Couch’s Spadefoot Toad — Cute?
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Is it possible to characterize a toad as “cute?” I think so, but you can judge for yourself.
Our summer Monsoon has hit with a vengeance. Tucson and its environs have seen rain every day for a full week and as I type this, dark clouds are gathering again with an occasional distant rumble of thunder. It’s been a great boon for the wildlife: if you’d visited here two weeks ago the fauna had practically disappeared and the plants looked as if someone had worked them over with a blowtorch. Now, everything is turning green and a lot of animals that had been dormant or hidden are reappearing.
These include toads. Toads are seasonally visible in our desert. There are three commonly seen species (Sonoran Desert, Red-spotted, and Couch’s Spadefoot) and they are invisible for about 10 months of the year. They spend that time dormant, lying in burrows or, sometimes, in crevices under rocks. But, when the rains start, it’s their time, and they appear, sometimes in great numbers. All three species are more or less exclusively nocturnal, although Sonoran Desert and Red-spotted Toads can sometimes be observed for the first hour or two after sunrise.
There are things to admire about all three species but, in my opinion, the Couch’s Spadefoot Toad is the most attractive by far. These compact little amphibians (less than 3″ long) come in brilliant patterns of yellow and olive, with the females more brightly patterned than the males. The females are also the larger sex.
I photographed the one pictured here at about 3 a.m. and in total darkness a few days ago, in the desert at Sabino Canyon. She is almost certainly a female. A male would be about 2/3 her size and not display the bright patterns that she manifests.
I find these little toads to be endearing. They are totally inoffensive and relatively easy to photograph. Their huge eyes, with their golden irises, are an especially attractive feature.
Couch’s Spadefoot Toads are champion diggers. They get their name from a bony protrusion on each of their hind feet that enables them to dig deep burrows in the desert’s soil. One of these little toads can very rapidly dig a burrow that is several feet deep.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160, f14 @ 1/125.