The summit was held a stone’s throw away from Bath Cathedral in Friends House, this is Bath Abbey on the morning of the summit.
Saturday 26th January, 2:15pm-5:15pm Meeting House, Bath
The Mini Toad Summit started with the Chair Sheila Gundry, Development Manager for Education, Learning & Communications at Froglife introducing Toads on Roads. This ongoing voluntary project sees volunteers across the country assisting common toads (Bufo bufo) in crossing roads during their annual migration back to their ancestral breeding ponds every year. Sheila also informed attendees that the mini summit was so popular that it was now a fully-fledged toad summit!
Sheila then informed the attended about the wonderful work conducted by toad patrols across the country and that 117,144 toads were saved in 2018, of this 7534 were saved by the toad patrols in attendance. The present patrols included; Charlcombe Lane, Bitton, Chew Valley, St James Church Cameley, Windscombe Hill, Priddy, Fishponds, Smallbrook, Wichelstowe, and East Lockinge.
The day’s events were then officially opened by the right worshipful the Mayor of Bath Counillor Patrick Anketell-Jones, Bath’s 791st Mayor. The Mayor gave an introduction to Bath and welcomed delegates, explaining that every mayor is asked to have a theme for their tenure and that he has chosen environment. The mayor explained that he has been appalled by declines in natural species and that humans have assumed they can exploit the environment, but that we need it for our own survival. The Mayor then thanked toad patrols in local areas for their help with toad populations, expressed how impressed he was by the toad numbers saved, stated the importance of Froglife and how he thinks the patrols are a beacon for the rest of humanity.
Toad Show: Victoria Hillman, Wildlife Researcher and Photographer
This fascinating showcase of Victoria’s toad photographs was aptly titled “Toads: Little bundles of character that need our help”. Victoria has worked in the Mendips Hills, or Mendips in south-west England and that she understands people usually prefer frogs, but that she hopes to get more people to love toads by raising awareness of how beautiful they are through her images. Victoria explained that she lays down to be part of the migration and document toad behaviour on the way to their ponds, where they form mating balls and slip and slide to reach their hilly destination. The photos she showed described the story of mating season, and the mortality which can occur when many males form a mating ball on one female and she drowns. For example Victoria showed how one female died when thirteen males had formed a mating ball around her. Victoria also explained that her photos are not set up, she only moves the toads if they are in danger. The images then progressed to what happens after toads are saved, the audience viewed wonderful pictures of emerging toadlets and Victoria discussed why this is why we look after the populations, for their survival. She hopes people will be inspired to help older toads through her images of young toadlets which are captivatingly cute. See more of Victoria’s work at: www.vikspics.com
Toad Conservation: Angela Julian, Co-ordinator, ARG UK (Amphibian and Reptile groups)
After being introduced by Sheila Gundry as the “uber ARG queen” Angie explained that she would be discussing data from a case study at Henley-on-Thames toad crossing. It is very dangerous for toads to cross at this site, but luckily there at 90 toad patrol volunteers on the database. This patrol uses Google documents to collate their data and noted that in 2018, over 6000 toads were picked up when crossing. Angie explained that the toads live in nearby woodlands and move to water meadows across the A4155 road at dusk in February and March which is unfortunately in rush hour. If the patrol weren’t there Angie thinks the populations would be wiped out. Angie says she knows from Trevor Beebee that males arrive earlier and stay longer than females, she explains that there is intense competition in breeding balls and that this could be exacerbated if toad patrollers turn up with buckets of males and a few females. However, if patrols separate males and females in their buckets and release them separately then this may assists with male to female ratios.
Patrollers conducted research at Henley-on-Thames to see migration routes and found that summer migrating adult toads “meander” but slowly migrate to summer foraging grounds such as woodlands, field margins, and wildlife-friendly gardens and that they move around in the summer months to forage for food. The juveniles leave ponds in the summer months and move on mass, usually when there has been rain after a dry spell, after this they can be spotted in sheltered spots until frosts begin after September. Interestingly, the patrollers found that some adult toads begin migrating back to their ancestral ponds in the autumn but that cold weather usually means adults stay in sheltered areas or hidden buried in leaf litter over winter then continue migration from January.
Angie then discussed interventions to this process, where volunteers patrol road side verges on warm and wet spring evening to collect toads and other amphibians to cross the road in buckets. For toad and volunteer safety she also suggested the creation of temporary barriers using inexpensive plastic sheeting and wooden posts which can be used in the breeding season with landowner permissions. In 2018, the Henley patrol saved 1,500 toads returning to their breeding ponds. Toad tunnels had previously been installed at this site in 1987, during a total of 18 nights after the installation 2,750 toads used the two tunnels but unfortunately these often became blocked with natural debris. Their usage was improved by fencing to encourage toads into the tunnel entrances but toads don’t appear to use these at all now. Although larger entranced tunnels help to avoid these issues, where their installation isn’t possible the patrollers suggest creating new ponds to deter the toads from crossing the dangerous road. At this site, two new ponds were created with funding from Biffa and although the toads have a strong desire to reach their ancestral ponds on the other side of the road, volunteers have placed over 400 toads at the two sites to encourage their use and breeding frogs and newts have already been found there. Angie also explained that patrollers can help toads by improving habitat around their breeding ponds to reduce the chances of them having to cross busy roads to seek out suitable foraging and hibernation areas, and that this has been encouraged by Paddock Wood toad patrol which are part of Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (KRAG). Angie explained that there is lots of work that we can do to help toad populations if we come together as a community and share ideas.
Toads in Drains and Gully’s: John Dickson, Reptile and Amphibian Group Somerset Priddy Toad Patrol
In a detailed talk about drains or “gully pots”, John explained that there are a lot of roadside gully pots which amphibians get in but can’t get back out of again. This problem is exacerbated by amphibians following the curbs and being funnelled into the gully pots. Once inside, their fate is either to stay there until they die or drown if the pot fills entirely. If there is surface water they can also be put into the sewage system and killed by pollution and turbulence, or they can get vacuumed out by the council who suck all the leaf litter out, but amphibians won’t survive this either. In summary, falling into these gully pots is a death penalty. There are two studies which John knows of which detail the scale of the problem, in Scotland a study found that across 1565 gully pots, 2375 amphibians were found to be trapped, across the surveyed area this would equate to 47,421 trapped amphibians per year (https://www.arguk.org/info-advice/survey-and-monitoring/220-amphibians-in-drains-project-2012-perth-and-kinross-ranger-service/file). In another study in the Netherlands, RAVON surveyed gully pots across 36 locations (https://www.arguk.org/info-advice/scientific-and-technical-reports/219-gully-pots-death-traps-for-amphibians-ravon-report-2012/file), they found over 600 amphibians in this time, which equated to half a million adults dying in gully pots every year. John explained how this is just the adults as the remains of young toads perished and decomposed so quick that they weren’t easy to find but if these juveniles were included the average gully pot toad death total would be even higher.
To get around this, John discussed research to modify the curbs to ensure amphibians were not funnelled into the gully pots. John mentioned Steve Lowe in South Wales who actually moved gully pots 10cm from the curb so that there was behind them and before the pavement which allowed amphibians to pass in-between the hole and the curb without dropping in. Doing so reduced deaths of trapped great crested newts by 80%, but John explained that it was a lot of work and very expensive. Instead of this, research into kerb modification, recessing them into the pavements so amphibians will be funnelled around the curb pot, in Scotland were found to reduce amphibian entrapment by 83%. John then discussed how materials can also be fitted into gully pots to allow amphibians to climb up and escape. Both RAVON in the Netherlands and Trevor Rose in Scotland have experimented with different “ladder” material had great toe holds for amphibians to climb on and when fitted into gully pots it saved 73% of amphibians trapped as they could use it to escape when it was installed diagonally or vertically.
Kate from London T.O.A.D Project brought along the virtual reality headsets which allow the participant to become a toad trying to cross a road, spreading the message of giving wildlife the green light.
Charlcombe Lane Toad Patrol: Anna Ferguson
The Charlcombe Lane Toad Patrol has a patrol manager, this is Helen Hobbs who started volunteering to help toad crossings in 1999. The crossings used to be managed by Avon Wildlife Trusts, but after 2003 Helen took over management, the first records of crossing date back to 1988. Luckily, at the crossing the road began being closed in toad breeding season (6 weeks commencing 11th February) in 2003 after Avon Wildlife Trust approached the local council (Bath and North East Somerset Council) who funded the closure until 2015. After this the group have paid from 2016, the closure costs around £1300 a year. The road closure has also had support from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust and has continuing support from Froglife. Since 2003 there has been an amphibian casualty rate of 5.2%, the road closure efforts have allowed 33,000 amphibians to be recorded since 2003. To get the road closed, the toad patrol work with the council to ensure the road is not worked during the breeding season, book the road space with Streetworks department to get a reference number for Traffic Order in November every year, give 8 weeks’ notice of road closure to council by submitting a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order, and liaise with Highways Contracter for signage preparation. Two weeks before the road closure the patrol also post notices on lamp posts and write to residents and local schools to inform them of the closure and explain why it is happening.
The patrol has been successful in getting funding from multiple sources, e.g. Wessex Water Watermark Award- £750 in 2003, £5000 from Lush in 2014, and Skansa, highways contractor, had paid circa £3000 every year to put out signage and branded high-vis jackets but funding finishing this year. In 2010, the patrol put Helen forward for an Animal Action Award with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and she won. Anna then gave details of how the patrol got funding for road closures and showed the attendees a clip of the patrol on the One Show in 2011.
The patrol can be contacted at: email@example.com
First toad patrols- Experiences and Lessons Learnt: Margaret Finn, St James Church Toad Patrol, Cameley
- Discussing experience from their first toad patrol year in Cameley
- Margaret discussed her love for amphibians and her dismay at seeing how many were getting run over every year on their to their home
- She set up a patrol last spring and wrote to her neighbours but no one responded
- She enlisted her family and made her own toad signs along the lane before the migration
- The patrol area is around 200m
- Asked for advice on how to work out which pond they are headed for, e.g. determine ancestral pond
- Driver who stopped were pleased that they were helping the toads
- This year she’s cast a wider net to get more volunteers involved, by displaying poster in GP’s and vets etc.
- She says its important to find a person to keep an eye out for the start of the migration
- She now also understands it’s good to keep accurate data on numbers and species saved
- Sheila then reiterated that accurate data going back to Froglife is really valuable
Bristol Toad Patrols: Andy Ryder, Avon Reptile and Amphibian Group
- AVON RAG
- Joined ARAG, wanted to start toad patrols in Bristol area
- First patrol started in two 2010 where made the local radio
- He’s set up three patrols one in fish ponds and one in Bitton
- The latter one has around 4000 toads per year
- They have put in signs which fold up when not in use also
- Their third patrol is in Chew, on a very fast road
- Most challenging thing they’ve found is recruiting and retaining volunteers
- Went on to discuss toad signs and how patrols can erect them
- They gave sign examples from amphibian crossing around the world
- Up to a total of 32,000 toads saved since 2010 across the three Bristol area patrols
Funding Toad Patrols and Closing Comments: Sheila Gundry, Froglife
- Sheila went over the funding available for patrols
- Especially in the local area
- Then went over feedback as Froglife would like to know if people would like more of these summits to occur and what delegates would like for the future
Bath Abbey at the end of the Toad Summit
Take a look at the summit’s presentations below (go full screen to view clearly) :