April weather plays havoc with annual toad migration

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THE wave of fickle weather sweeping Scotland is playing havoc with the Capital’s little-known annual toad migration.

Every spring thousands of toads hibernating in the crannies and crevices of Arthur’s Seat wake up and make their journey to nearby Dunsapie Loch to spawn.

The journey is a perilous one for the amphibians – as they must make their way across the length of Arthur’s Seat, dodging traffic, vaulting high concrete road kerbs and evading predators.

In recent years Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have closed roads on Arthur’s Seat, put grills over drains and laid on “toad patrols” to carry them down the hill by hand.

But this year they have had to extend their courtesy to the toads for an extra two weeks – thanks to the “oscillating weather” in the nation’s capital.

The journey is a breeze for male toads
The journey is a breeze for male toads

The annual migration of more than 2,100 toads usually lasts a fortnight – beginning around the end of March as the weather becomes warmer, waking them from their hibernation.

This year the migration began on March 26th – but it is still ongoing – more than two weeks after it was due to finish.

The extended march of the toads is thanks to the “oscillating” conditions this year – which has meant some have woken and spawned, whilst others are yet to begin their migration.

Last Saturday snow settled on the ground across the north of the country, and even fell briefly in the capital.

But this week blue skies have raised the temperatures across the nation.

And now the Met Office has now warned that the country could face another blast of “unseasonably cold weather”.

The yearly toad migration is especially hard for the female toads – who carry the males on their backs.

But the extra weight makes it hard for them to make the leaps and bounds required to make their way to the loch to spawn.

Many become stranded on roads – unable to leap over the kerbs – where they are killed by passing traffic or picked off by predators.

So a team of park rangers and volunteers are deployed to help out struggling toads – carrying up to 150 by hand down to the loch every day.

Over the usual two week migration period 2,100 toads are carried by HES employees every year – although it is thought that hundreds more migrate without the help of the quango.

A large stretch of Queen’s Drive – the road separating Arthur’s Seat from the loch – is also closed at night to let the toads cross.

The rangers and the road closures have both been extended to account for the change in migration behaviour.

Edinburgh author Ian Rankin spotted one of the incongruous signs telling tourists that the busy road – posting an image of it on Twitter.

The sign read: “Road closed due to toad migration”.

A spokesperson for Historic Environment Scotland said: “It is annual migration time for the toads in Holyrood Park, which means that they are awaking from hibernation to make the journey from Arthur Seat down to the water of Dunsapie Loch.

“Fortunately our Park Rangers are on hand to provide a helping hand by carrying out daily ‘toad patrols’, and closing the High Road to vehicles overnight, which is when migration occurs.

“This usually only lasts a few weeks, depending on weather conditions.”

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