before reaching him, thankfully still unharmed, and minutes before a car appeared. I hadn’t got my tub, so prayed not to find any others in the 125 meters en-route to the pond. I found one more, a beautiful, huge female, smack bang in the middle of the car park, who didn’t really seem to know where she was going! I’ll always remember that occasion.
A surprising highlight was the encounters with other people along the way. I suppose our little team of high-vis ’ed helpers stood out, with our buckets of squirming creatures and habit of scooping them up moments before the impact of foot, tyre or paw! We certainly became familiar to the weekly jogging group (who I’m pleased to say would shout “toad!” back through the ranks as appropriate), and one personal trainer and their client who watched bemused as we frantically rescued toads from the road next to where they were busy exercising! Such encounters raised awareness of the plight, with two ladies being so affected by our conversation one evening that they expressed their apprehension to leave the car park for fear of running any over. My favourite encounter was with a man who, having spotted us in action already, backtracked to alert us to two toads “right on top of each other, over there in the middle of the path”!
I admit, I became a bit obsessed with the mission over the patrolling period – there were missed church meetings, abandoned phone calls, and compulsory participation from visiting family members. But the alternative just didn’t bear thinking about. It was hard enough witnessing the relatively few casualties that I did. In contrast to many patrols, our only road is a cul-de-sac with comparatively less traffic to contend with. What’s more, the experience had an extra special layer to it last year. It was one of the few passions I was still able to indulge, after three months of suffering from post-covid fatigue, which had rendered my attempts at a pre-diseased lifestyle futile. Taking care of something other than myself and being so engrossed in an activity offered a much-needed release from my own problems. Quite frankly, the toads were helping me as much as I them, and in fact it was hard to find a purpose again once the season ended.
And so, it goes without saying that I await the soggy slap of a frog’s belly on the ground in 2023 with bated breath! I’m also extremely excited that not long ago, a second volunteer was recruited through the Froglife website. If I’m feeling brave enough, I’d like to increase awareness of the migration through direct contact with the community centre and library, as well as in the community magazine. Ideally, use of the car park for regular events would be limited until BST begins and event timetable clashes with peak amphibian movements can be avoided. One thing I am grateful for is the kind donation of a colour printer from our lovely neighbours which will save hours of work spent on making the red warning triangle by hand! I can happily encourage anyone reading this with an inkling of making your rescue missions official by registering as a toad patrol to go for it! It’s great to have the support from Froglife and to feel like you’re part of the migration up and down the country. Happy patrolling, everyone!
Eyes of swirling fire
Beauty in a bumpy maze
Fingerprint of warts
To find out more about the Toads on Roads Project, please visit the Froglife website.