Dear Readers, I love my garden pond. I love the frogs and the tadpoles. I love seeing the occasional newt (though I haven’t seen one recently). But what I would love to see most is a toad. They are long-lived creatures (in captivity they have lived for up to fifty years) and even in the wild they can reach fifteen years. They move around slowly and deliberately, and they always seem to me to be slightly wiser than their flibberty-gibbet froggy relatives (I know, I’m an amphibian snob). But toads have I none. On the other hand, my friend J, who has a garden pond literally the size of a dustbin lid in her Islington garden has just seen seven.
Seven toads! It’s like a fairy story.
It is true that frogs are rather less fussy about their ponds than toads – they have been known to deposit their eggs in temporary ponds (and even large puddles), where the water heats up quickly and the tadpoles develop quickly. Toads, on the other hand, return to their ancestral ponds to lay their eggs, so I think we can assume that there has been a pond in my friend’s corner of the garden for quite some time. But surely there must be a first ‘ancestral toad’, or, indeed, two, who discover a pond for the first time and decide that it will do?
I am going to put out little road signs at toad eye-level up and down my street, I think.
Another interesting, recently discovered fact, is that toads can climb. My friend noted that when her neighbours cut down a long-established ivy, it was full of toads, all of whom were located to her garden (though she’d had toads before then). And a dormouse monitoring scheme run by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species in the UK found 50 reports of amphibians, mostly toads, using bat boxes and hollow trees. Toads are a favourite food of grass snakes (most other predators will only eat a toad once because they have toxins in their skin), and grass snakes are not great climbers, so this could be one reason. Another is that toads are parasitised by the larvae of the Toad Fly (Lucilia bufonivora), which kill adult toads, so maybe they are more protected by being hidden away.
At any rate, one thing that I’m not going to do is to ‘borrow’ one of my friend’s toads – although they look splendid, there is no knowing if they have a fungal disease, and I wouldn’t want to spread it to my frogs. Moving spawn about is another excellent way of spreading disease from one location to another, tempting though it is. Having the pond has taught me that, pace Kevin Costner, if you build it they will (mostly) come. Maybe one day a toad will decide that the pond is a perfect place to breed. Until then, I shall just have to enjoy my friend’s toads vicariously.
Photo One by Bernie, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Two by Kuebi = Armin Kübelbeck, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons