Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Toads Tale

I didn't get much sleep last night. There was a large American toad sitting outside my bedroom door. He was sending out a mating call, filling his throat with air then letting out a loud, deep, "brrrraaaaapppp!" He was one of the loudest toads I'd ever heard. I crept up to the screen door and tried to talk him into quieting down a bit, but there were too many other toads near the pond answering back, and he was obviously looking for a girlfriend. Every time he'd let out his "brrraaapp," another toad would answer, then another, and another. This went on for at least two hours.

I checked the pond for eggs this morning, just in case. The toads lay eggs in long strings draped around rocks and plants. When the eggs hatch, the pond fills with tiny tadpoles clinging to the rocks, munching on the algae. There is plenty of algae for the toads this year. The rocks are covered in green and I'm sure the little suckers will eat heartily.

Last year, we did not have the opportunity to see the tadpoles grow legs. First, the Southern Leopard frogs dropped their eggs into the ponds. These eggs are left in a nest-like shape. Then the toads draped their strings of eggs over the frog eggs. They all hatched at once. Some of the tadpoles were larger than others, but I'm not sure if these belonged to the frogs or the toads. They never grew large enough for us to identify their parents. The larger tadpoles ate the smaller ones.

About this same time, the dragonflies dropped their eggs in the pond and the water filled with little roach-like creatures that eventually creep from the water, shed their outer layers and turn into dragonflies. The baby dragonflies are called nymphs, or naiads. Some dragonflies stay in the nymph stage for as long as five years. Last year, I did not know about nymphs. When I realized the roachy-looking critters in my pond were eating the tadpoles, I cleaned out the pond and got rid of the roaches. If I had known they were dragonflies I would have let nature run its course.

I saw my first dragonfly of the season yesterday. It was large and lovely with stripes on its wings that gave it a rather graceful, spinning appearance as it moved around my head. I have a feeling the ponds will soon be full of eggs again. This year, when the toads and frogs and dragonflies begin to hatch, I intend to move some of the frog and toad eggs to a kiddie pool and others to the creek on our property to give them more of a chance for survival. In the mean time, I will be going without sleep. There is another toad sitting on my back porch.

No comments: