Toadfest Part I — Red-Spotted Toad
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During the next few days I’m going do some posts that feature the three species of toads commonly seen in Sabino Canyon. Tonight’s species will be the Red-spotted Toad.
But, first, a little defining of terms. What is the difference between toads and frogs? Well, to begin with all toads are a form of frog. Think of toads as frogs with differences. Frogs generally have moist, smooth skin whereas toads often have dry and bumpy skin. Frogs have heavily webbed hind feet and most toads do not. Toads have parotid glands, bumpy protuberances at the base of their heads, which in some species, secrete a poisonous substance, while frogs lack them. Frogs tend to have slender profiles whereas toads are of a chunky build. Frogs are usually powerful jumpers whereas toads can hop but not jump. Frogs have tiny teeth and toads are toothless. Toads lay their eggs in long strings but frogs lay their eggs in clumps. Finally, frogs tend to be more dependent on water than toads.
At Sabino Canyon the most commonly seen species of frog is the Canyon Tree Frog. I showed an image of one of these little frogs a couple of days ago. It is a moisture-dependent species that likes high humidity and freely flowing water. I’ve only seen tree frogs in the vicinity of Sabino Creek. Toads, by contrast, show up throughout the canyon’s lower desert environment, especially once the monsoon rains commence. One night last summer I visited the canyon for one of my night hikes. As I was leaving the canyon I walked across the visitors center’s paved parking lot, an area of several acres of asphalt. My flashlight caught a giant Sonoran Desert Toad, and then another, and another, and still more, until I realized that there were hundreds of them foraging on the asphalt, more than 1/2 mile from Sabino Creek.
Red-spotted Toads are a very common nocturnal sight in the canyon at nighttime during the monsoon. These are little toads, 2-3 inches in length.
They are chubby little creatures and rather phlegmatic. They tend to freeze in place for a few seconds when isolated by a flashlight beam and so, they are fairly easy to photograph. These toads, like all of the canyon’s toads, dig burrows for daytime security and to stay moist during the many dry months of the year. They actively forage for food on moist evenings. They seem to prefer breeding in the running water of Sabino Creek rather than in standing pools or puddles, so they migrate over to the creek from wherever they live in the desert in order to breed. Later in the summer, one can frequently observe toadlets, tiny immature versions of the adult toads, hopping through the desert in order to find shelter away from Sabino Creek. Evidently, these toads instinctively disperse once they complete the tadpole stage and are capable of living on land.
In my opinion, Red-spotted Toads have the most beautiful eyes of any creature that I photograph. Their eyes seem to glow a brilliant copper color.
It’s unclear to me what function the red bumps on these toads’ bodies performs. Some individuals have more of them than others, however, and occasionally one runs across an individual that is nearly devoid of the red bumps.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 125, f16 @ 1/160.