Croak! May 2020
From The Editor
I hope you are all keeping well in these unprecedented times!
Although life is currently not how we know it for us, the frogs are continuing to go about their business completely unawares. Many citizen scientists have not been put off either! With lots of people collecting data on their own properties, the recordings are still rolling in.
The recent rain has made the frogs even busier and many of them now seem to have fuller social lives than most of us! Thanks to all who are hanging in there sending in data from home and to those waiting until the day they can go out frogging again.
Keep safe and keep recording!
Project Coordinator, The Frogs Are Calling You
The frog species that are calling you
Preliminary data are in! So far we have received 415 records from citizen scientists. At time of press, the most recorded frog is the Spotted Marsh Frog, Limnodynastes tasmaniensis. The Spotted Marsh Frog’s call is a high-pitched cluck and they are busy calling right now! The second most recorded frog is the Pobblebonk (Limnodynastes dumerilii) followed by the Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera) and Emerald Spotted Tree frog (Litoria peronii). This could all change in the next few months, so do keep recording! We are interested to know when the frogs are calling you as well as where and how it changes.
All of these species are common and widespread and are familiar to many citizen scientists. These frogs are often recorded on people’s properties as well as at WetMAP target sites.
Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis), the most frequently recorded frog so far. Photo by Geoff Heard
Common Eastern Froglet Crinia signifera
Common Eastern Froglet, Crinia signifera, by Geoff Heard.
Also known as: Clicking Froglet, Common Froglet, Eastern Brown Froglet
Distribution: Throughout Victoria, but less common in the north-west of the state.
Conservation: Not considered threatened.
Habitat: Lots of places where there is water – backyard ponds, shallow dams, lakes and wetlands.
Call: “Crick, crick, crick”. Not unlike a cricket chirping.
And another thing: Individual Common Eastern Froglets often vary greatly in colour, skin texture and pattern and look like many other species. Their call is the best way to identify them.
By Elaine Bayes, WetMAP field scientist
Hi, I’m Elaine, a wetland ecologist, and together with Dr Geoff Brown from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, I have been carrying out the frog monitoring for the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program for environmental water (WetMAP - see the “Putting the wet in wetland” article in this issue for more – Ed.). We started monitoring in 2018 to ascertain if environmental watering makes a difference to frog diversity and abundance. The ecology of wetlands is very complex and understanding how and when to water them is new and challenging. This project is one of the most comprehensive ever undertaken and involves many elements, including surveying frogs and their habitat.
So what do we actually do? Well, we survey 29 wetlands. Each survey involves us setting up multiple 50 metre transects at each wetland. During the day we look at habitat structure and water quality, and at night, we listen and actively search for frogs, tadpoles, eggs etc.
Standing in the dark listening to frogs is a lovely thing to do, as I am sure all of you citizen scientists out there will agree. Slightly less exciting is trying to find your locations in the dark, often through the bush and in tricky to get to spots. By midnight we are happy to collapse in bed counting frogs in our sleep.
Our results so far have yet to be analysed, particularly the sound recorders. But up until August 2019 a total of over 6,300 frog records, representing eight species, were recorded. The most frequently recorded species were Spotted Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) and Perons Tree Frog (Litoria peronii). Conversely, the nationally endangered Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis) which used to be common in northern Victoria, surviving in irrigation channels, was only found in the North Central at Wirra-Lo Wetland. The Mallee Spadefoot (Neobatrachus pictus) was rarely recorded, only four records.
Autumn-winter surveys are about to commence. These data, along with all the citizen science data will be collated, analysed and reported in the newsletter later this year.
Winter is frog heaven, so wrap up and go frog hunting. The Frog ID App really makes frog monitoring for everyone a breeze. Simply download the app and go to your favoured spot and hit record. They will even send you an email confirming the species you found.
So see you out there!
Frogs are more active at night so as to avoid predators
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Why Are The Frogs Calling You?
Male frogs call to attract a female of their species. It’s incredibly hard work for them, but without it they’d probably struggle to find each other! Because each species has a different call (which stops females being attracted to the wrong species!), by recording them we can tell which n where species are present and we also know that they are attempting to breed.
Have you ever heard a frog calling from inside a drain? It’s thought that some males call from places that make them sound more attractive – be that larger or stronger – and drains make great sound studios! One study also found that some frogs call at a higher pitch in areas with more traffic so they can be heard over the top of the noise!
What if the frogs are NOT calling you? You can still make a recording – it’s good for us to know when the frogs are not active too. Because we only count the frogs that are calling, we are only measuring presence, not absence – just because they are not calling doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Frog calls are a reliable way to identify species and breeding activity. It’s an easy way to study frogs and the WetMAP study incorporates surveys by citizen scientists, professional researchers and automatic sound recorders. You can join in by downloading the FrogID app and recording frog calls anywhere – including your own home!
Bleating Tree Frog (Litoria dentata) calling for a mate. Photo by Lynette Plenderleith
Putting The Wet In Wetland
The way we use water has significant impacts on wetlands and the animals and plants that live there. Water for the environment, or ‘environmental water', is water that is released into rivers, and wetlands to sustain and improve the condition of waterways and wildlife.
Because water is scarce and valuable, Victoria’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has developed WetMAP – the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Program for environmental water – to investigate how plants and animals respond to watering regimes.
WetMAP focusses on wetland vegetation (including trees), waterbirds, fish and frogs to measure how different parts of the wetland environment respond to watering of different frequencies, duration and timing. This helps inform environmental water management. Wetland ecologists are collecting field data before, during and after water delivery to wetlands and The Frogs Are Calling You is the citizen science component of the WetMAP frog study.
WetMAP is part of an investment by the Victorian Government to improve the health of waterways and catchments and has been developed in collaboration with Catchment Management Authorities, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and consultant ecologists. The results of the program will also contribute to Murray-Darling Basin Plan reporting.
Find Out More
Environmental Water: www.vewh.vic.gov.au
The Frogs Are Calling You: www.frogscalling.org
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