PUTTING the dog out into the garden as dusk was falling, I caught from the corner of my eye a flurry of movement on the patio.

I brought my torch to focus upon it and realised that it was toad, which had now frozen still in the hope that I hadn’t spotted it. I let it be and when I returned a few minutes later the creature had gone.

Toads are welcome visitors to our gardens because they feast upon a whole range of invertebrates, including those that damage flowers and plants.

The remarkable thing about this toad is that as far as I am aware, the nearest breeding pond is about a mile away in a small clearing by the edge of the Ochils.

This means that this small animal, once it had finished mating in April, had crawled its way through woods and over fields to reach my garden. It’s a gargantuan journey by any standards, and come next spring, it will have to make the return trek.

Unlike frogs, which spawn in the smallest of ditches and temporary puddles, toads have traditional breeding sites, which are much larger in size, typically substantial ponds or even lochans.

The dry spring has resulted in a very poor breeding season for frogs in the Ochils because many ditches dried up just as the tadpoles were beginning to develop. By the time the persistent rain of June and July arrived, it was too late to save their fortunes.

The other common amphibian in the Ochils is the palmate newt, and earlier this year I managed to photograph one underwater in a small ditch.

Despite the lack of water clarity, I was rather pleased with the results, and on reflection, I don’t suppose many people head to our local hills carrying an underwater camera.