It was the quiet between two storms that were battering the UK. Storm Ciara had passed and Storm Dennis was imminent. The wind was still strong, pushing and pulling trees, bending the tall grass almost horizontal and creating waves with small white crests on the pools at Cranwich. The sky overhead was a leaden grey, ominous with the rain that was to come. Still, the opportunity was there to undertake some of the winter habitat management required on site and before the heavy rain we looked to clear some of the net rides (gaps in the vegetation where our mist nets are erected to catch birds).
Arriving at the gate on site movement on the track ahead caught my eye. Pushing through the gate and up ahead is a male toad almost desperately clinging to a larger female, who was continuing to slowly make her way across the track. At first they are the only ones we see, but closer inspection reveals toads everywhere, sitting in the puddles, snuggled under the patches of damp leaves, sitting out on the gravel or slowly walking to the grassy verge. Where at first there appeared to just be a gravel track there was in fact toads everywhere under foot!
Every year the toads breed in the pools on site and later in the year the ground will becomes a hive of activity of miniature toads as they emerge from the pools. These young and the adults spend the winter hibernating in the forest, before emerging in spring and heading back to those pools to spawn. But to do so they must cross a really busy road. This is where Toadwatch comes into play. A team of dedicated volunteers who head out, collect the toads and help them across the road. Heroes!
Our arrival at the site that morning must have coincided with an overnight collection of the toads, and we had arrived to meet the toads making their way to the pools.
With a small team arriving on site to undertake some habitat management we promptly moved the toads to the side of the track, enabling them to carry on their journey out of the way of car tyres.
The rest of the morning was spent chopping and cropping trees around the net lines. And it was while exploring one of the felt mats placed down for snakes on site, we came across another amphibian. A common newt chilling in the watery vegetation under the mat.