Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Celebrating friends, toads and spring

Cardboard Cup made by Ani
 It was our friend Osha's birthday this week, which meant we were invited out to the farm for an overnight!! Nowhere better to spend the equinox and celebrate spring in all its madness.

Almost upon our arrival, the dogs alerted us to the presence of a large (3-4 foot) black rat snake.  Once the dogs were called off, the snake calmly retreated to the bushes beyond the garden.  This is a snake they want around; they will hopefully eat the rats attracted to the chicken coop by feed and free eggs.

The highlight of the day was a walk to the neighbor's for a look in their is spring, you know.

We were hoping that the American toads were in full mating residence, which they were!

The pond was roiling with toads.  Once the males begin their springtime mating call, and the females join them, there are a few days of frenzied action during which the males attempt a "copulatory embrace" called amplexus with the females: they grasp on to their middles (and sometimes their heads) and wait for them to release a long string of eggs which they will then fertilize.  This can sometimes take days.

Once attached, the males are reluctant to let go.  Even if the mate they're attached to happens to be a hand, or a boot.

Several will also attach to one female, which can be dangerous for her; even though she is larger, with several mates vying for the opportunity to fertilize her eggs, too much of a good thing can make it hard for her to get to the surface for a breath.  (I found Eliza desperately trying to separate a ball like the one below, with something like 5 males to one female - she thought they were trying to kill her, which wasn't their intention, but she might have been right to worry.  She found it impossible to get them apart though, and we left nature to do its thing.)

The pond was loud with the singing.  The males will also chirp when you pick one up; our friend told us this means "don't mate with me! I'm a guy! No eggs here!!"

 Shoo! For those of us for whom an afternoon of toads is not close to enough, there was an after-dark (and after amazing-paella-for-birthday dinner) frog walk to another close pond.  We heard pickerel frogs, and managed to call back and forth with one, but he was savvy about clamming up when we approached and successfully hid in the long grasses. We also heard woodcocks, wood frogs, peepers, and green frogs.  And the stars....oh, the was a beautiful night. 

Morning brought farm garden greens, more visitors, more beautiful weather, a creek walk to find newts and crawfish and water striders...

Cutleaf Toothwort

Enjoying the redbuds
Happy Spring!


Kerry said...

Meanwhile, I had another snow day today.It snowed all through the night!

verdemama said...

Love those toady photos. So much spring goodness to celebrate!

Andria said...

I am jealous of your toad experience! We had thousands of tadpoles in a ditch near us last spring. It got suddenly hot and dried up, but we managed to save four of them before that happened. A couple months later, we released the little toadlets in our yard. It was such fun! But I have NEVER seen a toad extravaganza like the one you saw!!

(p.s. found your blog through Ordinary Life Magic) :)

slim pickins said...

hi andria!

we've tried to raise little toadlets before, but without success (very sad), though watching them change was so fascinating, they didn't make it once their were toads...this was an amazing experience!
thanks for visiting...