Volunteers have helped keep hundreds of toads safe by helping them get across the road at Priest Hill, Farley Hill.
This crucial wildlife protection is being overseen by volunteers from Berkshire Reptile and Amphibian Group, with help from Wokingham Borough Council.
The group have been coordinating dozens of visits to the site for a toad patrol, one of hundreds across the country, to ensure the amphibians can safely cross roads and avoid being killed by cars.
Volunteers look out for toads trying to cross and then scoop them up and provide safe passage to the other side of the road – an effort which preserves the local population.
Toads usually live out of water in food-rich places such as woodlands – including the woodland on the north-east side of Priest Hill.
Every spring they migrate to a pond south of the road, near the junction with Bungler’s Hill, to reproduce.
They tend to return to the same location year after year, with some locations being used by successive generations for potentially hundreds of years as they become accustomed to an area as good for breeding.
Keeping safe from cars
Efforts are made to warn drivers by the council placing signs on the street, with toads on them, to warn about the animals crossing and that volunteers are working in the area.
The migration period can last up to 50 days from start to finish but depends on the weather – with the nocturnal species most likely to move on mild, damp evenings.
When the toads are handled volunteers wear nitrile gloves so there is minimum risk of oils and soaps on their hands from interfering with the sensitive amphibian skin.
The volunteers also have to consider biosecurity risks of fungal diseases and invasive water plant species, so boots are cleaned between ponds where several sites are visited.
Toads are handled as little as possible but are robust enough not to get too stressed by the process.
Usually they just carry on walking in to the undergrowth once they are put down.
10,000 toads helped in a decade
The volunteer group have been working in the area for more than a decade, helping more than 10,000 toads in the process.
“These volunteers have done fantastic work to help safeguard the toad population in Farley Hill,” said Cllr Michael Firmager, deputy executive member for environment.
“The fact the species is thriving is a sign our borough is providing the habitats they need to continue to reproduce and sustain the wider ecosystem in the area.
“We should celebrate the community involvement in wildlife protection as this would not be happening without the dedicated work of these volunteers, giving up their evenings to ensure the toads are able to safely cross the road. We are delighted to help them with signage and officer time to assist them with their work.”