Bufo bufo; the common toad. Not the most buff of animals I know. In fact they are a bit of an underdog when it comes to protecting wildlife. Maybe that’s why I like them so much; or it could be attributed to Kenneth Grahame’s Toad from Wind in the Willows with his fast car (Poop-poop!); or maybe it was just because they made my sister scream if I shoved one in her face when we were small, in a loving brotherly way of course. Whatever the reason; I like them a lot!
Toads are actually the gardener’s friend. They prey on insect larvae, slugs and snails (as well as any other insect that happens to fit into its relatively large mouth) keeping the populations of pest species down without the use of pesticides. They make themselves a small burrow where they sleep after a good feed. They don’t need water until the breeding season, but you could always add a pond if you don’t already have one. Any water in a garden can only be a good thing. Try and leave some areas around the garden untouched to give them their own small hiding space. They hibernate over winter in leaf litter or log piles. These are easy things to provide for Toady at little cost to us. You don’t need to buy any fancy wooden houses from the garden centre. A simple pile of leaves tucked out of the way will do the job just as well, if not even better. So if you are doing some tidying in the garden this weekend, spare a thought for our little toads, otherwise they may not be so common. You may even grow to love them as much as I do.
Just in case my own words are not convincing enough, I thought I would share one of my favorite poems by the late great Norman MacCaig. It takes a genius wordsmith like MacCaig to truly do the toad justice.
Stop looking like a purse. How could a purse
squeeze under the rickety door and sit,
full of satisfaction, in a man’s house?
You clamber towards me on your four corners –
right hand, left foot, left hand, right foot.
I love you for being a toad,
for crawling like a Japanese wrestler,
and for not being frightened.
I put you in my purse hand, not shutting it,
and set you down outside directly under
A jewel in your head? Toad,
you’ve put one in mine,
a tiny radiance in a dark place.