Eastern American Toad on the Trail by Todd Henson

Front angled view of an eastern American toad

I’ve mentioned before to look down once in a while when hiking in the woods, that you never know what you might see. In this case we saw an eastern American toad almost hidden on the trail. These are fairly common in this area, but it’s still always great to see one, especially when it’s patient enough to let me photograph it.

We found this toad in a wetlands park on a trail through woods that border the wetlands. A perfect environment for it, but being in the woods it was fairly dark. So I had to boost my ISO to 2000 - 4000 to have a fast enough shutter speed, and even with that these photos were shot between 1/25 and 1/40 of a second. This toad was fairly calm, though, which made things a little easier. It’s always nice having a cooperative subject.

Side view of an eastern American toad

I tried to photograph it from a variety of angles to capture as many details as I could for later identification. I’m not an expert at identifying wildlife so I’m always trying to learn more, and one thing I’ve learned is to capture as many details as possible while in the field. In this area the American toad can be confused with the Fowler’s toad, and apparently these species can hybridize, which makes a positive identification more challenging.

After consulting several field guides and online resources I believe this to be an American toad. It has a single wart in most of the dark patches on its back, which is indicative of an American toad. Fowler’s toads tend to have 3 to 7 warts in each patch. In the front view you can see some dark spots on its underside, again indicative of an American toad.

Back view of an eastern American toad

If you think I’ve misidentified this toad please leave a comment and let me know what you think it is and why. Thanks.


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Virginia Herpetological Society


I own the following 3 books, though my editions may be older than those shown. I love Charles Fergus’ book, Wildlife of Virginia and Maryland and Washington, D.C. It’s not a field guide and only contains drawings of some of the wildlife, but it has lots of information on the species that live in this area. The Peterson and Audubon Field Guides are my current go to guides.

A Bench Beside the Gardens by Todd Henson

A Bench Beside the Gardens, at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Many years ago my brother and I visited the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. This is a beautiful location, with both indoor and outdoor gardens. The indoor gardens are contained in various rooms within the large Conservatory, and include a wide range of plant-life, from jungle to desert environments. The outdoor gardens surround the Conservatory, with their National Garden to one side and Bartholdi Park just across the street.

While walking the outside gardens we found this lovely scene, with a wooden bench set against a brick and stucco wall surrounded by potted plants. A great location to sit, take a short rest, and admire some of the beautiful outdoor scenery. And, I thought, a beautiful subject for a photograph.

If you ever have the opportunity, stop by and visit the U.S. Botanic Garden. I thought it was well worth the trip. If you do (or have) let me know what you thought of it.

A Bench Beside the Gardens is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.

One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives by Bernd Heinrich by Todd Henson

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One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives, by Bernd Heinrich, is a collection of stories, or essays, each one about an individual species Heinrich personally observed and studied, most often from his home in the U.S. Northeast. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I listened to the Audible version while driving to and from work, or just working around the house. The narrator, Rick Adamson, did a great job with the bird calls and was easy to listen to.

I think the content would appeal to birders who enjoy observing and learning about different species, but I don’t know if it would appeal as much to a general audience. Each chapter is Heinrich’s observations about a specific species, most often from his cabins in the Northeast. He is a scientist and teaches students in the field. In most all cases his observations lead to hypothesis that he then proceeds to test, adapting the hypothesis as he accumulates new data. The scientific method. Having said all that, don’t let the science scare you off. It is written (or spoken) in a very easy to understand way. I can see why students would want to attend his in-the-field classes. He is a marvelous teacher.

Some of his experiments involved modifications to his house to allow him access to a woodpecker’s nest. He pulled birds to observe their health and what they’d been eating. He could tell this most often by pellets dropped by the baby birds, but in some cases the adults cleaned them up too quickly, so he used techniques that temporarily prevent the baby from swallowing the food, so he could see the actual food before it was ingested.

In another chapter he adopted a starling and observed its behavior. He talked about their mimicry, and even mentioned Mozart’s starling, which all brought back memories of reading the book Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Another great book.

He appears to truly love what he does and has a great fondness for the birds he observes. To any birder on the path to learning everything they can about birds, give this book a try. You are likely to learn something about the species he discusses, and also about the methods he uses in his own learning. I certainly would not recommend some of his experiments to untrained people, but many of his methods would be useful to any of us.

I have several more of Bernd Heinrich’s books (The Homing Instinct, Life Everlasting, The Snoring Bird, The Trees in My Forest, Mind of the Raven, and Winter World) and look forward to the next one I read. Have you read any of these, or other books, by Bernd Heinrich? Let me know what you thought.