Two nights ago, nearly drowned by the sound of heavy rain, we heard the first shrill singing from male toads looking for love in the shallow pond of filthy water accumulated on our pool cover. Yesterday I could see three of them clinging to the edges of the vinyl lining. In 2017 we had nearly a dozen, mostly males but enough females to send the guys into ecstasy. When the men came to open the pool for the summer, they scooped out most of the toads but they returned later, unable to resist that fresh, chlorinated water, even though it must have tasted terrible to them.
I am glad to see the toads back this year. Last night was clear and still and their voices rang loud and true so that every female toad around the lake must have heard their eager invitations. But I know something they don’t know. This isn’t a pond or puddle. There is a concrete lip around the edge much taller than a toad. A sad truth about leaping in is that there’s no way out for a small creature, even one that can hop. In the past, we’ve seen the females answer the call and leap in to greet their lovers. We’ve watched the males fight and struggle for mating rights. We’ve seen the eggs strewn among leaves floating in the water, and we’ve scooped out the exhausted bodies, some still alive, others beyond saving.
Yesterday I found a small piece of vinyl and draped it over the edge of the pool to provide a way for this year’s toads to leave after their work is accomplished. One of the guys found it right away and by day’s end all three were perched on the tiny landing in the water the vinyl offered. But they didn’t seem to be able to scale the smooth material. I found a shingle from a former roof and added that to the vinyl. I think that might have done the trick. For now the chorus seems in no hurry to leave. They have a far more important issue on their minds. Matters of life and death can wait. First, bring on the girls!