Common Toads-Bufo Buffo
The common Toad is one of the UKs most treasured amphibians. Also known as the European Toad, they can be found widely throughout the UK. Toads are nocturnal and will hide from predators in damp places during the day such as, underneath stones, logs and heavy vegetation. When night falls, they are active and come out to feed on invertebrates, spiders, worms, slugs and many other insects. Unfortunately Toads have many predators and are often eaten by Grass Snakes, Mink, Hedgehogs and many birds, they have a hidden form of defense so, those that dare to taste, won’t repeat it. Common Toads secrete a toxin called Bufaguin from their warty, brown blotched skin; this toxin is foul and is enough to deter many of their predators on first bite. Also when threatened or in any danger, they will inflate and raise their bodies up off of the ground to protect themselves and to give the impression that they are twice as big as they are and therefore more of a challenge. Females grow up to 15 cm in length and are twice the size of males but, both live on average, 10-12 years but can live at least twice as long in captivity. Unlike Frogs that jump, Toads tend to walk or make very small hops
As winter approaches, fat Toads which have increased their body weight by eating insects during the summer months will now be ready to find somewhere suitable to hibernate throughout the winter. Quite often they can be found under decaying vegetation, sticks and leaves sitting in excavated small 2-3 inch holes in the soil. Sometimes they make use of old rodent burrows that are ready made for hibernation. Once a Toad has decided on the location, here it will stay throughout the long winter until the warmer temperatures arrive in the spring.
Return to Breeding Grounds
In spring on still, warm rainy nights, Toads migrate to ponds and lakes and this is usually back to the exact waters in which they were born in. They find their way by instinct, almost like having a built-in Sat-Nav! However, making their way to their chosen ponds or lakes comes with a down side and the main culprit in their decline is traffic. Toads are no match for a car and on their annual migration to their preferred spawning grounds having to cross busy roads on their journey, often many get run over. However, all is not lost as there is now much conservation work in place around the country to protect our little friends, and this has been achieved by building special Toad Subways which provides and ensures a safe passage to the water.
Male Toads attract a mate by croaking a loud call to all females in the vicinity within ear shot. Once the male and female have paired up, they will wait, usually for several nights, before favourable conditions arrive for spawning. It seems that still, warm rainy nights are ideal as Toads hate windy nights. If you want to help these fascinating and wonderful little amphibians, I would suggest that you pick a still night to go out on. Armed with a torch and a bucket, you could collect any Toads that you see on the roads and give them a helping hand to their spawning ground. You will not only find this very rewarding, but you will do a great service for the conservation of these little creatures. Paired Toads will crawl and swim amongst oxygenating plants, rushes and other pond plants weaving and laying a continuous line of up to 6000 jelly protected tiny black eggs that are fertilised by the male as they are laid. Within 2- 3 weeks depending on the temperature of the water, the eggs will hatch out into jet black tadpoles which will then take a further 12 weeks to mature and develop legs, before the final stage of metamorphous into 1 cm long Toad-lets, resembling miniature adults. It’s only then that they will venture out of the pond and onto the land for the first time. During their tadpole stage, unfortunately, many are eaten by predators such as Dragonfly larvae, Water Scorpions, Water Boatmen and Great Diving Beetle larvae who all favour these tadpoles as a quick meal. Although it seems that sometimes nature can be cruel, nature can also be beautiful and we must accept the highs and lows of nature’s decisions. Tadpole and adult Toad fatality risks from predators is the reason why 6000 eggs are laid at one time when spawning begins. Once the Toad-let’s leave the water, they rarely return which could be up to 3 or 4 years, by which time they will have matured into adults and are ready to breed.
Encourage Toads to Your Pond
Common Toads favour any submerged vegetation and marginal plants in which to spawn in. Ponds and lakes planted with areas of oxygenating plants, deep water marginal plants, submerged pond plants, Water Lilies, Rushes and any other marginal plants, will all encourage Toads to establish new breeding grounds. Not only will you have plenty of insect and slug eating Toads in your garden all year round, but as an added bonus you will also get to see a colony of breeding Toads returning to your pond or lake in the spring to spawn year after year.
Love our Amphibians!