Henley Toad Patrol are delighted to welcome some new volunteers this year to join their merry band of ‘bucketeers’ to help the local amphibian population cross the busy Marlow Road from the Culden Faw estate to a pond at Henley Business School.
Two new volunteers are Richard Pinches and Liz Madgwick Howard. Richard explained, “I volunteered for Toad Patrol because we’ve got to know volunteers Angelina Jones and Nicola Taylor through our weekly quiz at the Angel and it seemed like a good, rewarding and worthy cause. Back in the early 80s before any kind of precautions were in place I remember the road being like an ice rink because it was so slippery with squashed amphibians. I believe the toad road tunnels went in, in the mid 80s but they are too small and silted up quickly.”
Before they got their high vis stripes, Richard and Liz had an half-hour induction with Angelina who heads up the patrol to show them what to do and how to be safe. Volunteers are shown how to keep separate the singles and pairs in different buckets and to slowly walk along a small path next to the barrier that is put up to stop the amphibians crossing the road, being very careful not to step on any as they are well camouflaged amongst the leaves. Richard commented, “I learnt an awful lot on the nature of the migration and facts about toads in general. Angelina has been doing this since 1986 herself and an expert on amphibians in my book. Some oak leaves can look a lot like toads! Once you ‘get you eye in’ they become a lot easier to spot . It takes about an hour to do a sweep of the whole length of the barrier. I image my torch beam is a searchlight looking for escaped WW2 prisoner like in the Great Escape! This is a fun game and keeps me amused. On my first night I was quite pleased to rescue 12 toads and one newt, and Liz got 15 toads plus a newt, which are much harder to spot due to their size.”
The Henley Toad Patrol had a very successful migration last year with volunteers helping 6892 toads, 269 frogs and 229 smooth newts. The 2020 migration started earlier than usual in January because of the warmer weather and will probably finish by the end of March. So far this year over 4500 toads (5500 annual average) have been helped. On two wet and warm nights 1800 amphibians were carried across the road in buckets.
Angelina said, “Unlike frogs, toads show high site fidelity, that is they will only return to the pond in which they were born. Unfortunately that means for many their annual migration to their natural pond to spawn in the grounds of Henley Business School involves crossing the very busy A4155 Henley to Marlow Road. Without Henley Toad Patrol volunteers helping the migrating toads, the overall population would quickly dwindle. As a consequence it’s vital that the group has a reliable, diverse volunteer base and that we endeavour to recruit new adult members at every opportunity. We are a very organised group with a real sense of purpose for what needs to be done. Coupled by the fact that I feel that there is a real sense of kinship, camaraderie and friendship amongst our group. There are over 250 patrol groups all over the country that annually are helping toads to cross the road safely. Henley Toad Patrol year on year helps the most amount of toads. Its all about the toads and I am incredibly proud of what we do to help them.”