Today, volunteers John Green, David Devonshire and Roy Allen patrolled the Meadow Trail looking for litter, signs of mammals, dog poo and vandalism. They found thousands of tiny toads, especially by the allotments on the side of the Hayling Pit. The same phenomenon occurred last year, in July. Before that, we hardly saw a toad for years.
I have always thought that the loss of toads and frogs was down to the fact that we have very few ponds with no fish in them. However, we do still have a quite a few such ponds, in the Hayling Carr and along the Haul Road leading up to the quarry. Was pollution a factor? Was it disease?
Right at this moment, consultants for Lafarge are carrying out a survey of Great Crested Newts, and they are finding quite a few, and so are we. So are the newts increasing by eating the frog and toad spawn?
I don't know all the answers but it pleases me to see that we now have a kind of balance where some ponds are dominated by smooth newts; some have great crested newts, some have both and some even have a lot of frogs. Some ponds have loads of fish, and even large ponds like Cloudy Pit, have frogs, newts, and fish living together. The answer must be to have as many small ponds as possible so that fish, amphibians, reptiles and insects all get their optimum choice of home.
This year's toads are coming from a mass of small ponds in the woodland area at the back of the Hayling Pit. Please keep your eyes on the path in front of you. With every step you might be killing dozens of baby toads, especially on damp days in June.