Look out for spawning toads in the countryside in early spring

Peer into local ponds in search of wrestling balls of amorous toads – and their strings of spawn

 

Common toads (Bufo bufo-Komplex), pair spawning, spawn and aquatic plants in a pond, pairing, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Europe

Across the country, our common toad population will be making its often epic and daring migrations to ponds to breed. These nocturnal wanderings can take them across busy roads and, unless they are fortunate enough to have a local Wildlife Trust volunteer stopping the traffic on their behalf, many are killed. 

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common toad bufo bufo trying to cross road, car approaching. hampshire. u.k
Toads brave a rural road in Hampshire on their way to their spawning pond. Getty Images/Ian West

You may even spot a toad crossing road sign on your journeys.

A Toad crossing sign besides a country lane and pond.
At well recognised toad migration points, you might see a special sign. Getty Images/mille19

But those who survive the journey make it to ponds where the real action begins. Male toads engage in rather grotesque wrestling bouts with rivals for access to a female – who’s usually at the bottom of every ruck.

In clear ponds, you can see several balls of toads – all limbs and eyes, like a fantasy monster. Sometimes, the males become so engrossed in battling each other that some drown, unable to reach the surface to breathe.

Common toads (Bufo bufo-Komplex), pair spawning, spawn and aquatic plants in a pond, pairing, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, Europe
A male toad clings to a female – a clutch known as amplexus. He will fertilise her strings of eggs as she lays them into the water. Behind are more strings of toad eggs laid by other females. Getty Images/Robert Pronnecke

When spawning does occur, female toads produce long strings of eggs, rather than the clusters of spawn laid by frogs.

For more about frogs and frog spawn, click here

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The tadpoles behave differently to those of frogs too – swimming in shoals rather than individually. Toad tadpoles are also unpalatable to fish, unlike their froggy relatives.

Large number of toad tadpoles in Norfolk dyke.
Toad tapoles tend to shoal in open water while frog tadpoles are more individual, and prefer pond margins. FLPA/David Hosking