There are many advantages to spring in the South, but for wildlife lovers few things beat getting out and spending time in the woods, swamps and countryside this time of year.
During the latest three-day weekend I was able to capture or catch a view of a multitude of critters – including largemouth bass, bream, box turtles, yellow-bellied sliders, cowbirds, painted buntings, egrets, blue herons, black racers, damsel flies, dragonflies, tadpoles, leopard frogs, river rats, blue crabs, fiddler crabs and hermit crabs.
In addition, I came across a hive of bees holed up in an abandoned building, a four-foot copperhead and six-foot alligator, all of which I chose to leave undisturbed.
Those that I caught – the bass, box turtles and fiddler crabs – were all freed.
But perhaps the most interesting beast I came across this weekend was the one shown at the top of this post. Near as I can tell, it’s a very young Fowler’s toad. I found it when I opened my garage Sunday morning. And there wasn’t just one of the little amphibians, but a whole slew of them hopping about.
I was initially reminded of the Plagues of Egypt, one of which featured the land of Pharaoh being overwhelmed with frogs, except my driveway featured perhaps a dozen of the tiny beasts and even had there been, say, millions, they were so small the only way they could have overwhelmed anyone would have been with their cuteness.
The one in the photo was desperately intent on making his way into my garage.
Recognizing that it would likely either end up under the wheel of a car or dying of heat prostration once I closed the door, I spent the better part of thirty seconds trying to convince it to head back to whence it came. It would have none of it.
Recognizing that the diminutive toad was either very bold or very stupid, I gently scooped it up and placed him on some nearby grass.
As I did so I noticed several other small toads hopping toward me. I quickly shut the garage, hopped in my car, which was parked in the driveway, and drove off. I had no desire for anyone else to take note of my newfound talent as the Pied Piper of tiny toads.