Cookham Toad Patrol

If you were a Toad in Cookham, you would be very glad to see Barbara Brown.  She’s a bit like International Rescue for Toads.  You’d recognize her easily enough because she’d be carrying a bucket, two children’s fishing nets and several scoopy things, whilst marching up and down Lightlands Lane.  Her mission is to save Cookham's Toads from being squashed on the road, and she has a team of Toad Wranglers that help her.

First of all, a few toad basics for any rookie Toad Wranglers:
  • Toads have lumpy skin and frogs have smooth skin.
  • Toads tend to live away from water (until they mate) frogs need to live close to it.
  • Toads prefer to crawl (although they can hop) and frogs prefer to hop.
  • Toad Wranglers really need gloves, because they produce a toxin from glands behind their eyes (meant to deter predators from eating them) that can be irritating to the skin.
  • Toad Spawn is laid in strings, Frog Spawn in dense clumps.
  • You WANT Toads (and Frogs) in your garden because they will help eat the eleventy-billion slugs and snails that are feasting on your hostas even as you read this.
 Now if you WERE a Toad in Cookham, you, like all your brethren come Spring, would become deaf to all but the Sirens call of a voluptuous lady Toad.  You and your raging hormones would be heading hell for leather, back to the pond in which you were born.  Which could mean crawling as far as two kilometers.  (Now just pause on that thought for a moment.  You are heading back to your ancestral home, where you only go once a year, without the use of a sat nav.  How?!  Well, research suggests that they use a variety of markers, including visual, olfactory, auditory, celestial, lunar and magnetic cues.  You’re a damn clever little toad ehhh!!)  But there's a problem.  You would not care that the path to true love took you straight across Lightlands Lane and under the wheels of a car. 

And so back to Barbara and the Toad Wranglers.  Come March/April you’ll find them on Toad Patrol helping adult Toads to cross the road.  Easy enough you might think, but they generally don’t move till dusk, they prefer to go when it’s wet i.e. pouring with rain and there can be as many as twenty toads an hour sacrificing themselves to Cupid bow.  Fortunate then that International Rescue use scoops and buckets to make the crossing survivable for as many as possible despite the fact that it's not ever such a nice night out for them!  But the mortal peril does not end there.  If you were a gentleman Toad, you’d need to first find your lady.  Not as simple as it sounds because it’s not unusual for Toads to mount another male in their single minded, sexual frenzy.  Then assuming you did find a lady Toad, you would have to fight off a load of other suitors to win her affection and...erm…well basically, you would grab her from behind, lock your arms round her and hang on for dear life.  Hence you will sometimes see a writhing “ball” of Toads in a mating pond under which – most unfortunately – is one super sexy, Diana Doors of Toadville. 

Fast forward several months and Barbara and the Toad Wranglers are back out there, this time searching for the Toadlets – the progeny of the pond life orgy.  They are all grown up (to the size of the finger nail on your pinkie) and the Toadlets are now in search of independence and a one bed Toad starter home, entirely without the help of The Bank of Mum and Dad.  Snug little holes, deep piles of leaf litter or compost heaps are all a most attractive des res.  Barbara and team rescued ninety two Toadlets the other night.  Ninety two little souls that otherwise might not have made it across the road, let alone to next Tuesday.

So, if you find yourself at a loose end at dusk in the next week, please consider volunteering an hour of your time.  Just in case you get reincarnated as toad in Cookham.  Information about the toad migration is normally available on Cookham Wildlife Supporters Meet Up and Facebook pages.  The activity is probably not suitable for children because of the dangers of the road and the handling of the Toads, and if you would like to attend, taking a thin glove, a high sided bucket and some sort of scoopy thing would be helpful.


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