Rare photos of natterjack toadlets show thriving population in RSPB nature reserve
- Credit: Ben Andrew
Rare photos give an insight into the booming numbers of natterjack toadlets at an RSPB nature reserve.
The thumbnail-sized toadlets were captured on film by RSPB picture researcher Ben Andrew at The Lodge reserve in Bedfordshire.
They were first introduced to the reserve by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust in the 1980s from tadpoles caught on their reserve at Syderstone Common.
Since then, they have since increased in numbers, with tadpoles being returned to Grimston Warren, near King's Lynn.
Mr Andrew said: 'It's not every day you get the chance to see these rare toads, let alone photograph them, which you can only do under licence because of their protected status.
'Finding and photographing the adult toads at night was really exciting, and then to see and photograph their toadlets felt very special – they are incredible little characters.'
RSPB warden Lizzie Bruce said: 'We're delighted and actually a bit relieved to have counted so many toadlets this year.
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'A cold April combined with a very dry May meant conditions were not ideal for the toads early on in the breeding season, and some of the ponds even dried out completely.
'Rain in June filled the ponds up again and the number of toadlets we've seen in July and August is evidence the natterjacks were able to move quickly to spawn.
'Just this week we counted another 2,000 tadpoles, so there may yet be more natterjack toadlets this year.'
As a gesture of goodwill, in 2011 the RSPB and the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust oversaw the transfer of more than 800 of the rare tadpoles back to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust Grimston Warren reserve near King's Lynn.
Natterjack toads are one of the UK's rarest amphibians and are only found at about 60 sites in Britain, of which nine are in Eastern England.
They live exclusively in coastal sand dunes, coastal grazing marshes and sandy heaths, where they can find the combination of bare ground or very short vegetation for hunting and shallow seasonal pools for breeding.
The species' numbers have fallen dramatically due to habitat destruction, with 70pc of colonies lost in the 20th century.