June 2013 - The Common Toad
There are many common toads in Bawburgh - many seen unfortunately squashed on our roads - and their ecological status is 'not threatened'. Many of us know the various toad crossing points along our roads and recognise the 'toad patrol' when local people carry hundreds of these migrating animals as they wake from hibernation and move towards their breeding sites on spring nights. These so called migration routes are often highlighted by toad crossing signs.
The common toad can be identified from the common frog by its preference to walking rather than hopping, and its warty skin which is able to secrete a toxin as a defence mechanism and deterrent to predators. Frogs have smooth moist skin and no toxin, hence are eaten by a large number of predators including herons and otters. Toad tadpoles also secrete this skin toxin and are less likely to be eaten by fish, frog tadpoles are a ready meal.
Toads have ancestral breeding grounds and will return to the same site year after year. They have preference to deep clean water to lay their eggs which are released in gelatinous strings. Frogs prefer shallower water and lay clusters of gelatinous eggs. A single toad lays 600 to 5,000 eggs. The male toad fertilises the eggs immediately after they are laid. When the eggs hatch into tadpoles, they can be identified from the common frog tadpoles as they remain jet black until they have metamorphosed into toadlets. Frog tadpoles are mottled brownish-grey to olive with gold speckles.
After 8 to 12 weeks the toadlets emerge from the water, usually en masse, after heavy rain. They feed on insects, slugs and worms at night, resting up in sheltered places during the day. As the weather cools in autumn, the young toads will hibernate in piles of leaves, potting sheds, or under a pile of wood or other suitable environment. A common toad can live as long as 40 years but a maximum lifespan of 10 years is more likely.
Norfolk has another species of toad which is extremely rare - the Natterjack. This toad is only found in coastal sand dunes systems, coastal grazing marshes and sandy heaths. It has a distinctive stripe down its back and a singing call which can be heard over a kilometre away on still nights during the breeding season.
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