Toad in the Hole

Thursday, October 11th 2012

This morning was spent building a hibernaculum at the outdoor classroom.  Hibernacula are habitats designed to give ideal conditions for hibernating animals over the winter months.  There is high variation in the temperature of the soil over the course of day and night, dependant on weather and air temperature.  Our hibernaculum is dug down into the earth, to provide an environment with stable, frost-free temperatures and protection from predators.

Here is our step-by-step guide to building your own - for amphibians it will need to be south facing and no further than 200m from a pond or stream.

Step 1

Dig a hole 3ft across and just over 2ft deep (make sure there are no water pipes or cables in the area you plan to use!).  Pile the soil and grass nearby ready to cover the structure when finished.

Step 2

Add 4-6 inches of gravel to the bottom of the hole to aid drainage.

Step 3

Rocks, plant pots and logs can be used to create chambers.  Almost anything can be considered as long as it is not too tightly packed and the gaps between are not too large. The idea is to create small chambers that will remain moist and at a constant temperature.  If the gaps are big the temperature will fluctuate too much; if the chambers are tightly packed the animals won't be able to find their way in.

Step 4

The top and any large gaps should be loosely packed with twigs, branches and leaf mould which will act as insulation.

Step 5

Logs should be piled over the top to prevent the soil washing down into the cavities.  At this point an old drain pipe can be installed as the entrance to the hibernaculum.

Step 6

Cover over with soil and don't be too concerned if a few logs are sticking out when you have finished!

Replace the grass and make sure the entrance is still clear!

Finally, sit back and wait for the hibernating animals to come flocking in. We hope newts, frogs, toads, lizards, mice and voles will use ours!  Below is the finished hibernaculum near to the bug hotel at the outdoor classroom.

 


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