This is my sixth year counting natterjack toads on the North Wales coast and I’m pleased to say that after a poor first night this year, the second night’s count was excellent with over 60 toads across all participating teams 😀 I’ve also heard that the count at the Cheshire site was very good, so it certainly looks as though the reintroduced populations are all doing well. Happy news in a world of sad extinctions.
Every year, Denbighshire and Flintshire ecologists, wildlife rangers, ARC Trust and landowner reps get together to survey the natterjack toad population in the Prestatyn area, to see how they are doing. We usually aim to get a big posse together and count all the ponds on the same night, for the most reliable counts. The survey method’s pretty simple – get as many people as possible looking for natterjacks in the ponds and on land using big powerful torches, and count how many we find.
Young natterjack toad being handled by licensed surveyor. Click “natterjack” on the sidebar for reports of previous years’ monitoring.
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.
My third year of natterjack toad monitoring in Flintshire, would we once again scale the dizzy heights of the first year, when I was picking toads out of ponds by the handful ??
This year a co-ordinated count was organised so that all the ponds would be counted on the same night. Including, as it turned out, the separate population at Red Rocks on the Wirral (via Cheshire Wildlife Trust). A large crowd of naturalists, rangers, NRW staff and Reaseheath students gathered at the Smugglers Inn in Talacre to disinfect wellies, pick up torches and find out which ponds they had been allocated. Continue reading
This is the second year that I have assisted with natterjack toad surveys on land owned by BHP Billiton at Talacre, Flintshire. We began with a training session on natterjack toad identification and ecology led by amphibian expert John Buckley of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. Then we waited until dark and headed into the dunes where we were greeted by the sound of male natterjack toads calling.
Our mission was to use torches to find natterjack and common toads and collect them – the natterjacks to be counted and measured, and the common toads to be taken off site. Common toads are more successful at breeding than natterjacks, so tend to outcompete them, and it is standard practice at natterjack toad conservation sites to remove common toads for this reason.
On my first visit of the year, we were slightly disappointed to find quite low numbers of natterjacks at the ponds checked – only ten or eleven at the pond I went to, and all males – but on my second visit of the year, the breeding season had definitely started with over 40 toads in one pond alone ! By this time a few females had arrived at the ponds and were obviously keen to get going, as I think every female I found was already part of a mated pair…. On my third and final visit of the year, I didn’t have quite as much success but my group still found 18 toads out of a total of 110 captured, weighed and measured on the night.
Visit North East Wales Biodiversity Network on Facebook to see some photos from the night counts.
Thanks to Kim Norman at BHP Billiton for leading the sessions.
Had a top night out (by ecology standards) last Tuesday with members of Denbighshire Countryside Service and friends counting, catching, measuring and sexing natterjack toads in the dunes near Prestatyn.
These toads are easily recognised by the bright yellow stripe down the centre of the back and are a little bit smaller than the common toad. They are intelligent enough to stop croaking when surveyors arrive at a pond, but not quite smart enough to hide when a bright torch is pointed at them ! Check out the natterjack toad project page here for more info.
Photos were taken on the night by Lizzy Webster, ecologist for Denbighshire Council, who is licensed to handle and disturb natterjack toads, and the images can be seen if you’re on Twitter by following @NEWBioNet.