Skip to main content

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.
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.

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Snowy owl photography tactics - and things NOT to do

A gorgeous juvenile female snowy owl briefly catches your narrator with its piercing gaze. It's doing its Linda Blair/Exorcist trick - twisting its head 180 degrees to look straight behind. Owls have 14 neck vertebrae - double our number - which allows them such flexibility.

These visitors from the high arctic have irrupted big time into Ohio and adjacent regions, with new birds coming to light nearly every day. Probably 80 or so have thus far been reported in the state, and some of them have stuck around favored spots and become local celebrities.

I went to visit one of these birds this morning - the animal above, which was found last Friday by Doug Overacker and Julie Karlson at C.J. Brown Reservoir near Springfield. In the four days since its discovery, many people have visited as is nearly always the case when one of these white wonders appears near a large population center or is otherwise very accessible.

And as is always the case, people want to photograph the owls. And th…