Frog and Toad Research on My Property

by Donna Lewis


We just received the results from an acoustic monitoring event that was performed by Dr. Paul Crump, a biologist from the Texas Park and Wildlife Department. He is a Herpetologist in the Nongame and Rare Species Program.

First of all he was checking out Milam County to look for the Houston toad. This toad was recorded in this county years ago, but not found here in the past few years.

Attaching the song meter

It was really interesting to see how this survey was done. Dr. Crump placed a recording box to a tree near our small pond at the back of our property. It is called a song meter and recorded two hours of audio every night from January 28, 2021 until June 12, 2021.

Then Dr. Trump retrieved the box and took it with him where he had the tedious job of listening to hundreds of hours of frogs and toads singing, so he could identify each species. Wow what a task! You really have to know your stuff to do it.

Song meter at work

Sadly there were no songs of the Houston toad recorded, but he did identify seven different frogs and toads! I did not know we had that many on our property. Very neat.

I hope this report does not make its way to the snakes that live near me. They will be arriving here pretty fast for lunch. I have learned more about these creatures by looking up each one of them. Thanks to Dr. Paul Crump.

What’s in the Hole?

by Donna Lewis

Early in the morning on Saturday, August 14, I was looking for my friend the Gulf Coast Toad that I say hi to on most mornings.  She is a big girl that lives under the faucet where I had put a flat rock for her to hollow out her house. It is always damp so she likes it there.

I like frogs and toads. They are gentle and sweet. I didn’t see her pop her head out to see me this morning. Instead another head with a yellow mouth outline looked up at me. Oh no, I think something got my friend, I thought. 

I could only see about an inch of its head. It looked like a lizard of some kind. Well, I am not afraid of lizards so I decided to take a photo of it.  You can see the first photo I took, before anyone poked their head out.

The hole under discussion

So I tossed a little rock in the hole to encourage it to come out for me so I could take a photo.  I leaned down pretty close to the hole. Woo boy!!! Something came out alright, but it wasn’t a lizard. 

You don’t see any second photo because I jumped back as fast as I could. It was a black snake with a yellow mouth and belly. It shot out that hole and came at me really fast!! 

Donna asked Suna to find a picture for her, so here’s one from iNaturalist, © tom spinker, used with permission.

I must admit it scared me.  I am surprised I could move that fast. After looking through my snake guide I learned that it was a Yellowbelly (or plain belly), a non venomous water snake.  The guide also said it was a vigorous biter. I am glad I didn’t find out how vigorous.

So, I am sad about my toad friend…life outside.

Field Full of Flowers

by Donna Lewis

The pastures at our place did not get mowed during the time we normally do that this spring. I really hate to mow at all.  Too many little things live there.

The rain and strange weather threw our normal twice a year mowing off. So, we have very high grass with dewberries and other various stuff everywhere.  You cannot even walk through it. 

The wildflowers have stopped blooming. So, while we thought we should mow it. But, I looked out and there were morning glories on top of all the grass with hundreds of butterflies everywhere. What a beautiful sight.

So it is always good to consider who is using your pastures.  You might need to wait until they are finished and then mow. Mother Nature never mowed her fields…I like to learn from her.

So just to make my other half happy, I said she could mow just around the edges. So now the butterflies were happy, but something else was not. The toads starting hopping for their lives.  Oh boy!  Most of them were Gulf Coast Toads.

So I walked ahead , caught all I could see and carried them to safety elsewhere. I just couldn’t let them get run over. I rescued about 20 or so.

Another day in the life of a Master Naturalist.

I’m Watching You

by Donna Lewis

I bet most of you have seen these really big toads around your house. They will probably be near a faucet or anywhere it’s wet.  If you make any noise near them they, peak out at you. They are Gulf Coast Toads.

This one is a female, which can be figured out because she is really big. You can tell the Gulf Coast toad species because of the prominent cranial crests on her head, which you can see in Suna’s photo below. 

Gulf Coast toad, photo by SA Kendall

These toads live from Mississippi in the east down through Mexico. They are common in our gardens, and eat lots of insects. They come out at night to party, so those of you who are out late might see them.

I took a photo of one of their babies last year, I think they are so cute. There were lots and lots of them. [Suna’s roommate in Austin reports there were hundreds of babies in their neighborhood last week; the toads are very common near their creek.]

Something Else to Read

For more on fun with these toads, see Suna’s blog post about how a toad shot out of a water pipe and confused her dog.

A Tiny Toad

by Donna Lewis

This cute little baby toad was jumping around near where my water hose is by the house.  I had placed a flat rock under the hose to keep it from making a hole. So it’s always damp.

Teeny tiny toad

A pair of Gulf Coast Toads (Bufo valliceps valliceps)  have made their home under the rock, so it is most likely one of their babies. It was so tiny I hardly saw it.

These guys eat insects, so are very helpful to us humans.

The difference between a frog and a toad are:

  • Toads have a plump body.
  • A toad’s skin is dry and warty.
  • Toad’s have a large bump (poison gland) just behind each ear.
  • Toads hop , though only a few inches at a time.
  • Toads lay their eggs in a string

Nature is so cool!!