In more populated parts of the British Isles, native amphibians are thought to be in decline, mainly through the destruction of breeding sites. The three species that occur in Assynt, common frog, common toad and palmate newt, are flourishing, with probably thousands of breeding sites for frogs, and perhaps hundreds for toads and newts.
On our walks this spring, Gwen Richards and I seem to have come across a lot of toads, which require deeper water than the two other species in which to spawn. On 15th March 2020 we came across two, probably males, making their way to Lochan Feoir on the south-east side of Quinag (NC2225); see the article A small corner of Quinag .
On 26th March our route took us along the narrow path to the west of the un-named loch just north of the former settlement of Camasnafriaraich (NC0623). Toads were swimming at the margins in clear water perhaps 0.5 m deep, some as singletons, others already paired up (photos 1-2). There were also some on the path towards the beach, no doubt making their way to the loch.
The following day, 27th March, we returned from a walk out to the far side of Loch Beannach around the pool beside a parking area at the south-east corner of Blar nam Fear Mora (NC1425). We could hear the toads calling before we reached the edge of the pool, and estimated that it contained over 100, mainly paired up (photos 3-4). Frogspawn was visible in a few places, but we did not see any toadspawn.
Three weeks later, on 18th April, we were up Gleann Leireag. At the western edge of the old sheiling, Ruigh Dorch, our attention was caught by a small round pool on the far side of the river (NC1530). I remembered that Robin Noble, who was then living at Glenleraig, had mentioned this as a toad breeding site. As I had never visited it we made our way over. Although small it was very deep, over 1m, with peaty sides. Unlike some peaty pools, it was well-vegetated, with water horsetail, two species of pondweed, bottle sedge and water milfoil, amongst other aquatics (photo 5). There was toadspawn visible on both sides of the pool (photo 6), the first time I had seen it in many years, and a little frogspawn. There were also otter spraints beside the pool, indicating probable predation of some adults.
My most recent encounter with toads was an adult I found on 7th May wandering across a corner of my garden at Nedd (NC1331), which I had recently cleared of heaped soil and weeds (photo 7). I regularly come across toads in the vegetable garden, despite the nearest spawning site of which I know, Loch Ruighean an Aitinn (NC1232), being well over a kilometre to the north-west. It was also a reminder that adults spend most of their life on land.
Although our three amphibians are relatively abundant, it is always worth noting any sightings, with a grid reference, and sending them in to the Field Club.
Ian M. Evans
All photos by I.M.Evans