An Orgy of Toads

The breeding season of frogs and toads is upon us, with one species after the other kicking into action as spring unfolds. American Toads will soon be calling, their sweet, dreamy trills blanketing the landscape both day and night.

Toad Orgy,  © Lang ElliottLast year about this time, I came across a frenzy of mating toads, partaking in a phenomenal orgy of activity along the edge of a farm pond. The above video pretty much tells the tale … males so excited that they’re grabbing at most anything in sight. And all this happening in broad daylight, for all to see. Have they no shame?

I even came across a “toad knot,” which is a situation where several males grab on to a single female. That is not a good scene, eiher for the female or her male consorts. When mobbed by a group of males, the female cannot lay eggs. So she just waits it out, hoping that all the “extras” eventually let go and she ends up with just one male on top in the amplexus position … the way nature intended things to be! Then she’ll swim away from the group and begin laying eggs in bead-like strings, her male consort fertilizing them externally as they are laid.

Other problems may arise. Toward the end of the video, you’ll see that the pair has become entangled in the female’s string of eggs. So she’ll have to wrest herself free before she can finally escape the mating frenzy.

The whole affair happens very quickly. Within a few days, all the females have bred and both sexes leave the pond, spending the rest of spring and summer hopping about on land in search of insects and other invertebrates. Alas, the beautiful trills of the males will not be heard again until the following spring.

NOTE ABOUT AUDIO: I have not yet edited the sound for this video. What you hear are the “raw recordings” made by my camcorder, fading one into the next for each clip. Note the swishy sounds of me moving around behind the camera, and also a friend moving around nearby. For a variety of reasons, I rarely can gather decent real-time audio and that’s why I generally must do a lot of work on the audio soundtrack in post production, in order to create a “finished” product with excellent sound.
 

Video Metadata
An Orgy of Toads
Title
An Orgy of Toads
Description

This video documents an "orgy of toads" that I discovered along the edge of a farm pond in early May of 2013, near my home in upstate New York. Quite the affair, indeed! Brought to you by old-miracle.mystagingwebsite.com. Video footage © Lang Elliott. Uploaded at 720p.

Comments

  1. I think that you clearly are the international Master of Toads. Love this, and all your toad photos on your book and CD!

  2. Before learning that seemingly harmless practices can be unkind, my sons were allowed to bring creatures home for brief observation and identification before returning them to the exact spot where originally found. It was on such an occasion that, during the middle of the night, we learned what a Dad toad’s come hither song sounds like. To the uninitiated, such a noise coming from the basement is, well … a rude awakening. I’ve no doubt that Dad toad found his treatment that night to be just as rude.

  3. Loved this Lang! Would love to have been present to experience it! Loved the audio– very natural. These are wonderful posts and a great website. I look forward to each new one!

  4. Thank you so much for all you do! Me and my 3 kids check your videos out a lot, and this one was a lot of fun. Your profession is my heaven. 😉

  5. This is fantastic footage, I have fond memories of hearing these calls as a kid in the Boston area..sadly..I don’t hear them much anymore…Glad to see that there so numerous elsewhere.

    Thanks for posting this.
    Barry

  6. The reason this website is so wonderful is that THIS is the nature I am able to touch, smell hear and appreciate if I have someone to guide me; seeing fantabulous documentaries of far-away rain-forests, volcanoes , savannahs or glaciers , etc. is NICE but I cannot identify with it. It is sort of superfluous to be knowledgable about those places but if I do not know the nature in my own (literally) backyard, I cannot consider myself much of a naturalist. Keep these coming Lang.

    • Andi: I certainly agree with what you’re saying, and you summarize the whole point of my effort. If we cannot appreciate nature in our immediate surroundings, we are essentially un-connected, even if we revel in the glory of nature in faraway places.

  7. Every year, a group of us hit Stillwater Reservoir for an “ice out” paddle trip. One year we set camp on w small island about 1/2 way down the reservoir. It was a little noisy with the above frog calls, BUT at night, they jacked it up a few notches and omygod, not one wink of sleep. Incessant, non-stop. We moved the next day. The noise is still in my head! Make it stop! Make it STOP!

    great footage
    karen

  8. I had no idea they could get tangled up in those strands of eggs! What great documentation! I did have the dubious opportunity to experience toad amplexus a couple of years ago. I tried to untangle a toad know that had been unchanged for at least 30 minutes because the female appeared to be in serious distress. Her suitors promptly attached themselves to my hand and wrist! Fortunately, my other hand was free to photograph them. It was quite interesting to learn the power of that grasp.

    • Females can actually be killed, smothered to death by the males. I’ve never documented that and if I thought she was in that much distress, I would probably intervene as you did. Saving the toad is certainly more important than getting that on tape.

  9. Excellent. I notice that the male in the primary position in the knot uses his formidable legs to kick the other guys out of the way. I think we’ve all been there.

    • Yes, he kicks away others that try to displace him. And he’s pretty darned good at it. Once paired up, the couple can also avoid trouble by diving underwater, as you see them do in one of the clips toward the end. The approaching male will swim right on by, perhaps wondering where they went.

    • I would guess they are loaded with some kind of osterone. In fact, if you stick your finger among them, they’ll grab on with gusto. They say that sex hormones make you blind …

  10. Lang this is so amazing. What a congregation! What was the date and time of day you shot this? I heard a lone male trilling last night amongst the peepers.

    thanks,

    Chris

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