An Ode to Toad

toads are really very cool – here’s my assembled Amazing Toad Facts.

I’ve had two toad encounters recently.

Firstly, we found two long strings of toad spawn in the new pond.  I was beyond excited!  A toad had deemed our pond pondy-enough to lay in!  Unfortunately, my boisterous two-year-old managed to break the spawn up with a stick within hours of us discovering it.  Who knows what happened to the spawn.

Secondly, I was clearing some long grass around the base of a tree and there sat the most enormous, brown, lumpy toad.  What a fright I got.  He looked extremely disgruntled to see me.  His orange eye was filled with disdain.  I wondered if he maybe knew about the toddler-with-a-stick situation.  I covered him over with moss and let him be.

And I’ve also been researching toads for the children’s story I am forever intending to write.  I have a character in my head who is a socially anxious toad (nocturnal, solitary, watchful, likes routine).  So, I thought I’d pull some of my toad-learning together into a little blog post of Amazing Toad Facts.
  • a toad crawls rather than jumps
  • toads perform a mass migration back to the ponds where they were spawned on the first warm, damp evenings of the year (often around Valentines Day).  
  • they may travel up to a mile back to their pond.  They have a strong migratory instinct and take the same route back to the ancestral breeding ground every year.   Modern roads can cause problems for travelling toads. Up to 20 tonnes of toads are killed on roads every year in the UK.  
  • People have formed ‘Toad Patrols’ to aid the toads on their crossing 
  • toads lay long strings of spawn, with two rows of eggs per string.  Ten days later the tadpoles hatch.  By the end of May, the toadlets are ready to leave the pond (the whole process takes approx three months).
  • Generally, toads are quite sedentary and may spend much of the summer in your garden after leaving the pond.
  • Toads have warts that are toxic to predators.  When scared, the toads secrete a vile-tasting substance.
  • Toad tadpoles also contain toxins that make them unpleasant to predators, allowing them to survive in fish ponds (unlike frog tadpoles).
  • Toads eat: worms, ants, spiders, slugs, snails (and maybe even a mouse!?)
  • skin colour can be olive brown, grey, green, dark brown
  • copper eyes with a horizontal pupil, short back legs, sticky tongues
  • there are no toads on the Scottish islands or in Ireland (except the very rare natterjack toad in a few counties in the south of Ireland).

So there we are, the absolute wonder that is the warty, croaky, determined, sticky-tongued toad.

Toad by Hannah Longmuir
March sketchbook page by Hannah Longmuir
Toad by Hannah Longmuir

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