“I believed then – in a deep, easy way that is impossible for me as an adult – that there was more to this world than meets the eye. Trees had spirits; the wind spoke. If you followed a toad or a raven deep into the heart of the forest, they were sure to lead you to something magical.”
When we had the pond built, almost 20 years ago, we had high hopes that lots of critters would visit or make a home there. And we have seen our fair share of critters come to the pond….frogs, insects, turtles, snakes, birds….and the list goes on. The most consistent visitors making a home, in the pond, has been the frogs laying many eggs every year (see picture above).
But my favorite, yet elusive, visitor to the pond has to be the toads. Although we hear the toads, we only see them from time to time as toads are generally nocturnal. The American toad (Anaxyrus americanus, formerly Bufo americanus) is the species of toad found here. They love areas with moisture and plenty of insects…..which is exactly what you will find in our garden.
We heard the toads again in early April, and they seemed quite close each night calling with that amazing long, trilling sound. So imagine my surprise when we saw them not soon afterward…..
I was so surprised because we had never seen two at once, and certainly not in this amorous embrace. Of course in this position it was quite evident that the large rust colored toad was the female and the smaller the male. The female makes her home just outside the fence in a small garden we have, and we see her burrowing herself in for the winter, or uncovering herself as spring warms the ground.
We see the smaller male toads here and there, in the garden and pond and even some tiny young toads. But we have never seen the making of those little toads. Not wanting to intrude on these two, I took pictures and quickly left them alone.
It is interesting to note how the mating ritual takes place. Males go to shallow ponds, and call to females. When the female arrives, the male actually grabs or hugs her (the lady must be willing if the smaller male can grab the female twice his size) until she discharges her eggs. As the eggs come out, the male fertilizes them by discharging fluid with sperm onto the eggs. I actually witnessed her continuing to push out two long strings of eggs looking like a necklace of black pearls. See them draped all along the vegetation above.
If you look closely, you can see the eggs are covered with a jelly like substance in long tubes. The toads found the perfect spot for the eggs; shallow water with vegetation near the irises that had not bloomed yet.
Like frogs, once the toads lay the eggs they leave them to develop on their own. Eggs begin to hatch in a few days. The process can take up to 10-12 days before the eggs become tadpoles, and then they fully develop into toads in about 2 months time. American toads usually survive only a year or two in the wild although we have seen the large female here for a few years. Most tadpoles don’t survive very long becoming food for snakes, and frogs.
You can see the development of the eggs above over a 10 day period. We have not seen the toads yet, but they should be emerging sometime this month we hope.
Here are some additional facts about the American Toad:
- Toads don’t cause warts, but the American toad produces a toxin that can be harmful if swallowed, or if it gets in your eyes. So be careful if you handle toads. We leave them alone.
- When the tadpoles are ready to leave the pond they emerge usually in groups.
- Tadpoles have several ways to keep predators at bay. They swim close together in schools, and stay in very shallow water that is thick with vegetation. We have lots of that especially around the cattails so perhaps we will have several surviving toads emerging soon.
Special Note: I wrote a poem about our toads and you can find it here….Ode to A Toad. The picture at the end of the post is of our House Wren feeding its babies recently. The wrens have fledged, but we still hear the Wren’s song in the garden.
What wildlife lessons are you learning as summer begins?
With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday. I am also linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week. Please check out all these great blogs.
I leave you with another thought about studying nature. Feel free to download the photo and share.
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