The Toads of Figueroa
As winter turns into spring I never know where my next article will come from. My neighbor, who lives about four miles from me, called to say she had frogs procreating in her pond and if I hurried I could watch them. I couldn’t leave at that moment so she took pictures of them as shown.
So, you ask, what is so special about this? What’s very unusual is that we rarely see them in the act of breeding or see the male in a position to fertilize the eggs.
To be correct, these are not frogs, but are California toads (Bufo boreas halophilus). You can identify them by the cream colored line down their back and their white undersides. They are chunky, short-legged toads and are 2½ to 5 inches in length. These toads are active during the day as well as at night.
The California toad doesn’t have vocal sacs, but during breeding season the males make a sound similar to a peeping chick. This sound is to keep other males away and maintain the territory and spacing between male toads. Here on the mountain you hear them after dark or very early in the morning before the sun comes up. These toads return to the same water source year after year to lay their eggs.
The female toad is larger than the male and its skin is rough with “warts,” while the male is much smaller and its skin becomes very smooth during reproduction. The female will lay up to 17,000 eggs stuck together in strings that adhere to vegetation and other objects along water edges. They lay eggs in shallow open water from February to July, with April being the peak month. Egg-laying varies with elevation and weather conditions.
Eggs hatch into tiny black tadpoles and, through metamorphosis, they will develop legs and lose their tail. You can find them crowded next to the water’s edge eating algae. The process of turning into little toads takes 30 to 45 days. The warmer the weather, the faster they will mature.
California toads do not hop or jump. Instead, they walk—very slowly, dragging the hind feet so that the toes are continually in contact with the ground. These toads can be found in ground squirrel burrows, which they use as daytime retreats to escape the heat and dryness of mid-day hours.
Toads are ready to breed at 4 to 6 years of age and they will live up to 9 years. The next time you’re walking next to a stream or pond, look closely—you may just find for strings of eggs or tadpoles and baby toads moving along the shore.
From Figueroa Mountain
The Toads of Figueroa