There’s a hole in the paddock, dear Lise, dear Lise

… and it’s because new fencing is going in. Our neighbours dug some post holes and inadvertently performed a small wildlife survey via these ‘pit traps’. Here’s the very common striped marsh frog (Limnodynastes peroni) …

Striped marsh frog, Limnodynastes peroni; photo by Lise Bolton

Striped marsh frog, Limnodynastes peroni; photo by Lise Bolton

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Emerald-spotted tree frog

It seems to be frog-spotting season. This one decided to live in my bathroom for a few days. It’s the emerald-spotted tree frog, also known as Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii).

Peron's tree frog

Peron's tree frog

You can see the green spots in the photo above, but with the flash they stand out even more, although the skin looks paler than in real life …

Peron's tree frog

Peron's tree frog

This one was 50 mm nose to tail, just as stated in the reference books. You can hear its call from this page.

Now it’s autumn and cooling down, I guess the frogs are going to be going into hibernation – their heart beat and breathing slow down and they rest in hiding places until the weather warms up.  The subtropics never get super cold, so winter is not too much of a problem for them. My bathroom is not the best place to be undisturbed, though.

Have a good rest, froggies!

Frogs visible and invisible

The increasing showers and rain that herald the wet season bring a lot of frogs out. The male is the noisy one, calling for mates. This one lives in a flower pot. This is probably a young Litoria caerulea, with the white spots running down from the eye, although not all L. caeruleas have that.

Young green tree frog, Litoria caerulea

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Cane toad strikes out for New Zealand!

Not content with conquering the north of Australia, and slowly making its way to the south, the cane toad (Bufo marinus) seems to have set its sights on our neighbour across the ditch, New Zealand.

I’d seen the silver gulls harassing something on South Ballina Beach, and recognised the gait as that of a frog. And was bowled over to discover it was a big, boofy Bufo! Perhaps it was trying to escape from the gulls – it was a long way from the dune vegetation. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself, hopping its way into the seawater at South Ballina Beach – New Zealand here we come!

The cane toad was deliberately  introduced to Queensland in 1935 to eat beetles doing damage to commercial sugar cane plantations. It is a native of Central and South America. It didn’t succeed in controlling the beetles, soon bred prolifically and has been making its way across the continent ever since. It reached our place in northern New South Wales about four years ago, and in summer we see several a night around the house. Its call is somewhat like a lawn mower – a steady rattle. The recommended humane method of disposal is to keep it in a refrigerator for a few hours (to put it into dormancy), then freeze it solid. Some other people are not so kind, but there’s no need for vindictiveness.

Cane toads are poisonous at all stages of their lives, from eggs to adults. Anything eating them – birds, lizards, other frogs, snakes, fish, crocodiles – will get very sick or die. Occasionally we hear or read reports  about a particular species being able to survive, or a bird learning to turn over the body before attacking (the poison glands are on the top, behind the head), but in general the outlook is pretty grim for many species. Fortunately the eggs are very easy to tell from those of other frogs, so you can destroy them when you see them.

In the photo below you can see the poison glands right behind the eyes, level with the ‘forearms’. Pet dogs have been poisoned by drinking water from bowls a toad has been sitting in. Alas, there are so many of them, they’re here to stay.

Cane toad at Larnook, northern New South Wales

Getting quieter at night

Now summer is over, the frogs have calmed down. They were really loud this year – so loud that my ears were buzzing some nights as I lay in bed (I have a small pond outside my bedroom window). The cicadas were causing that effect during the day, so it’s a wonder I have any hearing left.

But frogs are still around, if silently. A couple of bleating tree frogs (Litoria dentata) insist on sheltering within my rain gauge. Occasionally they get in the actual water, which makes for somewhat inaccurate readings. But most of the time they are in the outer part of the cylinder. I tipped this one out to get a good look at it – it’s only about 2.5 cm (1 inch) long.

Bleating tree frog

Bleating tree frogs have a prolonged call that sounds a bit like a bleat, but nowhere near the ‘baaa’ of the bleating frog I heard in an urban wetland in Decatur, Georgia (USA). That really did sound like a sheep! It was probably the US eastern narrowmouth frog (Gastrophryne carolinensis).

The green tree frogs (Littoria caerulea) that live somewhere in the bathroom and crawl out at dusk have also disappeared. In summer, up to five of them creep slowly across the room towards the glass louvres and outside to hunt. They all freeze when I put the bathroom light on. It’d be a bit horror movie if I didn’t like them so much. Each of them is bigger than my fist. They’ll be back next summer.

Green tree frog crawling out the bathroom window to hunt at night

Luckily there’s a fairly easy way of identifying frogs in summer – by their calls. Each species has a unique call (the males do the croaking), and David Stewart has done the hard yards of recording the calls and producing a CD. That way you don’t have to crawl around in the pitchy black trying to find them under reeds and stones.

Thanks to David, I’ve identified the brown-striped frog (Limnodynastes peronii) …

Brown-striped frog, photo by Jean-Marc Hero, Wikimedia Commons

Cogger’s Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia describes the male’s call as ‘a single loud “plonk” or “toc”, like a hammer striking and anvil, repeated at intervals of a few seconds’, and I’d agree with ‘toc’. (In bird ID books, I often can’t grasp the description of the bird call and when I heard the actual bird, it’s nothing like the description.) It is ‘a highly successful urban species [in addition to being associated with slow-moving streams, marshes, dams and ponds] which thrives even in small, decorative garden ponds – exactly what I have outside my bedroom, as well as having a slow-moving stream and small dam on the property.

I have also heard the great barred frog (Mixophyes fascilatus) – call a ‘deep, harsh “wark”‘ – living in rainforests, antarctic beech or wet sclerophyll forests (the property has rainforest gullies) …

Great barred frog

Great barred frog, photo by LiquidGhoul, Wikimedia Commons

and the rocket frog (Littoria nasuta) – a very fast, ‘wik, wik, wik’ call -…

Rocket frog, photo by Poleta33, Wikimedia Commons

I didn’t have to crawl around in mosquito-infested swamps to find this one, but it’s not an Australian frog …

Froggus metallicus, South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston, Georgia, USA

or these …

Froggie band, South Carolina Aquarium

I’d love to have these in my garden – the kookaburras and butcherbirds could perch on them. And they wouldn’t be noisy at night.