A Tiny Toadlet

My day began very strangely, with a mystery and a murder on our deck. But let's not start there because it's a little too weird. We'll get to it in a minute. I promise.

My husband wanted to jog and I needed to take my daily walk. So in the morning, we took our bikes up to our local gameland, the Scotia Barrens, and from there, he ran and I walked.

The ground was covered in tiny toadlets. Probably hundreds. No, more like thousands of them. I had to watch my feet so that I didn't step on any. Above is one who was willing to hold still for a photo. So cute!!!

Now, about that murder and the crime scene on our deck. Here is the background: I hang a hummingbird feeder for our hummingbirds at the front of the meadow.

Earlier in the summer, some creature drained it at night a few times (could have been deer or bear), so I began moving the feeder up onto the deck at night, where (I thought) they could not get at it. So every night at 8:45, just as it grows dusk, I go outside and get the feeder from the meadow and hang it on the clothes line over the deck.

Well, on this morning, the hummingbird feeder was drained completely empty. A watering can had been knocked over. And there was a dead body that with some effort I discerned to probably be that of a juvenile squirrel, that was quite well gnawed at.

I do not know if all of the evidence added up to one story or more than one. Some creature came up on the deck, got drunk on hummingbird food, and murdered a squirrel? Or perhaps a squirrel, drawn out in the darkness to suck down the hummingbird food, got killed by an owl?

Or the drinker of the hummingbird food and the murderer of the squirrel are two separate parties? Was the perpetrator a day creature? Or a night creature? (Clearly the murder took place between 8:45 the night before and 8 a.m. on this day.)

My husband said this: "So let me get this straight - everything in the yard is willing to kill or die . . .  for sugar water?" And I guess that's true. And I remembered last summer, or maybe it was the one before, when I hung the hummingbird feeder on the front porch overnight, and it was drained (we think), quite messily, by flying squirrels. Clearly, it is not safe anywhere!

Here is the truth: things can be awfully strange out here, and you'd better learn to wake up and hit the ground running. You may be required to deal with death and destruction before breakfast, even!

So I gathered the poor creature's remains in a paper towel and buried them in the meadow, with a few quiet words said over it. I washed off the place where it had lain. I refilled the hummingbird feeder, and the watering can. I have put things to right as best I can. And so we move on.

The soundtrack song is for the little toadlet in this photo: Lynyrd Skynyrd, with I Know a Little.

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