Keep your eyes on the toad
Country Life UK|May 12, 2021
Despite their semi-webbed feet, warty skin and bulging eyes, toads are more endearing than Shakespeare’s witches would have us believe, says Simon Lester
Simon Lester

POOP, poop!’ Imagine the scene, as the eccentric, narcissistic Mr Toad comes careering around the corner dressed in gaudy Harris tweed, behind the wheel of his bright-red sports car. The toad portrayed in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is a far cry from the real Mr Bufo bufo, the common toad, although it is ironic that Mr Toad’s reckless addiction to automobiles is one of the creatures’ main perils.

Far from gaudy in real life, this mottled brown amphibian waddles about on short, stout legs—warts and all—unlike the more athletic, sleek frog, which propels itself by hopping and the occasional leap. A toad has semi-webbed feet and long toes, whereas his hopping mate’s feet are fully webbed.

Intriguingly, toads spend most of their lives out of water, hiding during the day

Intriguingly, toads spend most of their lives out of water, hiding during the day and only appearing from their lair—under a stone, log or pile of leaves—at dusk to hunt prey. Their raised, bulging eyes ensure exceptional night vision, which is further enhanced by a long, sticky tongue, even if they still have to stealthily sneak up on prey in order to snaffle it up. The morsel, which may be one of many invertebrates, is swallowed whole because there are no teeth within their large gape. Nevertheless, it is said that a large toad (likely a female) is, quite remarkably, capable of eating harvest mice, small grass snakes and slowworms.

Mr and Mrs Toad are a true gardener’s friend, fond as they are of predating on a host of wee beasties that feast on cherished plants. They are, therefore, to be welcomed and encouraged, with the overuse of pesticides carefully considered.

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