Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

It-takes-two-toads-to-tango Tuesday

with 46 comments

‘Twas on Tuesday last that the previous afternoon’s rain had created a little pool in an otherwise still drought-dry tributary of Bull Creek that runs through Great Hills Park. I looked down at the shallow water and noticed a toad completely submerged. When the toad came out onto a dry portion of the creek bed, it revealed itself to be they, and in flagrante delicto, at that. Here’s what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say on the subject: “In the sexual embrace, called amplexus, the male toad clasps the female from behind. The pair swims about as the female, swollen with eggs, selects a site for depositing them. As several thousand eggs are expelled from the female’s body in jelly-like strings, the male fertilizes them with sperm.” I saw no eggs, so perhaps things hadn’t gotten to that point yet.

I’m assuming this delictual duo was in fact toads, because when I searched online I found articles saying that frogs have smooth skin and toads have warty skin, which you can see these two certainly did. I also learned that toads move with short hops, rather than the long ones that frogs often take, and that also matched what I observed. Numerically minded me further found out that frogs and toads have four digits on their front feet but five on their hind feet. Wouldn’t they be more balanced if they had four and a half on each foot?

Photographically speaking, notice how the catchlight in the toads’ eyes mirrors the shape of the bulbs in my ring light flash. When processing the photograph I originally removed those reflections, but then the toads’ eyes seemed too dull, so upon further reflection I put the reflection back in.

Speaking of which, here’s a quotation for today, from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man:

Remembrance and reflection how allied!
What thin partitions sense from thought divide!”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 11, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

46 Responses

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  1. Many years ago in our local newspaper there was an article about a two headed toad having been seen by passersby. Strange how easy it is to think in monster terms where “real nature” is concerned. Keep Well Steve, Lindy


    August 11, 2020 at 7:04 AM

    • Interesting: that “monster” could have been a mating pair. My initial mistake went the other way, minimizing two down to one.

      This nature photographer has an advantage in being able to do what he enjoys even during a pandemic. I generally avoid established trails because too many homebound people are out walking on some of them. I hope you and your bees are well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2020 at 7:25 AM

  2. The toads appear to enjoy the moment, eggs or no eggs. Thanks for sharing your photo and research with us, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    August 11, 2020 at 8:36 AM

    • Sure thing. I didn’t know if these two were frogs or toads, so even to be able to write a title for this post I had to find out. Learning that they’re toads opened the way for some Tuesday alliteration.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2020 at 9:46 AM

  3. “Two-headed monster”–maybe these two are Othello and Desdemona?? Nice shot! My toads have been relatively quiet this summer. It’s hard to be in love, sometimes. 🙂


    August 11, 2020 at 9:58 AM

    • As far as I recall, this is the first such shot I’ve ever gotten of reptiles or amphibians, so I was glad to have something new. Do you have any idea why your toads have been quiet? As for Desdemona, I’d acquit her of any charge of being a monster.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2020 at 1:34 PM

  4. Beautiful amphibian “porn” photography at its best. I recently caught a couple of anole lizards locked in embrace, and even more recently, two Gulf Fritillary butterflies on a Passiflora vine. Couple of weeks later, I got the female Agraulis vanillae in the act of laying eggs on the same vine. Not at the level of quality of photography of your nature shot above, of course. (The lizards were captured on a Galaxy 7 camera, the others I don’t remember offhand). Even in a human pandemic, life goes on, and the interaction and interconnection among all forms of life is well represented by your photos. Thank you.


    August 11, 2020 at 11:45 AM

    • The next commenter discounts your italicized characterization. You’re ahead of me in seeing anoles going at it—and all other reptiles, for that matter. Mating butterflies, however, I have seen. You’re right that the pandemic has apparently no effect on the animals around us here. It has affected my work in nature only a little, namely in that I avoid places where other people congregate. I know plenty of effectively isolated places, so I’m fine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2020 at 1:43 PM

  5. Toad porn! Nope. Toad art.

    Reminds me of

    Toad away
    Toad away
    Where will you go
    When you’re
    Toad away?

    Michael Scandling

    August 11, 2020 at 12:59 PM

  6. Excellent capture, Steve. Great detail and they seem unperturbed by your lens. 🙂

    Jane Lurie

    August 11, 2020 at 1:14 PM

    • They were apparently so caught up in what they were doing that they indeed acted unperturbed, even by my flash, and I managed to take a couple of dozen pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2020 at 1:50 PM

  7. How interesting to find that, these days, you’re
    Expanding from voyageur to voyeur.


    August 11, 2020 at 4:19 PM

  8. Your delictual duo is delightful, Steve. I find the colors and pattern very attractive.


    August 11, 2020 at 5:20 PM

    • And I find your extended d-d-d attractive, too. I wonder what all that warty skin is about.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 11, 2020 at 5:33 PM

      • Thank you, Steve. You are probably testing me, as you already have the answer, but a quick internet search revealed that the so-called warts are actually glands, able to secrete toxins to fend off predators.
        And the old myth about toads causing warts in humans has been debunked, too. 🙂


        August 11, 2020 at 6:18 PM

        • No, I wasn’t testing you: I didn’t know what purpose, if any, the “warts” serve. I say “if any” because I assume that some features in any organism are the result of evolutionary chance and don’t serve any purpose. I didn’t follow up in this case, so I’m glad you found the answer. As for the myth about toads causing warts, it seems akin to the medieval notion of treating a bodily ailment by using a plant or a part of a plant that is imagined to resemble the affected body part.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 11, 2020 at 6:31 PM

          • Oh, I’m glad to have learned something new and to have shared that knowledge.
            It’s interesting to read a little more about the toads’ so-called warts, because some people believed they caused human warts, others that they treated them. And the doctrine of signatures you refer to is quite fascinating. I had forgotten about it until you mentioned it.


            August 11, 2020 at 6:46 PM

            • Science no longer signs off on the doctrine of signatures.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 11, 2020 at 6:57 PM

              • No, it doesn’t, though in my humble opinion, it still holds an inherent, relatable appeal. It’s more tangible than some modern theories that most of us can’t even begin to grasp.


                August 11, 2020 at 8:11 PM

                • Some easy-to-understand theories turn out to be false (like the planets and the sun moving in circles around the earth), while some complicated or seemingly implausible ones turn out to be true (like the mass of an object bending the structure of space around it). It’s a strange world.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 11, 2020 at 8:44 PM

                • Your pronouncement is so true! Strange, horrible, maddening, but never not wonderful, and often, so often, very beautiful.


                  August 11, 2020 at 9:01 PM

                • Amen.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  August 11, 2020 at 9:03 PM

  9. Nature at its most natural. Definitely look warty enough for toads to me, especially with that parotoid gland behind the tympanum.

    Steve Gingold

    August 12, 2020 at 2:28 AM

    • This was a rare entry for me into your amphibian domain. I could easily have missed this pair because they were initially submerged. And yes, the evidence points pretty strongly to toads rather than frogs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2020 at 5:52 AM

  10. Since my early when I was “learning to light any scene” days I have looked at the light reflections in eyes to see if I determine which kind of light was used. I love highlights in the eyes no matter if it’s natural or modified light. I’m glad you put them back!

    When I read your title the song, It Takes Two Baby by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston came right to my head and I had to hear it.

    These two are hoping to make a dream come true! More toads!! 😀


    August 12, 2020 at 8:44 AM

    • I thought of borrowing a less idiosyncratic catchlight from a picture of something else, but in the end I took the path of least resistance and just let the reflection of the ring light flash remain.

      Somehow I never knew that song from the mid-1960s. When I listened to it the style was familiar but not the song itself. Obviously you knew it. My title was a take-off on the sentiment that it takes two to tango, which was the name of a song from the early 1950s.

      Those toads will likely have produced more toads. Whether I’ll find other toads to photograph seems less likely.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2020 at 3:04 PM

  11. These are definitely toads. Beautiful photo of toad amplexus, Steve!

    Lavinia Ross

    August 13, 2020 at 7:28 PM

  12. Other animals have such far more interesting vocabularies when it comes to The Act…..

    Are you familiar with the True Facts videos on youtube? Not sure of your sense of humor, but as a nature lover who’s a little twisted, they make me laugh so hard my gut hurts. A fair bit of those various vocabularies there…..

    Johnny Crabcakes

    August 14, 2020 at 2:36 AM

    • No, I’m not familiar with the True Fact videos on YouTube. I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for mentioning them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 14, 2020 at 7:49 AM

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