Prowling Mill Road at night, protecting the small and vulnerable - its Arundel Wetland Centre's Toad Patrol!
Milder, damp weather from late January to early March signals to common toads that it's migration time in Sussex. Sadly, this can put them in danger as their instinct to return to the pond they hatched from forces them to cross country roads at night. WWT Arundel Wetland Centre’s Reserve Manager Suzi Lanaway and volunteers return, under darkness, when conditions seem right to rescue toads trying to cross Mill Road in front of Arundel Wetland Centre.
Female spotted on the road by Toad Patrol torches
This patrol isn’t just made up of volunteering wildlife wardens – staff from the Retail, Catering and Learning teams all volunteer for this local Toad Patrol. Mill Road in front of the wetland centre is an active toad crossing point, listed with the Department of Transport on the registry of amphibian crossing points. There is a major influx of toads returning to the safety of the ponds of the wetland reserve in early spring every year, with the toads on the move anytime from late January to early March.
It isn’t just toads that benefit from these road rescues by the Toad Patrol.
WWT Arundel Toad Patroller Lizzy Pearce said “One night we helped 134 toads, 13 palmate newts, 14 smooth newts and 1 common frog over the road to safety!”
Toads travel at night to avoid being eaten by crows and other predators. In damp, mild weather toads will travel up to three miles to return to breed in the waters where they were spawned. Common toads are recognised as being of priority importance for the conservation of biodiversity under Section 41 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
During daylight hours the Keepers at Arundel Wetland Centre also look out for toads trying to get through the wetland reserve’s perimeter fence during their daily checks. Head Keeper Sam Halpin said, “We can pick up over 100 toads off the fence line in a day. Our team will get into waders and rescue toads from our sluice gates as well.”
Pair rescued by during daytime fence checks by Grounds team
Many roads in Sussex will have volunteers out to help toads at this time of year.
Reserve Manager Suzi Lanaway said “Drive slower down country roads, look out Toad Xing road signs and volunteers in Toad Patrol jackets. I hope motorists will keep an eye out for toads on these warm, rainy nights.”
Members of the public who would like to help ‘Toads on Roads’ in their area can contact Froglife.org for more information.