Bird Watching in Deepest West Sussex From David Cole
Date: 2013-06-21 10:00:00 | Category: Twootz News
| Author: David Cole
Not the prettiest resident in our garden is old Bufo bufo – the common toad.
We have lived here now for about forty years, and the common toad can live to be more than 40yrs of age so there is a good chance that they were here as individuals before we were. They are treated with respect and considerable thanks for the pest control work which they undertake.
I’m sure that much of our vegetable garden would be devastated were it not for the toads in the raised beds – each one seems to have its own resident, glowering when accidentally exposed – and in a variety of sizes and shades of grey and brown. They have good appetites for slugs and snails, but will also take woodlice, caterpillars, and rumour has it – small mice!
In spite of possessing a foul tasting (so I am told – not tried it myself!) toxin which is secreted from its paratoid glands near what would be the toad’s neck – if it had one - many animals predate on poor old toady whose main defense seems to be to inflate himself and raise his body up at the same time pumping the secretion onto his back. Crows are not impressed and rumour has it that they actually peck a hole in the toad and devour his liver – not very nice really – but we all have to eat to live. Others who give toads a hard time include hedgehogs, rats and mink, herons and birds of prey.
Dogs will pick up the toad but in our experience from Meg and Emma – the Springer sisters – they soon put them down again and the toads seem little damaged when we rescue them.
For many years, and here comes a confession, I have collected toad spawn in long strings in the spring, and kept them in an old glass aquarium in a shady patch in the garden – having a childish (I’d prefer child-like) fascination as the eggs hatch and the tadpoles develop until I can release them into the garden. My stock of spawn comes from a nearby trout lake which was a toad breeding site long before the anglers arrived and in about three weeks the tadpoles begin to hatch – then it is the various stages announced to my wife – “Leg buds apparent” “Tail shrinking” etc, etc.
Anyone hearing my reports would have their suspicions that I am slightly deranged fully confirmed.
The tiny toadlets when released are sufficient reward for the trips to the lake with a bucket and the cleaning up of the aquarium when the toads have finished with it.