In Praise of the Humble Toad
The mellifluous trilling of toads resonates through our hills at this time of year. The tranquil sound wafting through an open window on a warm mid-spring eve is delightful.
The lovely voices emanate from warted, lumpish creatures, with sad expressions – supremely ugly to some, oozing character to others.
They are the toughest of our 10 species of frogs, (Yes, toads are frogs!), tenaciously clinging to survival even in heavily modified human environments. They frequent suburban backyards, gulping slimy night crawlers and hard-shelled sow bugs.
See the slideshow of Don Scallen photos below
All they ask is a water-filled ditch to lay their jelly strings of eggs and an unkempt patch of garden to ply their toad trade.
Toads are able to live among us because, unlike other frogs, they have dry skin that conserves their precious body moisture. They are also protected by poison sacks on their upper backs filled with a milky fluid that predators such as the family dog find very distasteful.
At this time of year it is easy to view toads as they conduct the affairs of the heart. Simply follow the trilling to your neighbourhood pond. There you may see the small males, vocal sacks stretched to the limit as they sing to impress the larger females.
Competition for the voluptuous females sometimes leads to fights among the males. These are entertaining little brouhahas with the males using their powerful back legs to send their rivals sprawling.
The next time you see a toad salute a true survivor. This is one amphibian that won’t go gently into the good night of extinction.
Don Scallen is a naturalist who teaches elementary science in Brampton.