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Published on Tuesday 28 May 2024

Nattejack Toad at Hengistbury Head - picture taken with licence by BCP Council

The Natterjack Toad, one of the UK’s rarest amphibians, enjoys a stable population at Hengistbury Head Nature Reserve because of careful and targeted conservation work over the last 30 years, working closely with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust.

Helped by the wet conditions in 2024, the toad is having another successful year at the Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) Council-owned site.

The renowned BBC nature programme Springwatch will spotlight the reserve, one of the amphibians’ southern strongholds, on 28 and 29 May 2024.

The Springwatch team are aiming to show the very loud raspy calls of the male toads at dusk, and other aspects of their lives and behaviours.

Presenter Iolo Williams will also be observing some of the other fantastic wildlife that Hengistbury Head and the wider Christchurch Harbour area has to offer, including Starlings, Nightjars, Ringed Plovers, and cliff invertebrates.

Iolo Williams said: ““I’m really looking forward to going to Hengistbury Head to see the amazing wildlife there. Nightjars, White Tailed Eagles and Natterjack toads are all fascinating species and some great conservation work to celebrate too.”

 One of the UK’s most charismatic creatures, the Natterjack Toad is smaller than the more widespread Common Toad and sports a yellow line down its back.

A largely nocturnal species, also known as “the running toad,” due to its scurrying habit as it hunts down insect prey, was recorded at Hengistbury Head up until the 1950s when it disappeared.

The current population is now thriving because of a successful reintroduction from Sandy in Bedfordshire to Dorset in 1989, the protection afforded by the man-made ponds and the favourable natural conditions found on the reserve.

The Natterjack Toad is strictly protected by British law which makes it an offence to kill, injure, capture, or disturb (including photograph) them, damage or destroy their habitat, or possess them or sell or trade them in any way.

Cllr Hadley, Portfolio Holder for Climate Response, Environment and Energy, BCP Council said: “The success of the rare Natterjack Toads at Hengistbury Head is testament to the great environmental and conservation work that the Hengistbury rangers, volunteers and external partners do throughout the year.

“If you aim to visit this stunning nature reserve, please do respect the signs and keep dogs to paths and on a lead when requested, drop in to the Visitor Centre to find out more about accessing the reserve, its wildlife and archaeology or indeed to just buy an ice cream!” 

Over a million people visit Hengistbury Head every year and the rangers and volunteers manage a constant balancing act between protecting its wildlife, biodiversity, landscape, and archaeology, whilst giving the public invaluable access to this very special place.

Many species of birds nest on the reserve, often on the ground, where they are vulnerable to disturbance. These include Skylarks, Ringed Plovers, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Dartford Warblers and Nightjars,

They can occur anywhere, including in public areas and rangers are supported in their monitoring and protection by Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group (CHOG) and Dorset Dogs, the organisation that encourages responsible dog ownership in open spaces.

Nearly 1000 UK species of moth have also been recorded within the wider Christchurch Harbour area, alongside 33 species of butterfly and 33 species of dragon and damselfly.

The rich diversity is due to the concentration of a wide variety of habitats, including saltmarsh, sand dunes, woodland, heathland, reedbed and acid grassland, which in turn each support a different community of plants.

Livestock grazing is an important part of maintaining and conserving areas of natural beauty and nature reserves and at Hengistbury Head a herd of breeding Shetland cattle and a small flock of Cotswold sheep are keeping shrub and grasslands in check.

Robin Harley, Countryside Area Manager for BCP Council , with responsibility for the site, said: “ It is a great privilege to play a part in looking after this amazing and important place but it would not be possible without the support of a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, who give many hours of their time to the reserve”.

The Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre is open all year round and is the best place to find out more about the site, its rich wildlife and incredible archaeology.

With knowledgeable staff and volunteers, a beautiful garden space, wildlife cameras, informative displays, a shop, and exhibition space for local traders, it’s the perfect place to start any visit.


 Notes to editors: -

        Credit for the above image is @BCP Council, taken under licence




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