Common toad being rescued from the road

Toad patrols

Each spring toads, frogs and newts emerge from their wintering areas and head to ponds to breed. Common toads in particular will try to return to their ancestral ponds.

Their route to a pond often involves crossing roads, and each year nationally thousands of these animals are killed by vehicles during this migration period, which often lasts a few weeks.

Both in Norfolk and across the UK, volunteers have set up Toad Patrols to help these animals. This involves patrolling the roads on a migration route soon after dusk, when the toads like to move, and moving the amphibians to the safety of the grass verge or nearest pond.

If you are interested in finding your local patrol, or want to find out how to set up your own, please visit Toadwatch (Norfolk) or Froglife (UK-wide) for information. It is particularly important to get advice on safety and registering your Patrol for insurance reasons.

Learn more about who you might meet on a toad patrol

Common toad
The common toad can be identified by its preference for walking rather than hopping.
Common frog
Despite its name, the common frog is declining in numbers.
Smooth newt
The smooth newt is also known as the common newt.
Common frogs have a moist smooth skin which can be quite variable in colour ranging from brown, green or grey with dark blotches to yellowish or orange with red blotches. However, all common frogs have a distinct brown patch behind each eye which is not present in common toads. Common toads are far less variable and are usually a mottled mid-brown colour and have a granular or warty appearance.

Another useful feature is to look at the nose – that of the common frog will be pointed whereas that of the common toad will be blunt giving a much more rounded profile. The method of locomotion also varies with common frogs tending to leap and common toads tending to waddle or crawl along.

During the breeding season male common frogs make a quiet low-pitched call and inhabit ponds and ditches with shallow edges whereas common toads make a louder, higher croak and favour deeper water.
There are three newt species found in the UK – the great crested newt, the smooth or common newt and the palmate newt. Only the great crested and smooth newts are now widespread in Norfolk with the palmate newt being confined to a very small number of sites.

The great crested newt is the largest species at about 15cm long. Their topside is very dark brown or black and the underside is orange or yellow with irregular black spots. The males have a distinctive and large serrated crest during the breeding season. Great-crested newts have full protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The smooth or common newt is about 8-10cm long and has a pale grey-brown body with a bright yellow or orange underside with dark spots. A distinguishing feature is the presence of spots on the underside of their throat. During the breeding season males have a continuous wavy crest running along the back and also along the underside of the tail.

The palmate newt is very similar in size and colour to the smooth newt; however the males do not have a very pronounced crest and have webbed hind feet. Females are more difficult to differentiate but the best way is to look at the throat which in palmate is usually a pale/translucent pink colour without spots.
Watch our Minute Wildlife film about toad patrols 1/1