ASHWELLTHORPE TOADWATCH IN 2016

The area covered by Ashwellthorpe’s Toadwatch Patrollers covers about 200 metres east/west along The Street, Ashwellthorpe, from approximately the entrance to Rosemary’s Meadow carpark for Lower Wood, down to the field gate on to Street Meadow. This is the area where the toads which live in Lower Wood (about a quarter-mile north of The Street) cross The Street to reach their breeding pond on Wood Farm land on the south side. The toads will move during their breeding migration from dusk onwards, when the climate is damp/wet and the temperature 5 to 7C and higher.

There were THIRTY volunteers from Ashwellthorpe, Fundenhall and Wymondham, including six children to call on this year to patrol in pairs, in forty-five minute sessions, from dusk for a few hours to cover the return commute and evening-out traffic.

The first patrols were on Monday 25 January from 5.15 to 6.30 p.m. and continued intermittently because of the fluctuating temperature, until Saturday 6 February – newts were the only amphibians around at this time. Then the patrols stopped until Friday 19 February and continued until 22nd after which it became too cold again – a few toads, frogs and newts were helped in this period. Again, the weather was too cold between 23 and 29 February but on Tuesday 1 March when it was very wet, the first of the mass frog movements took place – 48 between 6 and 8.15 p.m. With cold weather breaks on 2nd, 4th to 8th, 17th and 19th March, the patrols continued daily from 6.00 to 8.15 p.m. and then, as daylight lengthened, the starting time got later and the patrols finished later, with the las few patrols in this year’s season – which ended on Thursday 7 April – being from 8.15 to 9.45 p.m. Ashwellthorpe’s Toadwatch thus lasted for 74 days, with 38 of those days having full patrol cover, and several other days having a “reconnoitring sortie” to see whether there was any movement. You can see the overall picture from Norfolk’s 18 sites on www.toadwatch.org/Migration/MigrationNow

The pattern of amphibious movement in Ashwellthorpe this year:

TOADS – there was no mass movement of our toad colony, with a maximum of 9 on 1 March but otherwise in ones or twos, making a total of 63 safely moved (towards or returning from the Wood Farm pond) compared with the record number of 89 last year. This year there were only 2 roadkill toads compared with 5 last year. We are not the only place where toad numbers have been down on last year. The two most prolific sites in Norfolk are Selbrigg near High Kelling which, up until 7 April 2016, had “saved” 5,472 compared with 11,536 last year and Cranwich, near Northwold in south-west Norfolk which, up until 29 March, had ferried 4,001 toads compared with 8,223 last year. Over all the 18 Toadwatch sites in Norfolk, the total of toads “saved” are 19,804 (with a few numbers to be recorded) compared with 33,336 last year.

FROGS – this was a phenomenal year for frog movement in Ashwellthorpe and there are a few paragraphs below covering a discussion on the matter. In the years since the start of our Toadwatch in 2010, our frog numbers had varied between 4 and 24 . This year’s total was 489, plus roadkill of 37 – in the latter days of this year’s campaign, many were returning to the north side of the road. On three wet/very wet days many frogs were carried to safety – Tuesday 1 March, 48 frogs between 6.00 and 8.15 p.m.; Thursday 24 March, 89 between 6.30 and 9.00 p.m. and on Saturday 26 March, 141 between 6.30 and 9.15 p.m. One frog even laid its spawn in a puddle in the gutter which was moved to deeper water in the ditch. It was very difficult for the two patrollers on duty at any one time to cope with the large numbers and to prevent any from getting on to the road at all. At least a frog can get across the road very quickly, in just a few jumps, except for the omnipresent car which crosses its path! It seemed that the frogs were lining up in the hedgerow and grass verge almost waiting their turn to be taken across!

NEWTS – There were 42 common newts moved to safety this year with 7 roadkill, compared with 6 and 3 roadkill last year. Most of the newts were found on the pavement or in the road, rather dry and slow moving, so were unlikely to have made it over to any body of water.

Lastly, a big THANKS to all you thirty volunteers who were out in the dark, sometimes cold, damp/wet and very wet weather and on call over a long period of time this year.

Jennifer Robbie                                                                                              9 April 2016

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