Thursday, January 22, 2009

Frogger's paradise

Wow... I'm so amazed at all the frogs I've seen up here. I've been doing quite a bit of frogging and I'm starting to get a bit of a handle on what's out there - previously, the wet tropics frogs were just a big jumble in my mind, now it's just the microhylids that are a big jumble!

Before I start I'll quickly plug a book I just obtained a copy of - "Rainforest Frogs of the Wet Tropics" by Conrad Hoskin and Jean-Marc Hero. It's a fantastic book with a key, and a full page of text, plus a page of photos to each of the 33 frog species. One of the points that it's impossible to ignore, reading this book, is just how so many species have undergone dramatic declines or in some cases completely disappeared (particularly the high-altitude creek frogs).

I'll start with my first day's frogging - just north of Townsville at Paluma. Regarded as some as the start of the wet tropics rainforest. The township is up at about 1000m altitude, and the road from the highway winds its way up the range crossing numerous creeks and cascades as the vegetation changes from sclerophyllous at the base, with Eucalypts, Banksias and Casuarinas, to proper rainforest at the top. Half-way up the road is Little Crystal Creek which was swollen by the recent downpour into a raging torrent. I stopped on my way up for a quick squiz in daylight and found several Waterfall frogs (Litoria nannotis) in a side-stream. These guys are bizzarre - living on the rocks in creeks where they're splashed by waterfalls. They're easily disturbed and will jump into the rushing water only to emerge on a rock only a short distance downstream (they must be pretty capable swimmers to avoid being swept away).

I rocked up to Paluma and ate dinner whilst waiting for dark. The sounds of a couple of microhylid species started up in the rainforest and it was these I went after first. A bird-like whistling from the leaf litter was the Robust frog, Austrochaperina robusta.

It took me a while to find the origin of a creaking beep-like call, because its maker, the Ornate Nursey frog (Cophixalus ornatus) was calling from 50-100 cm off the ground, often in the forks of small tree-trunks.

I headed down the mountain and stopped at one of the first promising little streams. I had only climbed up a short distance when I heard a throaty "WHUT!". I thought to myself that it sounded like a Mixophyes fasciolatus on steroids. When I found the frog that was calling, it turned out that this was more or less what it was. Mixophes coggeri is like a bigger, more boldly, beautifully patterned version of the former species which occurs further south.

My good luck still hadn't run out as I soon spotted what is to me one of the most beautiful frogs in Australia, the Green-eyed frog (Litoria serrata, previously genimaculata)

Back on the edges of the road, the Orange-thighed treefrogs (Litoria xanthomera) had just started calling, including one with a curiously unpigmented left eye!

A little further down the mountain was the Stony Creek Frog, which up here is either Litoria jungguy or Litoria wilcoxii - the two species are impossible to distinguish in the field.

I had just seen seven frog species I'd never encountered before, several of which were substantially unlike anything I'd ever seen... as I said - paradise. The excitement was to continue yet...


Denis Wilson said...

Stunningly beautiful creatures.
PS "Snail" sent me here. Glad I came.

Sherrie Y said...

Experiencing serious Frog Envy here in the dry, cold Rocky Mountains!