Driving home this evening after rehearsal, in the teeming rain that characterises Argyll in the winter, I became aware of the presence of small white things in the road. Yes, folks, it’s toad-splashing time again. As soon as there’s the first sniff of spring in the air and the night is dark and it’s pishing down, the minds of toads turn to sex. In consequence of the limitations on their reproduction imposed by their evolutionary ancestry, the wee beasties have to make their way to the lochs that lie in the floor of the glen. Unfortunately, between their winter homes on the hills and the sexual delights that await them in the water lies the road, and here they die in their hundreds.
It is extremely unnerving and truamatic to find oneself having to attempt to find a path for the wheels of the car between their soft, white bodies, rearing up in the glare of the oncoming lights to determine their fate. Provided they are not too many, it’s possible for the attentive car driver to keep the carnage in single figures over the length of the kilometre of their appearance. It’s awful when they are out in numbers and there’s barely a tyre’s width of the road which isn’t occupied by a hormonally-driven toad. They stand no chance against the lorries, who don’t have the luxury of being able to weave between them.
It’s unpleasant to walk along the roads at this time of year; the bodies lie everywhere, even in the act of fruitless congress. Still, enough survive and mate and spawn, and enough tadpoles metamorphose into toadlets and enough toadlets make it into the heather to grow to adulthood and make it through another winter to essay forth again when the moon is dark and ancient urges rise once more in their breasts to reproduce themselves. Still, it would be nice not to have to add to the carnage each year.