The children giggled happily as we flicked on our torches and crossed the busy road. Despite the traffic noise we could still hear a chorus of frogs coming from along the creek. ‘Crick...crick...crick...crick’.
Last time I visited the creek (in 2011), massive summer floods had torn apart the vegetation and left a trail of destruction after the water receded. There were a few birds to be seen, but being the wrong time of year for frogs to be actively breeding, my explorations had focused mainly on searching for birds and reptiles.
This week, however, I arrived in this fabulous state just in time for some great amphibian action! There’s been some good winter rainfall and Campbell’s Creek in Castlemaine was alive at dusk with some very loud frog calls. Consequently Gill, her brother, sister-in-law, mother and I took her niece (4) and nephew (6) on a spotlighting adventure to see what types of frogs we could find.
It was great fun creeping along the wet, grassy creek-banks listening to the cricks, croaks and ribbits coming from the water, and scanning our torches among the reeds. After a few minutes searching I was lucky enough to locate an Eastern Common Froglet (Crinia signifera), hiding among a few grass blades. This species is only the size of a 20c coin, and males call from hidden locations on the ground close the the water’s edge. Although small with a plain old name, these frogs are spectacular little critters with beautiful markings and a grating ‘crick-crick-crick’ call which is loud enough to make up for their other shortcomings! Here are some picture of one:
As well as the small ‘cricks’ coming from the grass underfoot, we noticed other sounds coming from tree branches on the bank of the creek opposite to us. Curiosity drew me closer and I shed my shoes to wade across the shin-numbing waters in search of the ‘noise makers’. When frogs hear human footsteps they often go quiet: this is exactly what happened and I spent quite some time sitting quietly on a log waiting before another frog thought about calling. Eventually his urge to attract a female won out and he let go a loud rattle which interrupted the sound of babbling water. I quickly scanned a nearby bush with my head torch and spotted a small brown shape sitting on a thin branch. To my delight, this was a Southern Brown Tree Frog (Litoria ewingii), a species very similar to the closely related Slender Tree Frog found over in Perth. As their name suggests, tree frogs are brilliant climbers, and he was soon clambering over my fingers and up my arm as I attempted to grab hold of him!