I walked through the shoulder high grass along a river, keenly conscious that I wouldn’t be able to see a large animal a few feet away. As soon as I could I stepped out onto the gravel that would normally be covered by water. The weather has been beautiful, but unusually dry for this temperate rainforest. The low river was gentle, and there were lots of shallow, protected pools.
Suddenly the ground in front of me seemed to move! My foot stopped in midair, and then I pulled the step back as I saw that hundreds of baby toads were scrambling to get out of my way. Their frenetic hopping found form, and they headed for the foliage to take cover.
Each of the toadlets was about the size of my fingernail and many of them still had a small tail left from their pollywog stage. I turned, and in the water I saw a cluster of motion. It was made up of pollywogs, toads, and the stages in between; pollywogs with legs and toads with tails.
A little fish called a stickleback dropped by for a visit.
I walked slowly and carefully and found more groups of baby toads. Thousands upon thousands of toadlets!
Toads are precious. As an indicator species they let us know if we are doing a good job of taking care of our home planet. Toads also eat bugs and are they are prey for other important species.
The toadlets are in and out of water like kids on a warm day.
When I was a kid in Juneau there were lots of toads. In some early summers there were so many pollywogs in Dredge Lake that the rim of the lake was black with them. On rainy August evenings the big, fat adult toads would dot dirt sideroads. Now they are quite rare. The thing is that it happened in just part of my lifetime. Those intriguing creatures that I watched go from egg to pollywog to toad became rare in Juneau.
Seeing lots of toads on Prince of Wales Island is a happy and hopeful sign!
Have a hoppy day!