Clyde Amphibian and Reptile Group

Amphibians in Drains: Update January 2015

07/02/2015 16:07

John Sweeney

During January-March 2014, CARG members checked a number of sites where there was thought to be potential for significant numbers of amphibians to be killed by falling down drains encountered while moving from their hibernation sites to their spawning sites.  The sites checked were all close to waterbodies where amphibians have previously been reported in March and April (spawning time) and which were close to roads likely to have drains and high kerbs.  This can be a killer combination since amphibians on their way to the spawning pond can find it difficult to climb upmthe kerbs, leading to them moving along the road close to the kerb where they will enventually bump into a drain cover.  Some of these fall through the grating and into the drain where escape is usually impossible. Although a localised problem, it can affect any of our local species – common toad, common frog, smooth newt and palmate newt – as we found in 2014.


The group members involved were asked to make a simple risk assessment of each site by looking at the type of drain covers, the heights of the kerbs and the location of these relative to the likely migration routes of amphibians heading for a spawning pond.  A total of ten sites were checked and at four of these the potential risk was thought to be moderate or high. 

Once amphibians were on the move in March, these five moderate/ high risk sites were then visited just after dark to try to find out if the potential problem was actually happening in reality.  The results were mixed and these are summarised below:

Broom Loch (Pond), Whitecraigs, Glasgow 

Visited twice in March, by John Sweeney. This is quite a large water body set in a suburban residental area.  There are road with high kerbs and drains on all sides.  No amphibians were recorded however, with none seen inside the drains when these were checked with a torch. So it seems that despite looking good for a range of amphibians, that Broom Loch is not a significant spawning site for any species.

Barrhead Road Pond, Newton Mearns

This pond was checked once a week during March by Duncan Toms, with the assistance of John Sweeney on 20th March.  This pond sits within a narrow strip of semi-natural habitat, with scrub, grassland and a small conifer plantation, flanked by residential streets. A busy road cuts with many drains cuts across this “wildlife corridor” and the potential danger to amphibians is obvious.  As at Broom Loch however, no amphibians were obsrved during these checks and none were seem inside the drains.  The visits ended during the last week of Marc however, and it is possible that later toad and/or newt movements were missed - so it is intended to recheck this site in April 2015.

Kilmardinny Loch, Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire

 This small loch, a well-known toad spawning site, was thought to be a high risk site following the risk assessment.  In some directions it is fringed by quite a wide safe zone (mainly parkland, woodland and gardens), up to 200 metres wide in places. In other directions however there are roads with drains and high kerbs within 40-70 metres.  The Kilmardinny site was checked on the evening of 25th  March by Lynsey Harper and John Sweeney.  It soon became apparent that there was a problem here, with a toad seen inside only the second drain checked. This turned out to be the first of 10  toads and seven frogs seen in the drains across three different streets.  Happily, Lynsey and John were able to rescue all but three of the animals, but this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg at this site. A further 20 toads and 2 frogs were seen moving through the streets towards the loch where approximately 80 newly-arrived toads were newly arrived and sitting in the shallow water. total of Most of these were males and it was clear that more males and the bulk of the females had stil to arrive.  So it seems we had visited right at the start of the spring movement to the pond and it is likely that many more would have fallen into the drains subsequently. 

Kilmardinny Loch is clearly a conservation black spot for toads and, to a lesser extent, frogs.

Baggie Minnie Pond, Carmyle, Glasgow.

This largish pond, formed by mining subsidenrce lies inside a roughly triangulare area of wet grassland and scrub. The site was visited by Erik Paterson and John Sweeney on 27th March.  The River Clyde 200metres to the south forms the boundary to one side of this triangle, but both of the remaing sides are bounded by roads with kerbs and a high density of drains.  It is a known toad spawning site and, if anything, we expected to find this species very much in evidence.  If there is a toad problem here then our timing was wrong because not a single toad was seen in either the residential streets or their drains.  There were however, a lot of newts with both palmate newt and, unexpectedly, smooth newt.  Baggie Minnie is a new site for the latter species which, in the CARG area, has a much more localised distribution than the ubiquitous palmate.   The newts here seem to be particularly prone to falling into the local drains, with totals of 14 smooth newts and 5 palmate newts being rescued from these drains during our two hour visit.  Newts were found down the drains in least three residential streets within 100-200 metres of the pond. 

There is clearly a problem at this site and this will be brought to the attention of Glasgow City Council , which specifically includes palmate newt as a priority species for conservation within the Glasgow Local Biodiversity Action Plan.

It is planned to re-visit Baggie Minnie in spring 2015 to try to find out if toads are also being trapped perhaps a week or two later.

What will happen in 2015?

There are at least three further moderate of high risk sites which the group wasn’t able to check in 2014 due to a lack of time and volunteers. We hope to look at these this spring.

There may however, be other sites that we don’t yet know of however. So if any one reading this article knows of anywhere else in the Glasgow area (within say 10 miles) where toads or other amphibians are know to cross roads in the spring, then please let us know. (These sites are usually discovered through finding lots of squashed toads of frogs on the road), We would at least like to dicover the “black spots” in and around to the city, in order to compile a dossier of evidence that we can take to council roads departments.  Armed with this, we can ask the councils to take action to reduce these problems……or else allow us to take action. There are varous mitigation measures that can be installed relatively cheaply (ramps, wildlife kerbs, barriers, etc.) but we first need to draw their attention to the fact that hundreds if not thousands of frogs, toads and newts are dying in killer drains every year.

Helping out in 2015

If you would like to help us to check this year’s sites then this would be much appreciated………please get in touch.  There are at least two people on all evening visits and we can kit you out with instructions and everything you will need (site map, torch, hi-vist vest and a rescue net).

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