|Tin Man on Talacre Lighthouse|
Saturday, 27 April 2013
Natterjacks at Talacre
Fifteen years ago BHP Billiton got planning permission to pipe gas ashore from its rig off the north coast of Wales. The pipeline comes close to Talacre lighthouse, then under the dunes to the terminus, and onwards to fuel Connahs Quay Power Station. As part of the agreement BHP bought the SSSI sand dune system and reintroduced Natterjack toads.
BHP is a massive ‘global resources’ company employing 100,000 people one of whom is Kim Norman, the ecologist at Talacre. I enjoyed attending her briefing and survey in late April 2013 from which I have learnt that Natterjacks are widespread in Spain and France but absent from Italy and scarce in Britain. Their distribution is something to do with retreating ice and the Alps blocking the spread to Italy. The UK is their northern extremity with about fifty sites mainly along the coast in northwest England and southwest Scotland.
Within Talacre dunes there are ‘ephemeral ponds’, ponds which dry out making them unsuitable for most competitor species, but this is where Natterjacks can excel and their numbers have grown considerably in the last couple of years. Our job was to count, sex, weigh and measure the toads. On 24th April there were 106 active in the ponds; this was the first recorded night of breeding for the season, some three weeks later than in recent years due to the cold weather, and the following day there were 13 spawn strings. This is what the beautiful toads looked and sounded like: