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Midwife Toads in the UK.

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JaySteel View Drop Down
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    Posted: 12 May 2013 at 7:19pm
Hi everyone. One of the few remaining species of wild herptiles found in the UK that I had yet to photograph were the Midwife Toads. This week I had the opportunity to visit a location in Cambridgeshire where I was given the chance to see and photograph these toads by Mark Hows.
What an endearing little toad these are! They are far smaller than our Common Toad and usually only grow to around 50mm in length, with 40mm being the average size. They are also incredibly easy to photograph as they sit totally motionless when posed for a photo. I quickly managed a few shots that I was pleased with and not wanting to overstay my welcome I headed off home again.

As thrilled as I was to finally have some good quality shots of the midwife toads, photographing them at someone's house only fuelled my desire to find  more for myself in other locations.

I decided to change my sat-nav route and instead of going straight home I headed for a village in Bedfordshire where the Midwife Toads are reported to have a stronghold, in search of more toads to photograph there.

Once there the village pond was fairly easy to find. I had a good look in the pond but was unable to see any signs of life so I began searching the grounds around the pond's edge. I carefully turned over some logs and rocks near to the pond but I only managed to find one juvenile Smooth Newt. It was at this point that a lady came out of her garden and I began chatting with her and some of the other neighbours about the Midwife Toads that were rumoured to be found in this village pond. The locals were all very familiar with the Midwife Toads in the village but most of them hadn't seen or heard any of them yet this year due to the late arrival of Spring. One of the ladies encouraged me to tag along that afternoon with the local ramblers group. I joined the group towards the end of their ramble and after a brief tour of the local graveyard I was invited back to the local church hall for tea and cakes. They were all so very friendly and welcoming that it was difficult to refuse. At the church hall conversation amongst the group quickly returned to the subject of the toads. Everyone was telling me stories of how and when they had seen or heard these toads in their gardens. As I was about to leave one old lady took me by the arm and said "I've got something to show you!" I worriedly allowed her to lead me down the road to a nearby house that had a smallish shallow pond in the front garden. When I looked in the pond it was full of huge Midwife Toad tadpoles as well as Smooth Newts. Despite the small size of the Midwife Toad their tadpoles are enormous with big bulbous heads and black spotted tails, making them very easy to distinguish form other tadpoles in the UK. 
Unfortunately I couldn't see any signs of adult toads in the pond though, just tadpoles. And these were almost impossible to photograph due to the reflections on the water's surface and I really didn't want to start using a net to fish out a tadpole to photograph.
To my delight the lady next door suddenly called out "I've got some!" and she showed me two midwife toads that she'd found buried in the earth in her back garden. I went back into her garden with her and we managed to further locate another young Midwife Toad that was also buried in dirt beneath her guinea pigs enclosure. After photographing these little toads the light was now beginning to fail and I hung around just long enough to hear the first of the toads as they began their evening calls: "beep . . . . . beep . . . . . beep!" What a strange electronic-sounding noise they produce! Apparently these toads can be the cause of many sleepless nights for the residents who live in the area on warm evenings.
 
What a great day it was. None of it would have been possible without the help from Mark and those kind enough to allow me the opportunity to photograph these toads, so I am extremely grateful for all they did to make these photos possible. The only midwife toad photo that now eludes me is the shot of the male carrying eggs wrapped around its back legs but hopefully I'll be back in this Bedfordshire village in the near future to see and photograph these toads again! Here are some shots from the day. Larger versions plus other Midwife Toad photos and information can be seen on my website here:



















Jason



Edited by JaySteel - 13 May 2013 at 4:34pm
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GemmaJF View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote GemmaJF Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2013 at 11:47am
Brilliant pictures and a great herping story Jay, thanks for sharing it with us Thumbs Up
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will View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote will Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2013 at 12:44pm
Absolutely - completely agree!  we have some not far from me in Herts and the residents are very protective of 'their' toads in the main, once they know what the 'bleeping noise' is all about...
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JaySteel View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JaySteel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2013 at 12:59pm
Thank you both. I know what you mean Will. I've already been invited back to photograph the male toads with eggs once they turn up, but I've also been asked not to share the location with others. I can understand them not wanting groups of people trampling all over the site looking for the toads. Not everyone has the same respect for wildlife or other people's property. I have been given the details of another Midwife Toad site too that I'd like to check out when I'm up there again.

Jason
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Iowarth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2013 at 4:54pm
The protectiveness of the local residents was lovely to hear about - and reminiscent of the same attitude with one of our local Wall lizard populations. It obviously is possible to get ordinary people interested in some of our herps. Perhaps they simply need to become more aware that some people do find them interesting and that awakens their interest. A sort of "herps going viral"!

I also wonder when they will spawn this year up there. On the south coast with my population in an enclosure I normally find a male or two with spawn strings when digging for lizard eggs - typically end of May through June. I was a little surprised when weeding the sand patch last week to unearth a male who was already carrying a spawn string. Earlier than usual despite the appalling winter and very late spring.

Chris

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JaySteel View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JaySteel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 May 2013 at 5:19pm
It's funny how it works that way Chris. By showing people that you value what they have it makes them see it as having worth too.

It's interesting to hear that you've seen a male with eggs already. Most people are telling me that it's too early to find them due to the long winter we've had this year. No one in the village I visited has seen any yet.

Jason
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LizzyPeat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2019 at 3:27pm
Hello Chris,
is this population of yours in Hampshire? I am trying to find some evidence for the statement about the UK Distribution of midwife toads in Hampshire on the webpage here; http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/midwife_toad.htm  
Our amphibian and reptile group don't know of any midwife in Hampshire, so this would be very interesting.
Thanks,
Lizzy Peat
Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Iowarth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2019 at 2:04pm
Hi Lizzy. Firstly, as I stated, my population is in an enclosure and this is escape proof. Neither am I in Hampshire. I am not aware of any wild populations in Hampshire.
Of course lack of evidence means just that, and as a reasonable and understandably popular animal amongst those of us who have outdoor vivaria it is by no means impossible - just not mine! Smile
Chris
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Caleb View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Caleb Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2019 at 11:39am
A map was published just a few days ago by a project that's looking at midwife toad DNA in the UK:


They have a crowdfunder running at the moment to raise funds for further research:



Edited by Caleb - 19 Aug 2019 at 11:40am
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