Placidly enjoying a quiet time alone with my weeds on a sunny afternoon, I am surprised when the small toad returns to stand beside me.
"Stand"? I guess a toad is a sitter, and a hopper. No standing there. Does one sleep sitting up? I can't picture it resting on its side. I think a fetal position would be quite impossible (as well as unknown to any amphibian).
I timidly reach out to touch its back.
It doesn't budge.
I begin stroking it (only later wondering how many have petted a toad - and why). It continues to sit there. All right. I can be patient.
The dog learned long ago to steer clear of these little guys. They must taste terrible.
I thought toads were land creatures while frogs lived in the water but have recently been learning about tree frogs. A local wag explained them by saying they just drink a lot. I don't think he had lake water in mind. Treefrogs also trill late at night which identifies one of the two calls I've been hearing long after dark.
Frog or toad, why is either plastered against my window at bedtime?
I have been told I've written enough (as in "enough already") about the spiders at my window and agree - except for one more I hope to do eventually.
I have no particular desire to do a series on toads and frogs. I've done the spring peepers (in the fall) and do love the booming basso of the bullfrog so maybe more ... someday.
For now, let's stick to basics. Perhaps what I learn will elucidate you as well.
Happy to find information from a source other than Mark Trail, I rapidly scan my printouts and learn ... well, not a heck of a lot.
Easiest of course is to place frogs in the water, toads on land. There are exceptions (are not there always?) but, because of their milieu, frogs have a smooth skin, a slender body and long legs to make them good swimmers. Toads are hoppers so have shorter legs and a plumper body (guess - like humans -we "puff out" as we slow down). Toads have a bumpy warty skin. I'm told frogs have small teeth in their upper jaw while toads go toothless. Both are tailless with bulging eyes. I found it interesting that toads as well as frogs want to lay their eggs in or at least very near the water.
Collectively, they are the most widely distributed of the amphibians with almost 3,700 recognized species. Most frogs are more easily seen at night for I gather they prefer to sleep the summer daytime hours away. (They don't know what they're missing! Or perhaps it is I who need to grow more attuned to the wonders of the night.)
Peterson (the only guide I have for "Reptiles and Amphibians" though it has much more on snakes) sticks them at the end of his book, long after all those snakes and even salamanders. I discover all kinds of creepy critters I seem to have overlooked up till now.
What attracts my attention is the treefrog. So that's what was on my window!
With adhesive on its toes, this frog can climb trees though generally prefers life closer to the ground in brush, swamps or wettish forests. Many change color. Apparently it is less a chameleon-like trait than a matter of a female-like desire for a change of attire. Mine seemed a most undistinguished beige with a yellow-ish belly and darker (by a little) throat.
I must be missing something for, according to the accompanying maps, only the gray treefrog is found this far north. Mine certainly does not look like that. Then again, I only saw its underside so who's to say for certain?
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to email@example.com.