Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I like toads, warts and all

An American toad, Anaxyrus americanus, regards the camera with typical inscrutable aplomb. Even though we rather rudely picked the animal up and placed him on a rock for ease of photos, the toad displayed no emotions nor raised no objections.

John Howard, Tricia West and I found this toad while out salamandering last Friday evening, and we couldn't resist making a few shots. When I was a boy, my best friend, Jeff Held, and I would often capture toads and keep them in the gravel-bottomed window wells of Jeff's' parents house. These pet toads didn't have it so bad. We loved watching them feed, and would diligently work to capture all manner of insects which we would then feed to our toads. It was - and is! - great fun to see the warty little predators use their long sticky tongues to snap up a hapless insect in the blink of an eye.

A toad's eyes are things of great beauty. A background of molten gold is crisscrossed by webs of black pigment, and to me they suggest those ever-changing lava lamps. I suspect their vision is quite acute, possibly more so than many other amphibians. When potential prey enters one's sphere, the toad immediately snaps to full alert, and tracks its victim visually. CLICK HERE for a cool YouTube video of a southern toad, Anaxyrus terrestris, adeptly snaring a moth.

In a few weeks, toads will begin to sing. From wetlands great and small, the males' rich sonorous trills will resonate as the boys call in the girls. Not long after, the females will deposit long helical strands of eggs in shallow water. I photographed the eggs masses above on April 30, 2010 in a small pool in West Virginia.

Those eggs soon hatch out scores of tiny toad tadpoles, and if all goes well, within a few months they'll transform to tiny toadlets and hop onto land. It apparently takes a few years for a toad to reach sexual maturity and breed, and if one makes it to ths point it can live for a good many years.


Anonymous said...

I love toads too. I spent many summer weekends as a kid catching them at my parents cabin. I have a rather large toad that lives around my house now and even though I am close to 50 I still enjoy feeding them! I haven't seen him yet this year but will be on the look out for him.

Anonymous said...

I liked toads, too. Last year we had one singing by our koi pond. Then we discovered strands of egg tubes in the bog area of the koi pond! And soon after we saw the toadlets swimming in the bog area. Wonder if Mr. Road will reappear this year - hope so.

WisconsinWildMan said...

Our yard and neighborhood has bunches of toads. We will often see when walking our beagle at night.

zippiknits said...

When my hubby and I took a trip up the California coast a few years ago, we stopped near the Klammath river. There, on a sunny afternoon walk, we came across hundreds of tiny toads migrating to the water. It was the most we've seen in ages. It was very fun to watch these tiny inch long babies making their way over the stones. Of course, I picked one up for a photo op.