March 31, 2003 – TOAD
NIGHT, my favorite event of the year, took place on Friday,
March 28. Now, if you are a city-slicker (as I once
was) you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. And
if you are a country bumpkin, unless you live near a small
body of fresh water, you may be just as clueless as those city-slickers.
So sit down and grab a cup of coffee. You are about to learn
First, the Backdrop...
live "out in the country" in the deep south. Our
property consists of 75 secluded acres, mostly pine and mixed
The focal point of this land is our 8-acre spring-fed pond,
Kilmer Pond, which is teeming with native aquatic wildlife – largemouth
bass, bream (bluegills), catfish, yellow-bellied and
red-eared turtles, snappers, stinkpots, and soft-shelled turtles,
bullfrogs, chorus frogs, spring peepers and many other creatures
I was born and raised in
this is not my native habitat. Despite the fact that we've
lived here for almost 20 years, sometimes I feel like an outsider,
still fascinated by the presence and behavior of our neighboring
Every spring, we witness a remarkable event
that we call TOAD NIGHT. My husband and I wait for
Toad Night to arrive with
all the excitement and anticipation of a child waiting
Santa to slide down the chimney. The actual date for Toad Night
depends on a number of seasonal factors, so we
plan for it ahead of time. We've kept records
on Toad Night since 1985. It can occur anytime during a 5 to
6 week period – it's really up to the toads to decide.
Our earliest recorded Toad Night took place on March 7, 1992;
the latest on
April 14, 1993, and again in 1996.
as a Toad
I guess the most tactful way to describe Toad Night is
to say it is a "coming out party" for toads. A particular
species of toad, that is – Bufo terrestris, the
Southern Toad. To understand
why this is such a major event, let's take a look at life from
point of view.
you are a Southern Toad, you are a solitary, shy, nocturnal
creature that usually hides during
in dark, damp places. You come out at night in search of invertebrates – worms,
grubs, slugs, spiders and what-not. This is how you pass your
after week, month
In October, when the weather starts turning cold, you look for
a nice place
ground is soft and you are able to dig yourself an
earthen burrow; otherwise you must find cover in
deep leaf litter, under dead logs, or within some other insulating
Whatever the case, you
establish your den. As the weather gets colder, your
metabolism slows. Your senses are dulled and you drift off.
By March, you've spent the last 4 to 5 months in a stupor.
as the days
get warmer, so does the soil. Your body temperature
rises and you slowly wake up.
On our property,
we always know when the toads are beginning to awaken. Although
we can't see
them, we hear isolated chirps and trills scattered around us,
almost as if the toads are stretching and yawning. Sometimes
we even see a few toads
here and there, blinking in the sunlight, having just emerged
from their burrows. This is usually
the first indication that Toad Night might happen
in the next day or two. But we are mere humans. As
intelligent, interested and observant as we might be, we cannot
second-guess the toads. We lack their sensitivity to the subtleties
of ground temperature, sunlight, barometric pressure and moisture.
Furthermore, we are insensitive to the Southern Toad's powerful
sex pheromones. My husband and I have
learned to accept the fact that Toad Night will come – or
it won't – whenever
the toads decide. Once they decide
it is going to be Toad Night, thousands of them heed the
call... and then ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE here
on Kilmer Pond.
More to Come
Such are the events leading up to Toad Night. In the next installment,
you can experience Toad Night for yourself.