The American toads are singing. You can attend their concerts free of charge, day or night.

These toads are out of hibernation. The males first started their high-pitched trilling calls May 4 to attract mates to wetland breeding grounds. The temperature hit 78 degrees that day, and we had a couple of days in the 80s soon after that. I could hear their loud trills coming from a grassy pond hundreds of feet away, even from inside our house with the doors and windows closed. During the breeding season, which could last well into June, the toads are quiet on cool days in the '40s and '50s.

Contrary to popular superstition, you won't get warts on your hands by picking up a toad, but you will learn something about the remarkable amphibian.

A toad may feel cold to the hand because it is a coldblooded animal, which means its blood that is the temperature of its surroundings. American toads have a dry, warty skin; wide waist; flattened triangular head; fleshy tongue; and jaws without teeth. When first metamorphosed (leaving the water from the tadpole stage), it is only about a half-inch long, but an adult grows to nearly 4 inches. Although the warty skin of the toad suggests great age, it grows fast and reaches maturity in two to three years. There is a record of a toad living for 36 years.

Jim Gilbert's Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.