couple of months ago we had finished dinner with some friends who had
arrived for a visit, when we heard an electronic beep, which repeated
regularly every five seconds or so. Not too loud, but insistent.
After 10 minutes we started to think it must be some sort of
electronic alarm, and that we should perhaps pay attention to it.
beeps seemed to be coming from outside the house, but we could not pin
point exactly where. We suggested to our friends that it might be some sort of warning
alarm on their car, which they had only recently bought, and which
was parked right beside the house on the drive. So we got them to go
and check it, but couldn't find any cause. A few minutes later the
beeping stopped, and we all relaxed.
night it started again. Perhaps it was somewhere inside the house?
Someone said that smoke alarms beep when their batteries are running
low, so we took the batteries out of all of them. Still the beeps. We
switched off every electrical thing that was running, except the
lights. Then we switched them off one by one. Still the beeps. Just
as we were about the switch off the electricity at the mains, the
next night was silence. The following night it started again. Still
impossible to pin point the source location, but there it was,
beep....beep...beep... Walking around outside it appeared that the
noise might just be coming from a loosely covered concrete box sunk
in the ground below a tap beside the front door. When we bought the
house, the previous owner had suddenly abandoned a very extensive
renovation and extension of the house half way through, several years
earlier. This box had pipes, and also a bunch of electrical wires
which were apparently intended to supply power to a building
replacing a barn down the garden, a shed/workshop, electrically
powered gates and other lights. It looked as if the wires led under
the garden, but they went through the wall into the house and then
disappeared; we never found out where they went. But perhaps those
wires were connected somewhere, and the beep was coming from that.
Looking in the box showed nothing but concrete, gravel, pipes and
following morning we spoke to the electrician who had done the work
for us on the house, and asked if he had any thoughts. He said 'it's
believe him. Could not be a live thing,, it was electronic. He said
it was, and that he had other clients with the same toad in their
gardens. I bet him a bottle of decent wine it was not a toad.
next night, the noise was back, and a bit louder. I looked in the
concrete box again, and this time I saw it. A tiny toad, about an inch
long, lurking behind a stone. It was raining, so I was not going to
lie on the gravel and reach down to catch it. But the following
night, the beep was back, but even louder. As I opened the door, there was
the toad, on the bootscarper. I picked it up carefully, and put it in the hedge a hundred
yards from the house. Two nights later it was back, and this time I
put it in a hedge several hundred yards away. I gave the electrician a
bottle of good claret.
bit of subsequent research showed it was a midwife toad, a species
where the male attaches the spawn to his legs and carries it around
until the eggs are ready to hatch into tadpoles, when it finds some
water and lets them loose. No, I had never heard of it either. It is
fairly common in France, and since then I have heard them at other people's
a postscript, there is now another one – or perhaps the same one,
not possible to tell – in residence in the rockery by our back
door. We hear it most nights, but now we know what it is take no
can find information about the toad here:
if you click on the video on the left half way down the page, you
will be able to hear it. There is a lot of other background noise on
the sound track, but the beeps start at about 25 seconds in. Related posts: slow worms, lizards Salamanders and toads