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Toads, toads and more toads

June 19, 2016
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

I know I've mentioned our backyard pond before. Actually it is a series of three ponds. Water is pumped from the largest pond up to the uppermost pond and exits from an old cast iron hand well pump. From the top pond it flows down a stream to the smallest pond and finally waterfalls into the big pond again. It was an enjoyable project with my kids several years ago. My son, Sean, was always the most fascinated with it and spent many hours rearranging stones, stocking it with fish, and watching whatever was visiting at the time.

Now that Sean is married, has two boys of his own, and tends to his own backyard bird feeders and such, the pond is solely my responsibility. I really do like fooling around with it. I enjoy just about everything involved with the pond. However, the one animal that tries my patience is the toad.

I don't mean to make it sound like there is one toad that bothers me. Any backyard pond owner reading this can attest to the fact that a backyard pond does not attract one toad. It attracts multiple toads. In fact, on some warm evenings, it sounds like there are toads of Biblical plague proportions outside my door!

I have resigned myself to the fact that if I am going to have a pond, I am going to have to tolerate toads.

Toads are amphibians so at breeding time, they must locate water in which to lay their eggs. When the males reach water, and the air temperature is warm enough, they begin to call. Their song is a long trill lasting from 6 to 30 seconds. Only the males sing.

Females are drawn to the choruses of the males. As soon as a female arrives at the pond or creek, males will try to grab her. Males have tubercles on their first and second fingers to get a tight hold on the female. The males are smaller than females.

Mating takes place within a few hours of the female's arrival. The female lays two long strands of eggs which come out side by side. As the eggs emerge, the male releases sperm into the water to fertilize them.

It is easy to tell toads' eggs from frogs' eggs. Toads' eggs look like long strings of black beads, held together with clear jelly. Frogs' eggs are laid in bunches like grapes. The long curly strands anchor the eggs to rocks and sticks under water to keep them from washing away.

Here's where the adult toads exit the pond and the toad serenading finally stops. But my toad problems don't end there. The long strands of toad eggs end up plugging my filter which believe me can be quite a mess in itself.

There are eggs and subsequently tadpoles that survive in the ponds.

The toad eggs grow into tadpoles in a few days. These tadpoles are smaller and darker than frog tadpoles. It takes about nine weeks for tadpoles to change into little toads. These tiny toads are less than half an inch long.

In the last few years, I have added goldfish to the mix and I find that they seem to provide some control of the tadpole side of the problem. But some do survive and these little toads grow rapidly. They will be ready to breed in two or three years.

And they'll almost certainly return to my backyard pond.



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