The breaking news is that the American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) are getting busy down on the river!

That singing I heard for the first time yesterday and again today is from toads, not tree frogs, as I had mistakenly thought, and they are probably busy in the pond, too. On the little stretch of river bank by the southern robin’s nest, there must have been a couple dozen toads either calling to each other, swimming around looking for each out, or already hooking up. The couple above, couldn’t even wait till they made it to the water, and the larger female was carrying the male on her back as she hopped across the grass towards the river. As the fine folks at Connecticut Wildlife succinctly put it:

A male grabs the female around her chest with his front legs and clings
until she lays her eggs in the water. He deposits sperm on top of them.

Here are two other couples who did manage to make it into the water.

The river water moves especially slow there, which probably also attracts the toads, and so the suds that form as it goes over the falls upstream accumulate there as well. As Emily Bernhardt, The James B. Duke Distinguished Professor at Duke University, explained to Sam Evans-Brown on NPR last month:

but if your foam is sort of creamy and smells like fish, compost or
cut grass—that’s a natural foam. It’s not harmful, it’s just some cool
chemistry mixed with a bit of turbulence.

The suds don’t seem to deter the toads, and here’s one guy singing in the suds…

When I first walked up, the singing went silent of course, and I figured it would be hard to spot even one of the singers, but as I slowly looked around, I started seeing them everywhere, and some even resumed singing.

I did also manage to spot one bullfrog elsewhere along the river, but I think they are just getting started, and not yet in full swing as the toads are.

Okay, back to our continuing coverage of the hatchling situation. First, the goslings in the pond and on the river all seem to be doing fine and growing up fast. Here are five of the six on the pond being guarded by their doting parents.

And here are two of at least three families on the river, both with seven. If you count them, you can find the head of the 14th poking out from under Mom’s belly.

The robin chicks also seem to be progressing, despite appearances. Mom is always nearby if not on the nest, they appear repositioned in images taken at different times, and they appear to be growing feathers. Yay, but don’t tell John Gurda, who seems to have a thing about robins.

The second robin, just a bit north, as doing that thing today where she perches on the edge of her nest instead of nestling down it for the first time I’ve seen, so perhaps hers are hatched or beginning to hatch as well, but her nest is higher, and I don’t yet have a good way to sneak a shot of the inside.

Okay, on to the new arrivals, and first up is this handsome grey catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) feasting on staghorn sumac seeds on the slope down to the river from the beer garden. I also got to enjoy one singing a beautiful song but the lighting was bad for that shot.

The  toadshade (Trillium sessile) or red trillium that we saw early in April is now about as open as I’ve seen it get, which is good timing.

And the jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) are up, too.

Finally, I know I’ve posted pictures of several different shades of violets, but I was struck today by how resplendent they are looking this spring. If you get the chance, you should definitely come to see them for yourself while they are looking this good. There are carpets of them everywhere I look it seems.

Lastly, Prof Young, who sent in that cool coyote shot from the sidewalk in front of her house last summer, reports:

High up on EMS [the Engineering and Mathematical Sciences building at UWM]…
have you seen this lately


And another story. Our neighbors are away and on the way to the garage to get out the mom’s taxi wheels, I hear a scratching, scrabbling sound from the neighbors, looked over and saw a large raven perched on the window cover, reaching down into the purple finch nest tucked between the window and the downspout, helping himself to a wee naked chick and flying up into a maple tree to perch and consume his breakfast. Aaaaah – nature red in tooth and claw!  And ravens gotta eat too. No camera on hand unfortunately. “

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

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