Friday, 19 March 2010

Now let me tell you story...

This little tale has a sad beginning, but a funny ending. It started about four years ago when my much missed, late neighbour Doreen was in hospital. Their burglar alarm went off one spring evening and went on and on. Michael was visiting her in hospital but luckily another neighbour had a key and turned off the alarm. Very sadly Doreen did not come home again and poor Michael was devastated and his own health started to deteriorate so we did not like to tell him that his alarm was still periodically bleeping.  Over the winter Michael was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and in the spring his sister came to stay to look after him. It was about this time that the alarm started bleeping again and Mick's sister complained that the noise was keeping her awake.  That summer when I stood in the garden on a mild evening the noise definitely seemed to be coming from their house, but also from our pond - was the noise bouncing off the water surface?  If I walked down the garden I could hear another alarm bleeping from the houses backing on to us? What was going on? I know my native fauna, and nothing I could think off made this noise, and it sounded electronic.
Very sadly, early that autumn Michael too passed away, (Mick and Doreen would have loved this tale)  and the house put on the market. When I spotted the estate agent I asked him to make sure the alarm was turned off, and he assured me it was, but the noise still carried on. In fact if we sat in our living room with the back door open we could hear the noise above the TV and at night it drove our over-night guests potty bleeping loudly. Every evening I would stand in the garden and try to locate the source of the sound - it was getting worse, but with the winter evenings and the doors and windows closed, we forgot about it. A new young family bought the house next door and decorated it over the winter, moving in in the spring - and guess what - the bleeping started again.  We asked them if they could hear it and they agreed, and put a ladder up to check the alarm - BUT they said the noise was definitely not coming from there. By now it was even louder and there were more and more bleeps. I rang up the council, and they said I would have to arrange for their Noise Nuisance team to come out, but they only worked at certain times. Meanwhile I thought I would recruit some more neighbours who found the noise annoying. When I spoke to Michelle who lives 'at the bottom of our garden' she was unperturbed. "Oh she said, I just thought it was frogs. It reminds me when I was on holiday in Africa".  Well,  I said none of our native frogs and toads make a noise like that, and rather poo-pooed the idea. But coincidently we had rather a lot of large tadpoles in our pond - in fact they had been there all winter and the previous summer we hadn't spotted any spawn and wondered how we could have missed it. I had also found a baby toad under a flower pot, much to my delight, so I began to be a little suspicious.

Isn't the internet a wonderful tool? It did not take long once I was onto the right track to find out the truth. It was not an out-break of security devices in the neighbourhood, but we have been colonized by Mid-wife Toads. So apologies and explanations to the neighbours  I had been pestering and disbelieving. The toads (which are actually a type of frog)  had been brought to north Bedfordshire about 100 years ago and have gradually been making their way south. They are smaller than our native toad and have a vertical eye slit. The males bleep to attract females.
This little gathering was by my back door which was why the noise was so loud in the house. We are not the only ones who have been fooled by their noise, as well as all our visitors being convinced it was an electronic noise,  I found several similar account on the internet. 
When the female lays her eggs, the male wraps them round his legs and looks after them until they are ready to hatch when he hops into the nearest pond where they swim free.

Mr & Mrs and the little ones

A chat to a friend who lives about half a mile away revealed that they too had been hearing bleeping noises too and thought someone nearby must have a cat scarer. However their son was convinced that aliens had landed in their garden,  and he wasn't wrong was he?
I have counted up 20 toads in one evening and the noise is quite horrendous, but there seems to be no solution short of getting rid of the pond and hoping they die out, but they seem to be all round our 'block' now.
And why am I telling you this tale now - guess what I heard last night?

More info here if you're interested.