Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Sound from the Ground

In the Noongar Aboriginal calendar there are six seasons, and this depiction much more accurately (compared to the European version) represents the changes we see in our environment throughout the course of a year in the south-west of Western Australia. With the arrival of April, we have just entered Djeran, the season of cooler change.

Nothing detects the change in season better than local wildlife who are often waiting for a cue to focus on a particular food, migrate, or commence breeding. The latter applies to a group of animals that you can hear right now if you listen closely around  dry creek beds and swamp edges in the Perth hills.

One example of this group is pictured above. This incredible creature is a burrowing frog - specifically, a Moaning Frog (Heleioporus eyrei). It is one of several species in the south-west of Western Australia that spends much of its life under ground. Moaning Frogs excavate their way into soft soil using their back legs, digging down deep until they find enough moisture to keep them hydrated. They stay here, hiding away from the hot sun until they are lured out by warm, moist nights to forage.

Coinciding with the arrival of Djeran, male Moaning Frogs begin calling to attract mates. At dusk and into the night, their mournful moan is emitted from a shallow burrow, the entrance of which helps resonate the sound to the outside world. If you look carefully in the muddy banks of creeks and dams, you can find the entrance to the burrow.

You may think it unusual for a frog to commence breeding before there is any water around - well, this is for a reason. After mating, the female frog lays her eggs in a foam nest that is hidden inside an underground burrow. Here the tadpoles metamorphose, just in time for the rains of Makuru (early winter) , which wash them into larger, more permanent water bodies. They then spend the next few months growing and developing, before they turn into Baby Burrowers.

The Hooting Frog has bright yellow markings.

Western Spotted Frogs have distinct spots on their back.

Several other species of burrowing frog can also be found in the Perth region. Pictured above is a rarer species, the Hooting Frog (Heleioporus barycragus), which prefers heavier soils in the Darling Range. As its name suggests, the call of this frog is a bit what you imagine an owl to sound like (although just to confuse things, it doesn’t sound like any of our Australian owl species!). If you live east of the Darling Scarp you may be lucky enough to hear the distinctive calls of Western Spotted Frogs (Heleioporus albopunctatus). The distinctive spots (from which its species name is derived: albo = white, punctatus = spotted) and smooth brown to purplish colour make this a beautifully marked animal. Their call is a higher pitched, quicker ‘whoop’ sound, and can often be heard from ditches at the side of country roads in the Wheatbelt region.

Why not spend an Autumn evening listening out for burrowing frog calls? You may even see one of these magic creatures!


  1. Great, thanks for illuminating the mystery of what I've always called the misery toad!

    1. You're welcome! Always glad to be helping solve mysteries :)