Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bufo bufo

My friend and fellow Byfield inhabitant Harry Ferminger (a curious surname, apparently meaning "cheese-maker", cf French 'fromage') has a lovely cottage - and a very large garden. When he approached Chris for a helping hand she and I were happy to oblige. One challenge was a gigantic compost heap which had accumulated over many years and he wanted it "dismantling". At first I had visions of barrow loads of compost for my allotment - but then I remembered that I'd given it up! Nevertheless we were happy to visit him earlier today and get to work with shovel and fork.

Common Toad Bufo bufo from Harry's garden 
In the process of dismantling the heap I disturbed a Common Toad Bufo bufo. It was unharmed and I moved it from the compost heap and placed it among dead leaves beneath a nearby bush of Laurustinus Viburnum tinus which was in full flower.

As a child I was once playing in our front garden when my ball rolled under the caravan at the side of the house. Crawling under the van to retrieve it I spotted a large toad squatting there and was horrified to see that the poor creature was covered in maggots. I now know that it was a victim of a fly called Lucilia bufonivora (the specific name means "toad-eater"). It is not a particularly rare fly but I have never taken a specimen of the adult; perhaps I should be glad that isn't very common.

Viburnum tinus in Harry Ferminger's garden.

Anyway, the toad in Harry's garden seemed in good health and, all being well, it will live to eat flies rather than being eaten by them. Incidentally this species is called Common
Toad to distinguish it from the much rarer Natterjack Toad, itself a specialist of dune slacks.

Lucilia is a genus of blowflies and includes many so-called bluebottles, the commonest of which is Lucilia caesar. Not only is this species abundant in our gardens but is only too common in our houses, where its unpleasant habits make it far from welcome.

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