Now is a great time to spot toads and smelt at their spawning sites

There is currently a lot of toad and smelt activity at night along the water’s edge near the Wetland Centre and near the boat harbour close to Land Sag. Over 200 toads have been spotted in the small bay next to our visitor centre the last few nights and the water is bubbling with smelt near the boat harbour. It is a great experience to watch this natural phenomenon!

The common toad (Bufo bufo) is the only toad species in Norway. It can grow up to 12cm and can live to be 30 years old. Toads hibernate in frost-free hides on land in winter, unlike frogs which spend the winter under water. In spring, approximately two weeks after the ice has disappeared from their spawning areas, the toads emerge to mate and lay their eggs. They prefer relatively deep water with vegetation or branches from trees along the edges where they attach their long egg strands (3-5m). During spawning, which is normally at night, you can hear the toads ‘singing’. It sounds a bit like ducks quacking. The competition for receptive females is tough and males sometimes attempt to mate with anything that might vaguely resemble a female toad (pieces of bark, fish, other males or even your hand!). After spawning the toads spend the summer on land, where they hide during the day and come out at night to feed.

 

Toads predominantly eat invertebrates, such as insects, snails and spiders.

 

Toads have few natural enemies due to their ability to squeeze a toxic substance from glands scattered across their bodies. When a toad feels threatened it inflates itself to make it seem bigger than it is and waddles away. Adult toads don’t jump like frogs but walk. The biggest threat to toads is the loss of habitat. They are consistently losing areas of habitat to human development. Deforestation, the drainage of wetlands, cultivation and dams are all examples of how we are changing their ecosystems. Many toads are squashed by cars when moving to and from their wintering areas, or are unable to reach these areas due to railway tracks, hydro power development or pollution.

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Figure 1: Map of the area that was surveyed in 2019, yellow line – area that was surveyed, red dots – mark the start and end point, red areas – highest concentration of toads, blue triangle – areas of most smelt activity.

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Figure 2: The females are considerably larger than the males.

 

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Figure 3: Males toads will grab onto anything that resembles a female toad, even someone’s hand…

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Figure 4: Toads sing their spawning song whilst they swim in the water.

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Figure 5: The water is ‘boiling’ with smelt, but this doesn’t affect the toads.

 

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Figure 6: Smelt gather in large shoals to spawn, the water is cloudy from the males’ sperm.

 

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Figure 7: Smelt can be easily caught by hand when they gather to spawn.