I’ve been part of the volunteer natterjack toad survey team in Flintshire for three years now, so when the chance came up to join in with the survey at Red Rocks on the Wirral, I went for it…. any excuse to see natterjacks, I just love them.
The survey is organised by Cheshire Wildlife Trust, who are hoping to show that not only are the natterjacks breeding, but that numbers are increasing, as the population is thought to be very small at the moment. I met Sue from the Trust on a nearby road; we put on our wellies, sprayed them with disinfectant and we were good to go. Disinfecting between amphibian surveys is important as a precaution against accidental transfer of chytrid or other amphibian diseases, and is part of the standard protocol for all surveys.
The Red Rocks site is much enjoyed by the locals in Hoylake and there are paths everywhere across the dunes and saltmarsh. To make sure the natterjack toads aren’t accidentally decimated by an enthusiastic dog splashing around in their breeding pool, parts of the site have been fenced off. This protects their habitat and, sure enough, natterjack toad spawn strings have been found in the enclosures this year – fantastic news.
Sue and I recorded loads of small tadpoles in these very same ponds during my visit, so hopefully these represent the beginnings of an increasing natterjack toad population at the site. I can’t say they definitely were natterjack tadpoles, though, as they look pretty much the same as common toad tadpoles in their early stages of development, and we know there are common toads present on the site as well.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust have big plans for the site, which I hope will include providing new breeding pools for the natterjack toads. They have been hanging on for ages, so if we could provide them with new habitat to move into and enable them to increase their numbers, that would be excellent and a massive boost for the conservation of this rare and protected species.