Common Toad, Bufo Bufo, Spawn, Toadlets
In spring, Toads are busy mating in the ponds and producing toadlets. Frog spawn can be seen in a clump and toad spawn is in a long line like a piece of rope.
Only five frogs/toads per two thousand will survive so please leave the spawn alone, these critters are battling against the odds as it is.
Fish, birds, newts, water shrews, water beetles, and insects are all eaten by toads.
They are all wary of humans. An injured toad should be placed in a box with damp leaves or newspaper and brought to your nearest Vet or Wildlife Rescue.
Toads are solitary creatures, except during breeding season. They excavate a shallow burrow, which they return to after foraging for prey. They are nocturnal and shelter under tree roots, stones and vegetation during the day. They shed their skin regularly, and often eat the sloughed skin. Contrary to popular belief, they tend to walk rather than hop.
They are creatures of habit and return to the pond they were born in to mate, so if you do happen to see them crossing the road to get to their pond give them a helping hand.
Please be extremely careful when you do this; it's no good saving a toad and getting run down yourself. Common toads do secrete an irritant substance from their skin that prevents most predators from eating them. Unfortunately for the toads, a few predators such as grass snakes and hedgehogs, do not seem to be deterred by this irritant. As well as having an unpleasant taste, common toads also adopt a defense posture when threatened that makes them appear much larger than usual and so deters predators. They do this by stretching out their legs, inflating their lungs with air and leaning their heads downwards.
Common toads are opportunistic feeders, catching invertebrates such as insects, larvae, spiders, slugs and worms on their sticky tongues, so they are great to have around to maintain that balance in your garden. Much better than ant powder, slug pellets and other poisons that will seep into the water table! Larger toads also prey on slow worms, small grass snakes and harvest mice which are swallowed alive. Toads can sometimes be seen in the daytime following rainfall, but they are generally nocturnal, being most active on rainy nights.
They love the warmth and damp of greenhouses and can keep pesky insects down. During winter toads do hibernate. They hibernate in October, typically under deep leaf litter, logs, timber piles, or in burrows and drainpipes. They will occasionally hibernate in mud at the bottom of a pond, but tend to live away from water except during the breeding season. They emerge from hibernation in spring (late March) and migrate to breeding sites.
Common toads can live for up to 40 years. Their body length is 8-15cm and males are smaller than females. Common toads have a broad, squat body, with short toes, webbed hind feet and a rounded snout. Their eyes are orange with black horizontal pupils. They are covered in raised warts, particularly on the back and sides. Their skin colour varies according to area, time of year, sex and age. They can be dark brown, grey, olive, terracotta or sandy coloured, with a grey-white underside and are sometimes covered in darker markings on their backs.
Only male common toads croak, which can be a useful way of distinguishing males and females, for males will ‘squeak’ if picked up. Larger males have deeper croaks then smaller individuals. This difference in pitch enables toads to assess their chances of success before a fight and so avoid battles that they are likely to lose. The male 'release' call (when another male has mistaken it for a female) is the most often heard call, which is a rough, high-pitched 'quark, quark, quark'. The mating call is rarely heard. Although males usually wait for females at breeding sites, they will sometimes try to ambush them before they reach the water. Males clamber onto the backs of females and hold onto them tightly (a posture known as amplexus); the nuptial pads on their fingers providing extra grip. Over-eager males sometimes grab another male but the captured male’s croak soon informs them of their mistake. Common toads spawn amongst waterweed. The female releases long strings of triple-stranded eggs, which the male on her back fertilises with sperm. About 600-4000 eggs are laid. These strings become twisted and stretched around waterweed and vegetation so that the eggs settle into two strands. A few days later the adults leave the water. The tadpoles hatch within 10 days and despite being distasteful to most predators, the majority will not reach adulthood. The tadpoles metamorphosise into toadlets within 2-3 months - varying according to food availability and water temperature - and leave the water in May.
They have two prominent glands behind the eyes, which produce a foul-tasting and irritating secretion. Common toads do not have an external throat sac.
Males have thicker forelimbs and shorter fingers than females, and can be easily distinguished by the dark-coloured nuptial pads on the inner three fingers of their forelimbs. These pads become more prominent during the breeding season.
The common toad is widespread in mainland Britain, but is absent from Ireland. They can be found over most of Europe, northwest Africa and Asia. Common toads inhabit damp areas of deciduous woodland, scrub, gardens, parks and fields. In the breeding season, they live in ponds, lakes, ditches and slow-moving rivers.