Field night: Amphibians in the rain!
After a successful day (see previous post), Carl and I headed for the coast in the early evening to a sand dune site where the rare Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) can be found. Although I have seen many hundreds of Natterjacks in France and Spain I have never actually observed a specimen in the UK, where it is found at only 60 sites across the entire country and Ireland.
We had been told that this was not an ideal time of year to search for them and finding any would be very difficult, but my instinct told me that it would still be possible. We were very encouraged by the fact that it was raining heavily just before dusk and continued to do so throughout the night. Just as night fell we started walking with our torches along some quiet roads and paths and found over 50 Common toads (Bufo bufo) out hunting for food in the rain, from very small juveniles to large adult females. Walking further we also came across a female Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) crossing one of the small paths and 4-5 Common frogs (Rana temporaria). Walking through some coastal pine forest we found more frogs and toads on the move before entering the open sand dune system. In the distance we could see another toad sat on the sandy path, on approaching we were very happy to see it was not another Common toad, but a Natterjack toad! After this nice find we searched for around another 45 minutes, only finding many more common toads but unfortunately no more Natterjacks. We decided to call it a night, and went back to the car, completely drenched, but very pleased with our observations.
In addition, the next evening (19th) I went for a quick walk around my village at night in the rain and found several specimens of a further species, the Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus).