Just in case you don’t know - and I didn’t until I started this website - a ‘blog’ refers to a regular diary entry on the internet. It’s short for ‘web log’, and was shortened to ‘blog’ in the way that lots of things get made smaller for ease of saying!
Speaking of small things, the time of year has arrived for some of our smaller frogs to begin breeding. I just love listening outside during the evening and hearing our wetlands alive with frogs! Here is a story I recently wrote for the West Australian Newspaper’s ‘Ed!’ section, which will hopefully inspire you to learn about frogs in your local area . . .
Imagine a cold winter’s evening. The sun has just disappeared and it looks quite dark through the window. A golden fire crackles merrily in the corner of the lounge. The easiest thing to do is curl up in a beanbag with your favourite book. But the more exciting option is to grab a torch, head outside and venture down to the trickling creek. Go on. Do it! There are many little creatures waiting to be discovered.
At first you feel cold, dew-covered grass beneath your bare feet. Then soft mud. The sound of water trickling through the valley fills your ears, and you scan the reeds and paperbarks with your torch. No movement. You look up at the crescent moon, and the darkness seems soothing. Not scary at all. Just exciting to be out exploring at night.
Then there’s a sound.
It’s like someone dropping a marble on a stone bench top. You squat down and it gets louder… then there’s another. And another. As you hold your breath in silence, you hear many tiny ticking sounds resonating all around you. You face one and peer closer to the ground, and the noise is now louder than ever. It almost hurts!
These calls are made by one of the smallest species of frogs found near Perth. Clicking or Glauert’s Froglets (Crinia glauerti) live in ephemeral wetlands and breed during winter. Their activities are prompted by the first rains, which set the waterways flowing and send the frogs into chorus. The clicking call is incredibly loud considering its owner is only about 2 cm long! Males find a hidey-hole at the edge of a waterway, often hidden among rocks and leaves, and call loudly to attract females. Tadpoles take more than 3 months to develop, a very long time considering eggs are only a couple of millimetres wide! The only photo I currently have of this species is in the 2011 News post on frogs here.
There are about five species of similar sized froglets (another name for a tiny frog) found in the Perth region. All are small and brown, are not very good climbers (unlike our two larger tree frog species), and are best distinguished by their call. The Bleating Froglet (Crinia pseudinsignifera), pictured above left and right), is only found in the Perth hills, and has a soft, continuous creaking or bleating voice. The males of this species are very variable in appearance, and seem to have a skin colour very similar to their surroundings. As you can see in the above photos, the male on the left has a similar brown colour to the leaf he was found on... and the male on the right is coloured to match the gravelly clay of the wetland where I found him!
Because they lay eggs in shallow water which doesn’t last that long, their tadpoles only take around 35 days to develop, much quicker than other species which are half their size! Last night I found lots of beautifully marked males calling from a shallow ditch along the bridal path in Parkerville. Just before heading home I was very excited to locate a clutch of ‘quacker’ eggs - you can see them in the picture below.