The Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) might have lived in Britain for over a hundred years, but it is still officially an “alien” species. The invasion of the toad began over a hundred years ago in a Bedfordshire nursery garden, as Christopher Lever narrates in “Naturalized reptiles and amphibians of the world”:
“The nursery garden belonged to the firm of Horton & Smart, by whom the toads are believed to have been introduced accidentally as eggs in a consignment of ferns and water plants from southern France.”
Offshoot colonies grew in York and Northamptonshire, but the stronghold of the Midwife Toad in England has remained in Bedfordshire. The species is named for the nurturing behaviour of the male, who carries the eggs wrapped round its hind legs until they are ready to hatch. This keeps them warm and protected from treacherous English frosts and unreliable weather. Yet even after a century the Midwife Toad still has the capacity to puzzle and even frighten people when they hear its nocturnal “bleeping” song in their suburban gardens.