Basingstoke and Deane Council, Biodiversity Loss, Built Environment, Local Planning, Nature, Sustainability, Toad Rage, Wildlife

Toad Rage 2 – Update, 2 March 2019 by Paul Sterry

Common Toad Bufo bufo Length 5-9cm A widespread toad; the only common species in Britain. Skin is covered in toxin-containing warts. Spawn is laid in double-rowed spawn strings. Gait consists of short hops. Adult is olive-brown to greenish buff (hue is influenced by ambient light). Has red iris and webbed hind feet. Female is larger than male. Juvenile recalls a tiny, large-headed adult. Courting male utters croaking calls in spring. More terrestrial than most other amphibians and adults spend much of their lives on land: woodland, scrub, grassland and moors are favoured. Must return to water to breed and most are found within 2km or so of suitable ponds. Not deterred by fish: tadpole’ toxic skin acts as deterrent to predation. Observation tips Courting is easy to watch in suitable ponds in spring (February-March are typical months). Sometimes found hibernating under logs in winter.

Date: March 2, 2019Author: NPL Second Nature0 Comments

In Hampshire, the run of mainly dry and chilly evenings continued until Friday night and for much of the week amphibian migration was relatively slow on Cufaude Lane. However, that changed on Saturday evening when temperatures rose and spots of rain were in the air. Thanks to the damp conditions, numbers of amphibians on that night equalled the cumulative total for the rest of the week. Since the last posting, the cumulative figures (25 February to 2 March) and the hours 18.00-21.00 are as follows: Common Toad – saved 246, killed 86; Common Frog – saved 23, killed 7; Smooth Newt – saved 28, killed 8. Until this week, only male toads had been noted. On Saturday, nearly a third that were saved were females, and 32 were in amplexus. The toad team has had to give up counting cars as it hampers their ability to save toads and other amphibians.

Last night (2 March) we were joined by Megan McCubbin, Chris Packham and Rob Read. In addition to saving toads (171 in total) and other amphibians, Megan and Chris were there to film the toad migration, and Rob was there to photograph the scene. Andrew Cleave was able to explain to them about the specific problems of Cufaude Lane, and Peter Gillatt of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Amphibian and Reptile Group (HIWARG) expanded on the bigger picture: the fact that the same thing is going on all over the country.

In the previous Toad Rage blog I alluded to the potential impacts of planning application 19/00018/OUT on the amphibians (and other wildlife) found in the vicinity of Cufaude Lane. Environmental surveys conducted on behalf of the developers Croudace Homes can be viewed on the Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council planning portal. For those with a botanical leaning, the surveys contain such illuminating insights as the presence of ‘thistle’ and ‘cranesbill’. Referring to my copy of Stace (the botanical Bible) I can see a dozen or more possibilities for the former, and 20 or so for the latter. So which species I wonder? Both taxa contain species that are far from common, after all. And for the ornithologists among you, the deskbound ‘search’ for notable species in the general area discovered what the survey refers to as ‘the Hobby Falcon’. If the development goes ahead and a primary school is built, perhaps the pupils could assist with similarly insightful environmental surveys in the future and help clarify the botanical points, assuming the species in question have not been concreted over of course. On a more serious note, the developers, and Borough and County councils, would get a better understanding of the problems and their solutions if advice was sought not only from individuals with local knowledge but also from informed organisations who care. The charity Froglife’s consultancy Froglife Ecological Services would be a good place to start.

Thanks for the support and positive feedback from readers to the previous Toad Rage blog. As for the Borough and County councils, I’m afraid it has been a case of radio silence. Perhaps some of the councillors would like to join the toad patrol team on Cufaude Lane now that the nights are getting busy? They might just get a taste of what life’s like when you are a toad.

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