On a recent sunny day, I stood in the cleft in the rocks that form our Power Point, the promontory that holds our wind generators and solar panels. A small expanse of gravel between two low walls of dark stone gathers and reflects heat. I maintain our primary firewood drying rick there to take advantage of this.
Limbs of nearby spruce trees overhang one end of the dip. Native grasses, pineapple weed, and other wild growth sprout beneath them in summer.
I don’t recall what errand took me there, or why I stood looking at these branches, but suddenly, the weeds agitated and swam before my eyes. I saw motion, and what appeared to be a long, thin animal pushing through the plants away from me. I couldn’t make sense of I saw until too late: a rather large toad, exquisitely camouflaged, “ran” from me, stretching out its long hind legs to make its way.
Here on the “homestead,” we knew of some resident toads living in the garden (see A Boreal Toad Calls the Homestead Home, A Boreal Toad in the Garden and Buff Bufo Boreous). They apparently range enough that this could be one of our friends, grown larger as he/she ages (the experts above speak of toads proven to be at least 8 years old) but it could easily be another. Those last sightings occurred 3 years ago now. We assume that if we see one from time to time, there must be others. And, in finding these older posts to reference, I find more sightings than I’d remembered. The place is—well, hopping!
Local experts say that toad populations have declined incredibly since the middle of the last century. They quote a longtime resident of Juneau’s Mendenhall Valley as describing toads as the most abundant non-insect wildlife there. We lived in the valley for most of 14 years; we can’t recall seeing a single toad there.
I’ve spend a little time up in the cleft with a camera, hoping for another, better glimpse of the toad. Chores keep me from devoting too much time to this project, but I do keep an eye—a very close, careful eye—out for it.
We got some photos of it later on, which you can see in the post, Toad Says “Hello.”