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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Missing toads

When I moved to California from New England, there are some things I knew I would miss, and others that have surprised me.  For example, I didn't realize that some animals would be much harder to come by, like toads!

While in New England for a fall visit, we encountered this toad near Lake Warren in southern New Hampshire.

On Cape Cod, we would sometimes discover toads while walking through the woods.  And I have fond memories of tiny toadlets emerging from local ponds.  I miss hearing toads calling during warm nights, finding their strings of eggs attached to aquatic vegetation, and seeing their small black tadpoles in shallow water.

I think this is an American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus, formerly Bufo americanus).  It was well camouflaged against the fallen pine needles.  You might be able to tell that it was relatively small, ~3 cm (a little over 1 inch) long.

Note the large oval parotoid glands behind the eyes (see below).  They can release a poisonous milky white substance (bufotoxin) to deter predators.

In coastal California where freshwater ponds are less numerous, toads seem to be uncommon.  However, I vaguely recall that there might be a few historic records for Western Toads from either Bodega Head or nearby.  (I don't have access to my West Coast resources today, but will check that memory in the near future.)  Has anyone seen a toad on Bodega Head or in the Bodega Bay area?

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