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 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. In 2018 alone, the patrol saved over 6000 toads at this crossing! Angie discussed how the toads live in nearby woodlands and cross the A4155 road at dusk in February and March which unfortunately coincides with rush hour, without the patrols she thinks the populations would be wiped out. From Trevor Beebee, Angie explains that she knows males arrive earlier and stay longer than females and that there is intense competition in breeding balls. This competition can be exacerbated if toad patrollers turn up with buckets of males and few females, but Angie says to even out male to female ratios, patrols can separate males and females in their buckets and release them separately.
At Henley-on-Thames patrollers have found that summer migrating adult toads slowly migrate to summer foraging grounds, e.g. woodlands, field margins, and wildlife-friendly gardens. The juveniles leave ponds in the summer on mass, usually when there is rain after a dry spell. Interestingly, the patrollers found that some adult toads begin migrating back to their ancestral ponds in autumn too, but that cold weather usually forces adults into sheltered areas over winter where they continue migration from in January. For volunteer and toad safety, the patrol also check roadside verges for amphibians on warm and wet spring evenings, and the creation of temporary roadside barriers using plastic sheeting and wooden posts was also encouraged to keep toads off the roads until patrollers help them cross. At this site, toad tunnels were installed in 1987, although initially successful, these often became blocked with natural debris. Fencing was constructed to encourage toads into tunnel entrances, but toads do not appear to use the tunnels now. Angie explained that larger entranced tunnels can help to avoid these issues, but where their installation isn’t possible, the patrollers suggest creating new ponds to deter toads from crossing the road. At the Henley-on-Thames site, two new ponds were created with Biffa funding. Following this installation, volunteers placed over 400 toads at the two sites to encourage their use, and breeding frogs and newts have already been found there!
Angie encouraged habitat improvement efforts around toad breeding ponds to reduce toads crossing roads in search of suitable terrestrial habitats, and to finish, she 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 group of studies by Perth & Kinross Council and Ranger Service saw 1565 gully pots surveyed from 2010-2012. In this time, over 2,700 amphibians were found in the gully pots (dead & alive;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 determined that between several hundred thousand and half a million adult amphibians could be dying in gully pots across the Netherlands every year.
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’s work in South Wales where gully pots were moved forward 10cm from the curb so that there was space behind them which allowed amphibians to pass in-between the hole and the curb without dropping in. John also explained that kerb modification and ladders have been successful in Scotland (http://www.taysidebiodiversity.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2014_Amphibians-in-Drains-Report.pdf), with Clare and Rose (2014) reporting that over 73% of toads were rescued from gully pots using ladders.
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
This talk covered Margaret’s experience in running her new patrol’s first year in Cameley. Margaret discussed her love for amphibians and her dismay at seeing how many were getting run over every year on their way to their home. In spring 2018, she set up a toad patrol and wrote to her neighbours but unfortunately no one responded. To help her run the patrol which covers around 200m, Margaret enlisted the help of her family. Margaret also made her own toad crossing signs along the toad crossing lane before the migration began and reports that a driver who stopped during a patrol night was pleased that the patrollers were helping the toads! This year, Margaret explains that she has cast a wider net to get more volunteers involved, and has done so by displaying patrol posters in GP surgeries and local veterinary practises. After discussing her patrol, Margaret asked attendees for advice on how to work out which pond toads are headed for, e.g. how to determine the direction of their ancestral pond, and explained that it was important for patrols to find an assigned person to keep an eye out for the start of the migration. In her final notes Margaret explained that she now understands that it’s good to keep accurate data on amphibian numbers and species saved, and this was reiterated by Sheila Gundry who expressed that this accurate data going back to Froglife is really valuable.
Bristol Toad Patrols: Andy Ryder, Avon Reptile and Amphibian Group
After joining Avon Reptile and Amphibian Group in 2009, Andy explained to attendees that he had wanted to start toad patrols in the Bristol area as he couldn’t find any near him. He started by patrolling near to the Lido (a lake) in Fishponds originally finding over 130 on a visit, here Andy was frequently visited by Police after locals wondered what he was up to on his bike. There used to be an old patrol here since the 90’s, and Andy revived this in 2010. This patrol now sees around ~1000 amphibians per year during migration! After running patrols in France between 2013 and 2016, Andy returned to set up further patrols near Bristol; in Bitton and Chew. Andy reports that in Bitton there is a large, stable, and social patrol group that save huge amounts of amphibians every year. In chew, the group patrol the B3114, a very fast road where amphibian numbers vary annually. At this location, Andy explained that volunteer recruitment and retention can be difficult.
Andy had explained earlier in the talk that he was also here to discuss signage. He went on to show attendees the ingenious folding signs which the Bristol area patrols use, these fold away when not in use so are convenient for the council and ensure they don’t get pinched either. Andy then discussed how signage can be covered by local council’s insurance policy once they have been installed, and are important for raising awareness of toads and the volunteers, and helping new volunteers to find the sites and others to become interesting in volunteering. Andy finished by showcasing amphibian crossing signs from around the world and letting attendees know that up to a total of 32,000 toads were saved since 2010 across the three Bristol area patrols!
Funding Toad Patrols and Closing Comments: Sheila Gundry, Froglife
To finish the summit, Sheila Gundry went over the funding available for patrols, especially in the local area. After this, Sheila thanked the speakers and attendees and went over feedback for the summit as Froglife would like to know if attendees 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) :