The end of my toading; for this year, anyway!

Toad ball

17th March 2012: Toads were still lingering in North Pond again this morning, although their numbers had thinned a little; quite a few of them are on the bottom … dead!

Swan.

Toads excrete the chemical bufagin, which is an irritant that helps prevent them from being eaten. Bufagin is so effective that toads can live for forty years or more.

Grass snakes and hedgehogs seem to be immune to the effects of bufagin, and are the only animals prepared to eat toads. I expect to see a heron or two as I approach the pond in the early mornings, but I haven’t seen a single heron in North Pond since the toads arrived.

Cormorant at its favourite perch over the river.

The reason so many toads descend on North Pond to mate every year, is that females return to the place they were born. Obviously, both sexes have to be present at the right time and be able to find each other, if mating is to be successfully. To this end, toads have developed complex behavioural patterns that make sure breeding goes to plan. Odours, pheromones, light, temperature and moisture all play a part in initiating the toad mating instinct. Their hearing becomes very sensitive to different pitches, which is important as atmospheric pressures affect the vibrations and volume of the already relatively quiet common male toad’s mating call. The  toad’s tactile senses increase in sensitivity on the toes, underside of males, and the back of the females.

Anyone know the name of this aquatic plant?

If a male toad grasps another male, or a female who has already mated or is not yet ready to mate, then a defensive posture will be adopted. On the other hand, if the two toads are compatible, the result will be the mating embrace or amplexus, during which the male will ward off others by kicking with its hind legs – at least that’s the theory. It doesn’t always work, because single females are sometimes encased in frenzied males intent on passing-on their genes.  Fertilization is external, with the male fertilizing the eggs as they are laid. The male releases a single spermatophore about 5mm in length that is picked up by the female through her cloaca. Once fertilised the females lay their spawn in water. The many ova are attached to rocks or vegetation and laid in double gelatinous strings up to 4.6m (15 ft) in length. The tadpoles hatch after 10-21 days and are smaller and darker than those of frogs. The toadlets leave the water during the warm humid conditions of summer, completing their transformation into terrestrial toads in the autumn.

This is the cause of so many leaning fence posts

Toads are naturally shy, mostly nocturnal animals that live on land, hiding during the day in dark, damp places and becoming active at night in their search for insects, grubs, slugs, worms, and other invertebrates. Adults are completely carnivorous and respond only to moving prey. I think many of the marsh toads retreat from North Pond to the withy wood and the swamp after mating. I’ve seen toads in the withy wood at night-time, but they are extremely difficult to see amongst dead and decaying leaf mould.

This post ends my infatuation with toads;  at least for this year.

15 Comments on “The end of my toading; for this year, anyway!

  1. A splendid post to end your toad infatuation wth Mike, as you say for this year! I hope you get to see many toadlets during summertime.:-)

    • I was hoping to see toadlets leaving the pond last years. I watched them turn into tadpoles, I watched as their limbs developed, and then they disappeared.; so I don’t hold out much hope of seeing them this year.:(

  2. How quickly nature moves from one season to another…toad mating season–done! That didn’t take long. I always look forward to your posts because I learn so much and am entertained as well.

    • Nature waits for no one, Dezra.

      I am glad you find value in my post; perhaps I have missed a calling.

      • Moving towards something suggests that I might actually arrive somewhere. I prefer to pass or move around things these days. I’ve substituted the word ‘towards’, in my dictionary, with the word ‘passed’. I am on a journey and am not yet ready to arrive anywhere. 😀

    • Thanks for you comment. I’m not sure. I wonder if it ‘s Ranunculus Sceleratus (Celery-leaved Buttercup)?

  3. It’s possible that your photo is showing only the lower leaves of Ranunculus Sceleratus. You’ll have to watch and see if it gets taller stems and yellow flowers, and if the leaf shape changes. The sap of Ranunculus Sceleratus is supposed to blister the skin, so it’s also called cursed crowfoot here in the U.S.

  4. What fascinating information. Thanks for sharing that Mike.
    I often learn something new on your Blog and really appreciate the time you spend writing the article.

    • Thank you, Vicki. Thank you also for spending so much of you time on you blog, and giving me an appreciation of the fauna and flora in your city.

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