Toad migration has begun in upper Roxborough.
As the weather warms, thousands of Philadelphia toads return to their birthplace, the Roxborough Reservoir, to mate.
Sadly, many toads are killed in the final stretch of their journey. They are run over by cars as they hop across Port Royal and Eva streets.
But for the past three years, volunteers have closed down these roads on nights of heavy toad migration, to help them cross the street and inform the community about the animals.
Every night between Mar. 10 and Apr. 15, volunteers meet on the corner of Port Royal and Hagys Mill roads, and begin searching the roads for toads. If they find any, they block off the street using barricades they received from the police and the water department.
Judy Stephenaskie drives all over the area in her green Acura searching for the toads.
Stephenaskie is a bird watcher, and records sighting in the Shawmont area of the Schuylkill River for the yearly log of the Pennsylvania Society of Ornithology.
Every night during toad season, she drives with her high beams on and emergency flashers, stopping to open her door for every piece of debris in the road that might be a toad.
“Just a leaf” she says, closing her door. “That’s annoying.”
But soon she has spotted two live toads.
She gasps as a car drives over one. Fortunately the tires miss the baseball-sized amphibian.
She pulls her car into the middle of the road to prevent more cars from driving past, and with her bare hands, quickly scoops up the animal and rushes it to the reservoir side of the street.
Moya Kinnealey, from Mt Airy, volunteers to assist in blocking off the road and handing out information to passers-by.
She says that some cars drive around the barricade, and shout their approval for the “toad detour”.
Kinnealey appreciates the tremendous support from the community, especially since the volunteer project is only in its third year.
She says that the annual event is becoming “part of the community’s collective consciousness,” and she adds, “a point of pride.”
Friday and Saturday, free “Toad Walks” will be given by experienced naturalists from Parks and Recreation and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.
Those interested in participating should meet the crew on the corner of Port Royal and Lare streets and bring reflective clothing and a flashlight. The tours last from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and there is a good chance that you’ll see and hear the toads.
The toads prefer wet nights, so be prepared to come rain or shine.