Wednesday, June 18, 2014

American Toad

Eastern Moles tunneled extensively through my vegetable garden during this past winter.  They are no longer active and the tunnels they left behind periodically collapse to provide an entrance to the underground labyrinth.  A fresh opening at the end of one of my garden beds showed signs of movement inside, so I went to investigate.

The color matched the surrounding soil, but this was no lump of dirt.  An American Toad was using the mole tunnel as a daytime retreat.

As I looked in at the toad, it turned and peered back at me.  Toads have always been a favorite of mine.  When I was nine years old, my best friend through the summer was a toad.  He lived in a shaded pen in the flower bed and I took him out every day to hunt for food.  As I turned stones or dug through the soil, he would climb over my fingers in an effort to be right up front when a tasty morsel was unearthed.  When school began in the fall, I just removed the walls of his pen and left him to forage on his own.

A toad will eat just about any slow moving creature small enough to fit in its mouth.  I dropped a couple of earthworms down the hole for this guy.

It was just too difficult to get a good shot of the toad eating while it was down in the mole tunnel.  The toad ate every worm I sent its way, but the best view I got was of the toad with a worm end sticking from its mouth.

I tried holding the worm at the tunnel entrance and the toad obligingly came out to accept the offering.

The toad was just too fast for me.  The worm was taken and swallowed before my camera could react.  I think the toad got full, because after a few worms, it crawled on down the tunnel and disappeared. 

The exciting thing about this toad discovery is the fact that the toad was within 120 feet of my toad pool.  Built specifically for use by breeding toads, the toad pool has yet to receive its first toad egg.  To be fair, the pool has only been in existence for two breeding seasons.  With toad numbers on the decline at Blue Jay Barrens, I am hopeful that the addition of suitable breeding sites will reverse that trend and result in toad encounters once again being a common occurrence.

Wood Frogs have demonstrated that the toad pool provides adequate food and water to satisfy the needs of tadpoles through their development to small frogs.  Maybe it will be next year that the toads prove that the toad pool idea was properly conceived and executed.  The pool has attracted a wide variety of wildlife, but until the toads arrive, I’ll have to consider the project to be a failure.

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