Bufo bufo otherwise known as the common toad is a secretive amphibian but they lurk around most gardens and woodlands, especially damp places, but not necessarily water-rich locations. Contrary to popular belief, toads don’t live in ponds or lakes, in fact they usually only visit them to breed in the early spring months. Toads tend to frequent hollows within trees, especially those with a collection of damp and decaying leaves. They also seem to favor the small space between water-butts and the earth as well as underneath sheds. So, although they rarely make an appearance, there may well be a toad in your garden.
Toads are thought to travel up to one mile to reach the same pond or lake where they were born and it’s believed they visit the same location each year and this is why, usually in the months of March or April you’ll often see lots of dead toads on the road as they migrate to their breeding location. This mass migration lasts between one and ten days and continues throughout day and night. Unfortunately at this time they become an easy target for predators, such as wild birds and mammals and unfortunately the non-domestic cat! Toads do have a defense which does deter some predators, and that is that they secrete a poisonous substance from their skin, but birds such as herons simply eat their insides and brown rats even skin them! If they're able to evade predation, a toad can live for up to 40 years.
Many people seem to confuse toads with frogs, and vise-versa, but there are some clear distinctions between the two. Frogs tend be be green, yellow, brown or a combination of the three with some black markings and they have smooth shiny skin. Toads may vary in colour too, but they’re usually grey or a mixture of autumn leaf colours and their skin is distinctly rough, warty and thicker than that of the streamlined frog. Frogs can jump with speed and travel some distance, whereas toads can only manage a rather cumbersome ‘hop‘ at best, they’re awkward animals, and really rather slow, the only element of speed they offer comes from their tongue which is capable of shooting out of it’s mouth and catching an insect within one-tenth of a second.
As we all know, folklore and mythology goes back many centuries in Britain, and toads, as well as frogs were part of some strange, and usually vile beliefs. For example, Scottish reapers believed that the pain from a sprained wrist could be wavered by rubbing a live toad against it, OR, in other parts of Britain, some would carry a dried toad in their pockets as it was thought to ward off the dreadful smallpox virus. Many would wear the leg of a toad around their necks to ward off other illness, whilst in some areas of the country toads were though to be witches familiars, and if they ever entered ones house, they were swiftly, but safely removed.