All around us there are rather common species that can surprise and amaze! Common toads (Bufo bufo) are always been among my favorite animals. I was still a 7 years old child when I saw my first tadpoles ever, that I took home by exchanging them for a toy with a older boy in a small village called Mornese, in Northern Italy, where I passed all my summers.
They were four, but I’ll never forget all the efforts I put as a child to raise them until they became four nice toadlets that I released in my house garden (luckily close from their breeding grounds). These were the times without any internet connection nor terrarium keeping books for me. Just a few “Amphibians and Reptiles” books that my far-seeing parents bought me (they aren’t naturalists at all, but very good parents indeed). I read about the adults reaching the streams during earl Spring to mate and lay their eggs in big numbers. Then the tadpoles emerge, dark and voracious, to grow and grow before reaching the right size and do something that always puzzled me: the metamorphosis.
I was amazed to witness such beauty at such close quarters, I saw those tiny dots with a wriggling tail eating small slices of raw meat I put into the water. They were growing bigger and then the legs, hind ones first, came out to my surprise one morning. That Spring has been the big discover of something that’s still mesmerizing me today that I’m grown man (at least for the civil registry…). I released them with pleasure on one side and sadness on the other. I didn’t have anything to feed such tiny-weeny toadlets (they need live insects), so I set them free.
Other stories of toads followed in my life, like that day when I trapped with my fishing net a huge-enormous-gigantic female in the garden of my neighbours. Once back home, smiling as hell I stopped just in front of the door, where she emptied all the water stored in her bladder. The problem is that I wasn’t alone, but actually in front of my grand mother, who began to yell at me to throw that damn “babiu” (a local way to call toads) out of her sight! Of course I didn’t do that until my father was back home and released “the big thing” in the shrubs with all my disappointment. He didn’t know that in a few years I would have filled my home with frogs and toads like a small, croaking zoo.
Toads are among my symbols of Nature, something that come “back to life” every year after winter with its massive spawing.
Now I know them pretty well and I know where to look to find these animals during their underwater orgies.
Today was one of those days, when I quit all the duties and the comfort of my apartment and go back in time and space looking for my warty friends, armed with my camera and a big smile on my face.
Note about the images: all shots were taken inside my beloved Antola Regional Park (a small but amazing park near my city, Genova) with a underwater equipment.