Archive for April 27th, 2009


This weekend, Birdgirl and I made a trip back to the old homestead in the Toronto area. Friday night was mild, and Birdgirl set up her mothing sheets. While out checking the sheets, it was apparent that the warm weather was prompting the toads in the area to move to breeding ponds. On Saturday, it was warm and sunny and the trills of male toads calling from the vernal pool announced that the breeding season for the Eastern American Toad (Bufo americanus americanus) was moving into high gear. Birdgirl and I waded through the mud to check out the pond and were able to see numerous toads intent on attracting a mate. Males generally arrive at the breeding site before females, and we only saw one female. She was the object of a lot of male attention! The photo above shows the competition amongst her suitors. The males are noticeably smaller than the female. The tan-coloured male held on tenaciously and eventually came away the winner.


Toads prefer to breed in shallow, temporary pools. During amplexus the male grasps the female’s body from above and can fertilize the female’s eggs externally as they are laid. Toad eggs are laid in two gelatinous strings and a female may lay from 2000 to over 20,000 eggs. The small blackish tadpoles hatch in 2 to 14 days, depending on water temperature. They will eat algae and planktonic organisms and soft vegetation as they grow. Tadpoles transform into tiny toadlets in 6 to 10 weeks. Only a few will survive the two to three years it takes to reach sexual maturity.

The male toad’s song is easy to recognize, a high-pitched extended trill that may last over 30 seconds. Pictured below is a trilling male. You can listen to the call at the Adopt-A-Pond site. Next weekend, May 2nd and 3rd, is the 10th Annual Spring Toad Festival at the Toronto Zoo in the America‚Äôs Wetlands. Also, April 28th, 2009 is the 1st Annual ‘Save The Frogs Day


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The Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. Harper & Row, 1981.

I thought before April ends I should include some poetry in recognition of National Poetry Month. So here are two: something old, something new, something happy, something blue. The new, or newish and bluish, is Leonard Cohen’s latest book of poetry. I have to confess that I know Cohen mostly from his songs. He has recently been enjoying a bit of a revival, with covers of Hallelujah by Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley both popular. I always liked Suzanne and Dance Me to the End of Love, myself. Before reading the book, I read Kathleen Molloy’s review. She read the book in one sitting, with a glass of port. This seemed like a good idea. Lacking port, I went for a very nice locally-produced strawberry wine by Countryman’s Estate Winery. Certainly, the book, like its title, is sad and melancolic. The longing is for a younger life and a time of women loved. Nightingale encapsulates this idea quite sweetly. It begins:

I built my house beside the wood
So I could hear you singing
And it was sweet and it was good
And love was all beginning.

and finishes

Fare thee well my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Though you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you.

Well. It is a book for those who have lost the first blush of youth… and then some. In contrast, Silverstein’s book is for the young and young at heart. If you haven’t read any Shel Sivlerstein, you should. A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends both need reading. These poems are fun to share with a youngster. Or just enjoy them yourself. The title poem, A Light in the Attic, goes like this:

There’s a light on in the attic,
Though the house is dark and shuttered,
I can see a flickerin’ flutter,
And I know what it’s about.
There’s a light on in the attic,
I can see it from the outside,
And I know you’re on the inside…lookin’ out.

April 21st was National Al Purdy Day. For more on Purdy, see the March 2nd entry.


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