Toads raising young

Toad singing ©Janet AllenToad singing

It's hard to imagine that such a curmudgeonly-looking creature could produce such a beautiful song. And they freely share it night and day!

Hearing our first toad, usually in April, is always a sure sign of spring for us.

Since we've become habitat gardeners, we've noticed that we are attuned to such signs of the seasons, rather than just looking at the calendar.

Toads in skimmer ©Janet AllenToads in the pond skimmer

Note the two toads in our pond skimmer. We've sometimes seen up to eight toads there. They like the moist, dark environment especially when the weather is dry. (Usually the top of the skimmer is on). They stay there even when I clean out the extra plant material etc.

If I find pairs mating in the skimmer, I scoop them out, though, and put them in the other pond. I think the eggs would just get pulled into the pump and wasted. otherwise.

Toads mating
Toads mating

Success! The male (the one on the top) is much smaller than the female.

Note the the string of black eggs. Note that there is an up-side and a down-side to the eggs. Any predator looking from the bottom of the pond upward will see the white side, thereby making the eggs less visible. I think there is also other reasons having to do with light, heat and temperature, but I'll have to explore that further.

The twelfth day ©Janet AllenThe twelfth day

By the twelfth day they're looking more like little tadpoles.

21 days ©Janet Allen21 days

The tadpoles at 21 days are less slender. Their little bodies are plump, and their tail is thin.

Thousands of tadpoles ©Janet AllenThousands of tadpoles

Here are some of the literally thousands of tadpoles in our wildlife pond. There were thousands more in our "regular" pond.

Last stage before leaving the water ©Janet AllenBeginning to develop legs, eventually to leave the water and live on land

We love to watch the tiny tadpoles transform into little toads. At this stage in the picture, they have developed their little "zigzaggy" legs.

Toadlet ready to go ©Janet Allen
Toadlet ready to go

When their tails begin to disappear, they're becoming land animals. In fact, if they're left in water with no opportunity to leave, they can drown! This one has climbed up on a piece of driftwood and is ready to move on.

Microtoads ©Janet AllenWhat we call microtoads (Photo taken on June 8)

Here's one of (what we call) our "microToads." There are generally significantly fewer than the thousands of eggs and tadpoles we usually start with. Oddly, the toadlets are smaller than the tadpoles.

Toadlet ©Janet AllenThe final "toadlet"

Over the past few years, toads have laid tens of thousands of eggs in our ponds. By the time they're ready to leave our ponds, there are somewhat fewer, and I imagine that after a few weeks out of the ponds, their numbers are considerably diminished.

On days when many are leaving the pond, I've seen birds with little toadlet legs sticking out of their beaks. But after all, how many toads could our yard support anyway? Natural attrition is built into the system. It's sad, but that's part of nature.

Toad baby(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Toad maybe the second year

Still, toads are so beneficial—eating slugs and other pests—that we hope a good many survive. It's hard to know how many do survive since mating season in the ponds is the only time we see toads routinely. (Frogs hang around the pond all the time—one reason we really miss them.)

It's always fun to discover some of our own toadlets growing up. Sometimes I find them (like the one in the photo) hiding under stones or among dense stands of plants.

We don't yet know how to determine if they're one-year-old or two-year-old toads. (I put a dime at the right of the photo to show his relative size.) I suspect that it's from last year's batch since they don't live that long in the wild. On the other hand, I've also read that their reproductive development can be delayed in areas with a high population of toads.

Although we don't often see these nocturnal animals, we suspect we must have a large population since our ponds produce so many tadpoles, and our yard is very toad-friendly. Why wouldn't they stick around?

By the way, I was surprised to learn that toads shed their skins every few weeks while growing, and older toads do this four times a year! It peels off and they eat it! Nature doesn't waste much …