Sunday, 4 April 2021

Singing on the Toad Bus

Toads, spawn and hope

migrations, obstacles and being a Toad-walker

The pond-spawning season has run a bit odd this year

The frogs arrived pretty much as usual in late February but have kept turning up since, so that now, in April, the first hatching of tadpoles are wriggling in the shallows on the disintegrating masses of their spawn while late arrivals, caught short by the weather and a wall are still dumping spawn in puddles and in one instance this morning on a stretch of sticky mud*

The toads started late, a week, two, later than usual but when that spring-gun finally sounded were heading for the ponds with some determination. A few warm days helped and the culvert wall which is our disaster movie site provided its usual obstacle. That’s where a cheerful group of Toad-walkers come in, taking time each morning to wade along the stream below the wall and pick up weary clamberers.

There is a lovely toad-full hillside of trees and heather, you see. There are boggy bits and squelchy corners and excellent crags for hiding in and under but when the call to the ponds comes and the toads wake from hibernation and head for the pools, they come up against a wall. It looks like a nice wall: mossy, crumbly, full of holes and nooks. All very well until you are a small toad with a 1.5 metre wall to scale and many don’t make it. They try and keep trying, until there is no “try” left and we find them dead in the puddles below the old stone. The Toad Bus brings some relief (We’re going on the Toad Bus, the Toad Bus the Toad Bus….runs the song, what do you mean, you've never heard it?**)

It also provides a measure of what is happening in the general migrations to these pools. Nestled in the floors of a beautiful valley, they attract toads from all around the area and most can arrive without too many incidents. 

There’ll be singing on the Toad-bus, the Toad-bus, the Toad-bus,

There’ll be singing on the Toad-bus, all the way to the pond**

This year, Toad-walkers weren’t needed until the very end of March. There were three mornings then of increasing numbers: 70, 86, 264……Then the temperature dropped again and for the last 4 days numbers have plummeted. Just 4 this morning. Has the migration finished? Did that 264 day mark the turning point? Probably not. Usually there is a week of movement, with 3 or 4 days of those treble figure bucketfuls. 

There’s a Toad in my Bucket, dear Jenny, dear Jenny, 

There’s a toad in my bucket, dear Jenny, a Toad. 

Then find it a friend, dear Toadman, dear Toadman, 

Find it a friend, dear Toadman, 

A friend!***

So what now? The cold weather is forecast to last for a few more days? Will this end the migration? Will it start again if the spring sun warms the earth enough? Will all those unspawned toads just shrug their amphibian shoulders and head off into the moss for a bit of ant-eating? Do egg-full females, give up for a year? Do they try again? Or, egg-bound, do they fade away and die

We’ll have to see

Because now: the first frogspawn has hatched. There is toadspawn lacing the pond-weeds with chains. Those first toads who filled the ponds with song and spawn, have done their bit and headed back to the foraging fields….

A mixed-up spring so far. But Toad-walking brings us into lots of conversations: interested adults, excited children, supportive dogs: and appreciation; no-one saying “rather you than me”, no-one doing the “oooo, slimy things” bit; a few slightly confusing “I think it’s lovely the way they carry their children to the pond on their backs”. But conversation. Time to listen to tales of garden ponds, of frogs helped and toads lifted on their own walks. Of lizards: first sightings this spring. Of how lovely it is to hear the curlews and are the ravens nesting yet. To be Nature’s appreciative ear and to acknowledge delight

I’m a Toad-walker, the driver of a Toad Bus and I love the smiles it brings…..

If you have your own toad inspirations, please share them with me: email me at, or find me on facebook: @creepingtoad

If you'd like to do your own bit to help your local toads, visit the Toad Patrol pages on Froglife's website

Froglife also has a Q&A page that for garden pond issues and other question

And if you'd like to share the wonders of your local pond you can file records of who lives there (grandparents and annoying younger siblings aren't really what we're looking for) using the Dragonfinder app or find out more and become involved in monitoring a local pond through People, Ponds & Water project with the Freshwater Habitats Trust

Finally, look for out for Save The Frogs Day on Saturday 24th April, 2021

*The ponds in this account are in Buxton, in a wonderful corner of northern Derbyshire. I won’t give precise locations to respect their privacy a bit. No paparazzi please

** Improvise to suit....

***You will have gathered there is a whole selection of Supportive Songs for Distressed Toads. In this fine example, the jenny referred to is Jenny Greenteeth, magnificent spirit of pondweed and waterways from Lancashire...and the Toadman? - take a peek at the link to a very short film 


Photos here are by G MacLellan apart from that final toadlet, c/o I MacLellan

1 comment:

  1. Great work, great information - and a great poem! Thanks, Gordon. regards Don (Le Griffonnier).