Toads on roads, and lots of them!

(C) Matt Wilson 2011

Tonight with an increase in temperature I suspected the mass toad migration not far from my village may have already begun. Arriving at a moorland lodge just before dusk, I found a recently killed toad dead on the road. Upon inspecting the edges of the lodge I found about a dozen male Common toads (Bufo bufo), that were awaiting the arrival of the larger females. As darkness approached I started to see Common toads all around the lodge, making their way to the water. Walking back to the main road I came across two local ‘Toads on roads’ volunteers Gordon and Margaret from Lumbetts village near Todmorden (W Yorkshire), who had two buckets filled with toads that had been found on the main road passing through the hillside. Searching around with our torches we found many more toads that needed to be removed from danger, and thankfully we only saw one toad that had been hit by a car. It was nice to meet people in my area who were dedicated to helping local amphibians, and with rain expected over the next few days, the toad migration will peak, but its great to know there will be people there to help them on their way to their ponds 🙂

Male Common toads (Bufo bufo) making their way to the breeding pond (C) Matt Wilson

Amplexus of Common toad (Bufo bufo) (C) Matt Wilson

Common toad (Bufo bufo) amplexus (C) Matt Wilson

One of two buckets of toads removed from the road by volunteers Gordon, Margaret and myself (C) Matt Wilson

And a single Common frog (Rana temporaria) found sat on a road (C) Matt Wilson

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By Matt Wilson

Field day: 27th March

After a nice sunny week, the temperature dropped down again by the weekend, but myself and Carl had planned to try to find some male Alpine newts (Ichytosaura alpestris) at the same area we visited in September last year. Before that however, we visited a different spot for Adders (Vipera berus), together with Andrew Gray. The area of suitable habitat for the snakes here is very small, but with some intermittent sunshine we managed to spot 3 males out basking.

Male Adder (Vipera berus) specimen 1 (C) Matt Wilson

Male Adder (Vipera berus) specimen 1 (C) Matt Wilson

Male Adder (Vipera berus) specimen 2, about to shed its skin (C) Matt Wilson

Male Adder (Vipera berus) specimen 3 (C) Matt Wilson

Male Adder (Vipera berus) specimen 3 (C) Matt Wilson

In addition, Carl saw and photographed the first Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) of the year last week close to his place.

Male Common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) (C) Carl Corbidge

After our reptile search we drove north to the Alpine newt introduction spot. At the first pond we failed to find any newts, although we would surely have seen some if we were searching at night with our torches. However at a smaller, covered ditch, we spotted a single Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus), two Common toads (Bufo bufo) and a male Alpine newt!

Alpine newt (Ichtoysaura alpestris) (C) Matt Wilson

Alpine newt (Ichtoysaura alpestris) (C) Matt Wilson

Alpine newt (Ichtoysaura alpestris) (C) Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson

Which snake is good at sums? ADDERS!!!

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Painfully lame jokes aside, I had a very nice day on Saturday out searching for Adders (Vipera berus) at a moorland site in north England. Once again I met up with Carl Corbidge who had seen 7 vipers the previous weekend, and at 9am we set out to see what was around, the weather was quite cold, but there was thankfully no wind, and the day was overcast with some brief sunny spells. Close to a freshwater pond we spotted the first two male Adders basking from quite deep within some bracken, soon afterwards the sun showed itself and we found a group of 4 Adders basking together on a south facing slope. Behind this we found another two Adders basking on top of each other, and at a different site we saw an additional 6 adders, again all male specimens. At around 2pm the weather got a bit colder, darker and with more wind, so we called it a day and went for some lunch!

In addition, this week I appeared on Allan Beswick’s breakfast show on BBC Radio Manchester, discussing the recently published national survey that reports that Adders were only found in 7% of surveyed areas and that the species is in great decline across the country. To read the report, click here

Plenty of photos from the day:

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Three Adders (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) same specimen as photographed in September 2010 (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Two Adders (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Matt Wilson

Adder (Vipera berus) habitat (C) Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson

Cold nocturnal wanderings…

On Friday evening after dark I had a quick search around some ponds about an hour from where I live. It was still rather cold (4C) so I wasn’t expecting too much. First was an old water trough that contained a single Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus). After this I searched around some larger ponds I had spotted on Google earth, the first contained a single Common frog (Rana temporaria), and to my surprise the second pond contained a single female Common toad (Bufo bufo) which is one of the earliest toads I have seen in North England. At the final pond I spotted several Great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) on land making their way to the breeding pond, mostly males but also a female swollen with eggs. Oddly the males had already began to develop their crests before they had entered the water, something I didn’t realize they did. After about an hour or so of searching, I called it a night, quite happy with my amphibian observations, for a very cold night without rain that is!

An early Common toad (Bufo bufo) (C) Matt Wilson

An early Common toad (Bufo bufo) (C) Matt Wilson

Male Palmate newt (Lissotriton helveticus) (C) Matt Wilson

Female Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) clambering across a muddy field to reach her breeding pond (C) Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson

And they’re off…

Today has been a nice sunny day and the warmest so far of 2011 in the north of England (7C!!!!) so I decided to have a walk around my local area to see if there was any amphibian activity. Since the nights had still been just below freezing I wasn’t expecting a lot of activity, but to my surprise the Common frogs (Rana temporaria) were out breeding. There seemed to be even more frogs than last year, I’d estimate at least 200 adults, including some huge mating balls of around 7-8 specimens. Thankfully I only spotted two road killed frogs, as usually at this spot several dozen frogs get run over on their way to the pond at this time of year. Spotting newts in this pond is very difficult during the daytime as the pond is quite shallow with vast amounts of weedy plants below the surface, but many Palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus) would surely have been busy reproducing under water as well. A few other nice sightings were made, such as a Great spotted woodpeaker (Dendrocopos major) and a Kestrel (Falco columbarius).

Signal of spring: Breeding Common frogs (Rana temporaria) (C) Matt Wilson

Common frog (Rana temporaria) (C) Matt Wilson

Amplexus of Common frogs (Rana temporaria) note the blue coloured male (C) Matt Wilson

The pond (C) Matt Wilson

In addition, my fellow northern herper friend Carl Corbidge did some local herping around his area, and spent the afternoon searching for the first emerging reptiles of 2011. On an area of exposed moorland, he managed to observe 7 male Adders (Vipera berus), females usually appear a couple of weeks after the males. It did however seem to be too cold to observe any Viviparous lizards (Zootoca vivipara).

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Carl Corbidge

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Carl Corbidge

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Carl Corbidge

Adder (Vipera berus) (C) Carl Corbidge

By Matt Wilson