Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bufo sp. a friendly toad in China Valley

I know the plant kingdom far better from the animal, but I do know that this is a toad! I wish toads were more common in the garden than they are. They are carnivores, eating a diet of mixed invertebrates. Slugs, worms, beetles, pillbugs among others.

My parent's house has a smallish lilypond that dates to the late 1960s. Toads breed in the water of course, the gelatinous strings of eggs hatch to produce tadpoles that eventually grow legs, lose their gills, climb out of the water and live the balance of their lives on land. I can remember what, in retrospect, were somewhat disturbing nocturnal orgies. Triggered by a full moon in early spring, males sung their distinctive song, a protracted trill. Females responded and the full moon revealed black water boiling with toad sex. Over 30 individuals in a pool that wasn't 10' x 6'. It was fascinating and disturbing at the same time.

Well....for whatever reason, maybe the explosion in the use of lawn chemicals, over the 1980s and 90s, the numbers dwindled. I remember my father telling me one year they had a solitary male who trilled in vain.....more disturbing than the group sex. Well over the last few years the toads have been reappearing. Not roiling masses, but a few pairs a year, enough, we can only hope, to maintain populations at a reasonable level, which, forgive me, like Scrooge, I do not know.

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