Page last updated at 23:56 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 00:56 UK

Toads cover tracks on mass crawls

Toads return to the ponds where they were born to spawn

Large groups of toads covered a path and a farm track at two sites in a national park as they returned to ponds to breed.

The incidents have been reported to biodiversity officers at Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA).

They are gathering data on amphibians and trends of when they spawn.

Nationwide, there are efforts being made to survey toads, frogs and newts. Record-taking training is planned in Angus, Lothian and central Scotland.

Cairngorms biodiversity officer Stephen Corcoran said the incidents of mass movements of toads to ponds in the national park were important additions to a database being compiled on the area's amphibians.

Late frosts

He said: "Toads return to the ponds where they were born and in some places this can be hazardous for them as they have to cross roads.

"We want to build quite an extensive database on frogs, toads and newts. Once we've gathered more information we will be able to look at trends such as when they are appearing to spawn.

"Across the country, amphibians have been appearing much earlier and this has been put down to climate change."

The park has habitat for common toad and frog and palmate newt, a species that tolerates the Cairngorms' hard acidic water and can be found in wetlands more than 800m above sea level.

Smooth and great crested newts are a rarer sight because of the acidic water, but are found in larger numbers outside the park at sites around Dingwall, Muir of Ord and Nairn.

Another purpose of the drive to record amphibians is to act as an early warning against the appearance of ranavirus and fungal infection chytridiomycosis which have decimated numbers across the world.

The infections have not been recorded in the Cairngorms, but the creatures do fall prey to mammals and late frosts.

Countryside rangers

Mr Corcoran said people may find the skins of frogs and toads caught by otters, while spawn with a milky white pigmentation has been caused by frost or a fungus that appears after the spawn has died.

Information gathered in the park will also feed into the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme's latest survey.

Started in 2007 and followed up in 2008, the count of amphibians and reptiles is being held this year.

Training for volunteers is proposed in Angus, central Scotland, Lothian and the Highlands.

Highland Council countryside rangers have helped to set up survey workshops in Ross-shire.

In Ferintosh, amphibian specialist Dr David O'Brien will lead a talk on how to record the creatures and also a visit to a pond to put the theory into practice.

Slow worms, adders and lizards will be the subject of another workshop and field trip in Garve led by Dr Martin Gaywood.

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