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Scrambled legs

On a game drive out of Savuti camp one summer morning, we came across a large pool of rainwater that was showing a lot of amphibian activity. As we walked around the edge of the pool, we saw that the disturbance was being caused by groups of toads mating. The water in the pool was deep enough for the toads to dive easily to safety, but we found that if we stood still for long enough, they came onto the water’s surface where we could photograph them.

One pair of toads were lying at the water’s edge, surrounded by strings of eggs, while further out in the pool, I saw a somewhat comical trio of toads mating. A large female toad was busy simultaneously with not one, but two males. As I photographed them, the female raised one forelimb, almost as if to say, ‘No more pictures’.


The threesome floated off into deeper water and I was making my way back to the vehicle when a flash of movement caught my eye. A yellow-billed kite had swooped down and snatched the toad trio from the water. The toads were so reproductively preoccupied that they had failed to notice the bird of prey as it flew over. I tried to bring my camera up quickly and find focus on the flying bird, in the end, I managed a badly focused image of the action, but there was enough detail to enable me to make out what had happened.


The kite had grasped the female and one of the male toads in its talons. The third toad, a male, had not in fact been caught by the kite: rather, the female toad had one of his legs in a death grip, and he was being carried along for the ride, dangling below the other two. The kite landed in a nearby jackalberry tree and seconds later this lucky toad fell to the ground. His two mating partners were not so fortunate and ended up being dinner for the kite.

The surviving toad made his way back to the pool, seemingly none the worse for wear.

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I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page