Thursday, June 13, 2013

Night Song, Bufo Fowleri (oil on canvas 10 x 20 in.) Sold

7 May found me observing ... A little Fowler's Toad is making a big sound, braying his hoarse three-second trill into the night on the Lake Erie shore at Point Abino Ontario. Oblivious of my headlamp he's eager and confident, changing his orientation a little every few calls to broadcast his love song in every direction, advertising his perfect spot to the females that we passed on the wave-wet sand, and who even now are hopping toward these rocky pools to lay their eggs.

He's just shifted position again. I can see his sides expand as he fills his lungs. Then they press in and suddenly his throat pouch appears, round and shiny like a balloon as the vibrating shout begins. How the air can make sound both while filling the pouch and without a pause, also while exiting the pouch is amazing! The pouch, becoming smaller, forces all of its air past his vocal cords, so he actually makes his sound both on the exhale and on the inhale - rather like Inuit throat singing - and the sound is amplified in the taut throat pouch. I marvel that this little toad's song is so loud - one of the miracles of springtime! Encyclopedia Britannica says:  Unlike vocalization processes of many other vertebrates, frogs broadcast sound without expelling air. Air does not exit the mouth; rather, it cycles back and forth between the buccal cavity and lungs.

These toads are found strung out along the Lake Erie shore of the Niagara Penninsula. They are crowded out both by upland habitat and humanity, and no-one knows how the disruption of summering and wintering habitats planned near here at Crystal Beach will impact on the population's continuity and long term health and sustainability.


  1. Wonderful painting!

    I've been hearing these toads calling from Point Abino for almost two months now. I've seen the males calling, I've seen the females on their way from the sand dunes coming to find the males, I've seen eggs, and I've seen the tadpoles, which are getting bigger. But until Thursday night, I hadn't seen the toads mating. The male clamps on to the female's back and they even hop around like that. I'm wondering now at what point the female releases her eggs. I haven't seen that for myself yet!

    I am so worried about these toads. They lead a precarious existence. A big storm on the rough waters of Lake Erie near the Point Abino's lighthouse could be ruinous to the Point Abino toads. That type of thing happens frequently to Fowler's Toads, and they rely on their neighbors to re-start the population when that happens. The next population of Fowler's Toads to the east of Point Abino are the Crystal Beach toads. The Crystal Beach toads live on a sheltered bay called Abino Bay, so a storm that decimates the Point Abino toads could spare the Crystal Beach toads. But a 12-story condominium is slated to be built at the hibernation habitat of the Crystal Beach toads. That could mean the destruction of Crystal Beach toads, which would mean in the future, Crystal Beach toads won't be able to rescue Point Abino toads as in the past.

    Fowler's Toad habitat is supposedly protected by Canadian and Ontario law, but the high-rise condo developer found a way to get around that.

    I am extremely thankful to Fred and Aleta for bringing these amazing (and adorable!) little toads to the attention of the public. Public awareness is what will be needed to bring pressure upon the Minister of Natural Resources to responsibly enforce the laws to protect these toads. If anyone would like to write and express their concern, they should direct them to David Orazietti. Orazietti is the new Ontario Minister of Natural Resources, and he needs to be educated about this situation.

    More information can be found at

    And remember, what is destroying these toads all along the northern coast of Lake Erie (the only place in Canada where they still live) is destruction of their habitat. Their habitat is a precious one that relies on sand dunes. Many species, including humans, benefit when sand dunes are encouraged to form as they naturally do. High-rises should be kept far back enough from the water to allow the crucial interface between the Great Lakes and the land to flourish and perform its vital role.

  2. Wonderful painting and commentary!

    I'm happy to report that some of this guy's offspring may have made it. Walking along the beach at Point Abino last night, I saw over 60 Fowler's Toads, many of them very small and clearly from this year's batch of young ones. However, 60 is such a tiny fraction of the number of tadpoles I saw in the breeding pools earlier this summer. The chance of survival is extremely low for these toads, even under the very good circumstances that exist at Point Abino,

    In contrast, circumstances for these toads at the nearest site to the east, Crystal Beach, is in jeopardy. I'll go for a walk soon near Crystal Beach and see if any Fowler's Toads made it there this year. I'm afraid of what I'll see this year there, after the Town bulldozed the sandy hibernation areas at Crystal Beach just as the females were coming out of hibernation, and the developer bulldozed the back beach area to put up a pre-construction sales trailer where the toads' "artificial habitat" is supposed to be built some day. Even though I doubt the artificial habitat will be successful, I think it should be built before the existing successful habitat is destroyed, not after. Unfortunately, the plan is to destroy first and build artificial habitat later, despite the fact that these toads are supposedly protected by the Endangered Species Act.

    Thanks for raising awareness of these enchanting toads. I love sharing the night-time beach with them. As loud as they sing early in the season, they sit by the edge of Lake Erie and gaze out so quietly and peacefully now. I sure hope my grandchildren will get a chance to share the beach with them too, although I'm afraid they won't with the high-rise development being promoted now all along the Lake Erie shore here in Fort Erie, even on the beach side of the road.

    Crystal Beach was a hibernation area for the toads, and that's where the condo slated to be built will have its cavernous underground garage--the size of three hockey fields underground. Because life is so precarious for these toads, they rely on their neighbors to replenish their population if a storm should come in and carry them out into the lake or if hot weather should dry up their tadpoles before they develop. If the Crystal Beach toads are wiped out, they won't be there to repopulate Point Abino in the event of a bad year at Point Abino, and the toads at Point Abino will be lost from there as well.

    Man is a crazy species. He loves the beach and swimming and so he builds on top of the beach and destroys the sand and dirties the water. People should spend a little more time with the Fowler's Toads and maybe they'd get their priorities straight.

  3. Many happy thanks to Aleta for painting this evocative photo. Looking at it makes me feel like I'm out at the water's edge right now near the point at night listening to a calling Fowler's Toad that I've spotted with my flashlight. Thanks also to her husband Fred for teaching me so much about Fowler's Toads and how to study them. Thanks to my wonderful husband for buying this painting for me for my birthday this year. I was very surprised to receive the original painting as my gift today. The painting looks beautiful in our cottage, where I feel it was meant to be! Thanks also to all those who have advocated to save the toads' hibernation habitat at Crystal Beach. For now at least, it looks like there is a chance that the high-rise that was planned for their hibernation site may be avoided after all. Cheers, hip hip hooray, and keep your fingers crossed!


What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?