02 May, 2013
In Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park, the High Road has been closed overnight for several weeks, to allow the safe passage of migrating toads. Normally, the toads would start their journey in mid-March. However, due to the adverse weather conditions, they decided to stay put for a month, holed up in their habitats. As a result, the annual toad migration event had to be cancelled.
The hills of Holyrood Park – Whinny Hill, Crow Hill and Arthur’s Seat – are all perfect locations for toads, made up of woodland and gorse, with lots of rocky outcrops, spreading out for hundreds of metres. The area around Dunsapie Loch is a popular breeding area for the amphibians, which return to their birthplace to mate.
On arriving at Dunsapie, the male toad hops on the first bloated female he can find – it’s survival of the fitness. He then grips her in a hug known as amplexus.
Unfortunately this springtime ritual is often fraught with danger for toads and frogs. Due to the rustle of many different types of blades of grass in the park, predators are on the hunt – mostly crows, as well as some of the 38 herons that live here. This is their feasting time of year.
Eventually Mr Bufo Bufo decided the weather had improved enough to go a-wooing. It has to be wet and warm for toads to mate so they had been waiting for a good downpour. This arrived on the night of 12 April. The toads set off the following day and marched down together. The first day saw 172 toads safely making their way to the breeding grounds. The Rangers gave them a helping hand over the steep kerb they have to negotiate.
Over the next three weeks, lots of volunteers became Holyrood Toad Patrollers. They began work at about 7.30am to collect the toads in buckets and help them on their journey to Dunsapie Loch. The patrollers were made up of local residents, school children and community members working on their John Muir Award. All freely gave their time.
This is an important activity, for the common toad is now classed as an endangered species. Sadly some don’t make it, due to being crushed by vehicles. This is why we keep the road closed at certain times. The closure is supported by the Froglife charity and Scottish Natural Heritage, as well as many locals, who appreciate what we’re trying to achieve. This year we’ve recorded over 800 common toads – mainly single, young males looking for love.
The road reopened at the beginning of May. In early July, patrollers and Rangers will be on hand once more as thousands of toadlets are cleared from the road next to Dunsapie as they set off on their journey back up the hill.