The early spring means one thing for Shawmont residents—the toads are moving. An annual tradition, frogs and toads began migrating in March, and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education has helped them along.
For the first year, the environmental group has coordinated volunteer shifts to aid the toads crossing roads in route from the center's pond to the Upper Roxborough Reservoir. The group has always educated the public through walking tours, but following a prominent resident's departure from the region, the Schuylkill Center began volunteer shifts, too.
"It's made a lot of sense. They are coming out of our woods of about 340 acres and going along the road. We certainly can help them out," said Claire Morgan from Schuylkill Center.
On warm and wet nights, toads begin their march through the area's woods around sunset. At about 7:30 p.m., volunteers detour motorist past Port Royal Avenue and Eva Street to Ridge Avenue to prevent toad squashing.
Morgan said thus far, it's been a busy and safe year. In 2012, volunteers counted about 1,500 (mostly) toads and frogs. Appropriately, the first day of spring, March 20, brought out the largest migration—700 that night.
Optimal conditions require for temperatures to exceed 50 degrees, and wetness helps. Big nights can yield 100 to 200 toads.
Like the rest of us, the toads prefer the nicer weather.
"Over the past couple of nights, there's been less movement, especially Monday night when it hit 32 degrees," Morgan said.
People who volunteer are asked to commit two hours on a night (from about 7 to 9 p.m.), help barricade the road and count the toads. The Toad Detour now has its own Facebook page, which posts updates on whether volunteers are needed.
In addition to volunteering, people can take a free walking tour Friday and Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. Morgan said that tour focuses on the migration, and also the mating patterns.
"We've always had involvement in the education process. What we usually hope to do is show off the toad eggs back at our site. It's tough to get down to the reservoir, and we usually have eggs at our pond," Morgan said.
There's also a documentary on the toad migration available for $10 at the Schuylkill Center.
Individuals or groups can sign up to volunteer through April 15, when the roads will reopen at night. The toadlets make their move from May 15 to June 30, so there's time to pitch in later, too. The center's website has a toad detour volunteer signup page.
"They are about the size of fingernails and hop back to the woods," Morgan said.