Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/audio)

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chrish
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Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/audio)

Post by chrish » September 22nd, 2015, 8:53 pm

I was reading a few recent posts and it occurred to me that I never posted my last trip post(s), so here goes. There will be one on Frogs, one on Reptiles and one on Birds (on the birding forum) from my not-so-recent (Dec/Jan) trip to tropical NE Queensland.

So I usually end up visiting my parents in New Zealand over the Xmas holidays. That may sound cool, but in spite of having some cool herps, I have only seen 1-2 species of native NZ herp in 10 years worth of trips. So I was delighted when my parents suggested that we spend the holidays in NE Queensland in the Port Douglas area instead. Sure, it would cost me a lot more money, but I never turn down a chance to herp in the land of my birth.

I planned the trip to arrive a few days before them so as to get some uninterrupted herping time in before my familial obligations started. I was thinking about a long trip somewhere, but decided instead to just head inland over the coastal range to the slightly drier areas around Mareebra. I had driven through this area on a previous trip to Chillagoe and always thought it looked like it deserved more attention. After my parents showed up, I would focus on herping around Port Douglas and up into the rainforests around there as time allowed.

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My goals for this trip were simple. I wanted to:

1. See a python. I have been to Australia many times. I lived there for 7 years and have made a few trips back over the years and I have NEVER seen a stinkin' python of any sort. It boggles the mind how I could fail to do that.

2. Records some Australian frog species. I had seen a few Australian frog species in the past, but this trip I wanted to get recordings of their calls and some photos. Bring on the rain!

3. Get 32 new birds, including a Cassowary. I had missed Cassowary before on trips to this area, and my birding lifelist was stuck at 1968. I wanted to get over the 2K hurdle.

Here are the results:

We start with the anurans. I didn't see the number of species I expected, but I was able to get recordings of most of the species I saw (and a few I didn't see), so I was happy.

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I guess we need to get to the elephant in the room to start - the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina). This species is unfortunately abundant in northern Queensland.

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What I find most troubling about the Cane Toad issue in Oz is not that they are abundant in disturbed areas, like cane fields and gardens, but that you can find them out in the "wild" areas as well.

I stopped at this area one evening that was miles from the nearest town -

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and walked through the woodland peering into and under stuff while I waited for the sun to go down. I found a nice hollow log that would certainly house a python, or goanna, or neat marsupial, or.....but when I peered in, I was disgusted to see this - a frickin' Cane Toad out in the middle of nowhere.

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I guess the only positive thing about this many Cane Toads is that I finally got a decent recording of one calling -



Unfortunately, their calls were apparently being answered. These Rhinella tadpoles were found in a stream of native bush well away from any cane fields or habitation -

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I did have to thank one Rhinella for his help one night. I spotted one hopping across the road and stopped to get a photo for Herpmapper and he hopped over to point out a previously unnoticed DOR Green Treesnake (Dendrelaphis punctulata)

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So, now that I have that horrible beast accounted for, let's look at some cooler frogs.

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To the northern herper venturing into Australian frogs for the first time, what immediately strikes you is "How can all these different looking frogs be in the same genus Litoria????" There are Litoria that look like typical treefrogs, and some that look more like chorus frogs, some look just like typical Ranids, and then some that look a bit like spadefoot toads, and then there are the ones that look more like horned frogs (Ceratophrys). It is a very strange genus that has been split into several genera then recombined. Who knows where they will end up. But if you find a frog in Australia, most of the time you can guess Litoria sp. and be right it seems.

Of the "Rana-like" Litoria, one of the most conspicuous and seemingly abundant frogs in NE QLD is the Australian Rocket Frog (Litoria nasuta). I saw and heard these things everywhere I went.

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I found these frogs abundant in a variety of habitats from swamps in the dry "outback" to rainforest clearings to flooded sugar cane fields.

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Their calls confused me at first. They do have a conspicuous "pock, pock" sort of plucked call -



along with a nasal "quacking" which reminded me of a Squirrel Treefrog (Hyla squirella) -



If you don't know they are both the same species (which I didn't), when you hear a chorus it would be easy to assume there are two species calling together. I looked at several choruses searching for the second species, until I saw a frog make both calls sequentially. Here's a chorus of both calls -



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Some other similar species I encountered were the Northern Stony Creek Frog (Litoria junguy) -

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and the beautiful Tawny Rocket Frog (Litoria infrafrenata) -

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I never did manage to capture either of those species calling.

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Another widespread species that I saw and heard in a variety of habitats was the Australian Marbled Frog (Limnodynastes convexiusculus) (not a Litoria!!...at the moment) -

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When I first heard their hollow metallic "ponk", I tried searching for them to see which species was making the call. I searched and searched and got down to where the frog MUST be....but nothing. Finally I just grabbed a handful of grasses and mud where I knew the frog was and exposed one. They were calling from underneath matted grasses completely out of sight. It took me a good ten minutes of searching on my hands and knees to find this guy -

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Here's what he was saying -



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Back in the genus Litoria, there is a weird little species I came across, the Bumpy Rocket Frog (Litoria inermis). This "overgrown Acris-like" frog was calling near a chorus of other species, but it was calling from a region of bare dirt about 20 feet from the edge of the pond. I listened for a while to see if it was going to approach the pond, but the whole time I was in that area it stayed in the same spot.

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and here is his little "meowp, meowp" call -



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Here's the only "Cyclorana" type Litoria I saw this trip. It wasn't calling, it was just sitting on the road next to a marsh full of calling frogs.

Eastern Snapping Frog (Litoria novaehollandiae)

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The other frogs I saw and recorded were all "treefrog-like" Litoria. To any northern herper visiting Australia, these frogs would immediately be recognizable as hylids even if the other members of the genus weren't.

I guess the poster child for Australian frogs would have to be the Whites Treefrog (Litoria caerulea). This species is widespread in the northeastern 2/3 of Australia and seems to occur in just about any habitats including around homes and gardens. I have seen a lot of them on roads after rains.

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Even though they are huge treefrogs that are bright green some of the time, when they are calling they can be hard to find. It took me a good 15 minutes of searching to find this big fellow in some bushes above a flooded roadside ditch -

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Here's his "barking" call -



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But in the tropical NE part of Queensland, the big White's Treefrog has an even bigger and more spectacular cousin, the Australian Giant (White-lipped) Treefrog (Litoria infrafrenata) -

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These are massive, spectacular treefrogs and one of my favorites. They also seem to live almost anywhere. I found them in towns, in sugar cane fields, along creeks in the "bush". There were even a pair living on our patio of the house we rented in the light switch box.

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The call of this species is as large as the frog. It is a loud double knocking call -

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The two-part percussive nature of this call in a chorus reminded me of a crew of roofers or carpenters using pneumatic nail guns in the distance. It really carried a tremendous distance.



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Some of the other "treefrog" Litoria were a little less colorful.

The Desert Treefrog (Litoria rubella) is found in deserts but also in the eastern wetter parts of the country. It is a funny shaped dumpy little frog.

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This species has a very dry raspy call that reminds me of an insect more than a frog -



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Another drab treefrog species which very quickly became a favorite of mine is the Northern Laughing Treefrog (Litoria rothii).

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While this frog is rather plainly colored with brown and gray mottling, its call is really interesting. The name Laughing Treefrog is really apropos.



Embarrasingly, I first discovered this species quite by accident. I stopped at a wildlife refuge to look at some birds while I waited for the sun to set to go road hunting. I was probably in the bird blind at this refuge for at least an hour scoping out ducks and shorebirds. As the sun started to set, I was suddenly startled by this very loud sound coming from inside the blind with me -



I turned around a looked up at the rafters of the blind and saw that there were almost two dozen of these treefrogs clinging to the rafters above my head and I had never noticed them! :oops:

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Another accidental frog find was an interesting but drab little "treefrog" I found as I drove over a bridge crossing a wooded river in the middle of some sugar cane fields. I had the window down and I heard a large chorus of frogs which I didn't recognize. I pulled over and walked down the river and found dozens of these little Common Mist Frogs (Litoria rheocola).

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This is normally a frog of rainforest streams, but this group had followed a sliver of remaining rainforest down out of the mountains and into the sugar cane area. They were all over the rocks in the stream and on streamside vegetation. They were common enough on the rocks that I didn't even notice that one photobombed his buddy in this shot -

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Their call is a rather dry buzzy trill. It reminded me of the call of Pseudacris clarkii here in the US. -



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There were a few smaller "pretty" treefrogs as well. Interestingly, there seemed to be a negative correlation between the attractiveness of the call and the attractiveness of the frogs. The prettier the frog, the uglier the call.

One species I had seen, but never heard before was the Dainty Green Treefrog (Litoria gracilenta).

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I never did get a great photo of one, but at least I did better this time than a few years ago when I was trying to photograph my lifer L. gracilenta. I leaned over it and..... :x

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As pretty as L gracilenta is, I was somewhat dissappointed that it had such an unappealing call -



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Speaking of unappealing calls, one night I was driving home across the coastal mountains through rainforest when I stopped to record a bizarre chorus of what I guessed were frogs? I wasn't sure they were frogs. I thought the could have been birds....but it was dark and they were down low and calling in a group???



I scratched my head and moved on, not being able to climb down the steep wet hillside to where they were calling.

A few days later in a different area, I found one of my target frogs for the trip, the Orange-eyed Treefrog (Litoria xanthomera). I had wanted to find one of these gorgeous frogs since I first saw them in the field guide.

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I was shocked after I got home and researched this species call to find out that horrible sound I had recorded days before was this pretty frog.

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The other Litoria species I saw were a couple of very small "chorus-frog" like species. Not only were they small like the southeastern Chorus Frogs, but they had similar rasping trill type calls.

One (?) species that I heard a lot of was the Eastern Sedge Frog (Litoria fallax). They were common anywhere there was emergent vegetation including ornamental ponds in the condos we were staying in.

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The other common name for this species is Eastern Dwarf Treefrog and it is fitting since these are tiny little frogs, barely over 20mm long as adult males. I found them all over in a variety of habitats and on roads.

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Their call is a raspy upward "fingernail over comb" type trill -



The reason I have the question mark next to the "one" species above is that there is a second species of Sedge Frog, the Northern Sedge Frog (Litoria bicolor) which overlaps in range in this area. Both species are variable and overlapping in appearance. And although I read that their calls are "diagnostic" the few recordings I have heard don't sound different to me! I recorded dozens of these little sedge frogs and saw many more so I suspect I saw L bicolor somewhere along they way....but I couldn't tell you where or when.

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Another species of tiny frog I really wanted to find was the even tinier Javelin Frog (Litoria microbelos). I heard them calling from clumps of grasses a couple of places but could never find the tiny singers. Finally I spotted this amplectant pair in a small flooded roadside ditch -

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These tiny frogs are even smaller than the Sedge Frogs. I finally managed to track down a calling male after careful searching through some emergent grasses -

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Their high pitched raspy call seems fitting for this tiny size -



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There were a couple of other species of frog I managed to photograph but not record, including the Green-eyed Treefrog (Litoria serrata). At least, I think that's what this species was. This was the juvenile pattern which seems to mimic bird droppings?

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I also found a few Striped Marsh Frogs (Limnodynastes peronii) AOR in the middle of the Daintree rainforest. I may have recorded them calling as well, but I need to go back through my recordings again.

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Conversely, there were a couple of species I managed to record but not photograph.

I heard a large number of these Desert Froglets (Crinia deserticola) calling from a grassy marsh I couldn't access -



and I recorded two species of Microhylid in the rainforest at night. I got within a foot of a couple of these frogs and could never find any of them!! :x

Australian Rain Frog (Austrochaperina pluvialis)



and Daintree Whistling Frog (Austrochaperina fryi)



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So, if you are still with me, those were my frogs findings from my trip. I was very happy to get recordings of 16 species of frogs and photograph about the same number. I figure about about 12 lifer frogs.

And, of course, I did stumble across a few reptiles while I was out and about........but that will have to wait for another post!

Chris

speedy
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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by speedy » September 23rd, 2015, 2:58 am

Well done Chris. You have found a few that I am yet to find. Very nice recordings as well.

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 23rd, 2015, 3:34 am

Excellent idea, the recordings! Thanks!

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by simus343 » September 23rd, 2015, 6:12 am

Very nice array of frogs! When I was in Australia all I ever got to see were the Litoria aurea. While pretty frogs for sure, I only ever found one pocket of them under 2 fallen logs. Then also the damn Cane Toads during a week trip to Gove, NT. Other than the one grouping of Litoria aurea and the week trip of Cane Toads, I never saw one frog in Australia though. Too far south I reckon (A.C.T.)

I've noticed similar behaviors to the frog that was calling from under the leaves in Gastrophryne carolinensis here in Fla. It took me a while to learn that they are not "floaters" like many other anurans that I am use to. Then with the frog 20m away from the water, I see Hylids do that all the time. The male will engage amplexus with the female up in the top of a tree or bush, and then the female will drag him down the tree and sometimes upwards of 30m to the nearest body of water.

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by krisbell » September 23rd, 2015, 11:34 am

Great post - really cool that you also include their calls. I have seen all these species but never before taken the trouble to put a call to the frog so many thanks for sharing.

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by NACairns » September 23rd, 2015, 5:41 pm

Great post one of my favourites for sure. Great photography and to have the calls as well is outstanding. What are you using for your recordings?
Thanks for sharing.
Best,
Nick

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by chrish » September 24th, 2015, 6:16 am

Thanks everyone. Glad you enjoyed it.

simus343 - frogs in Australia are tough to find at times. My first "herping" trip to OZ, I drove from Sydney down to the Snowy Mts and back on a big circuitous loop. We saw no rain, and no frogs the whole trip. My next trip I drove out from Sydney to Tibooburra and back and it rained heavily and frogs were everywhere. The two trips I have made in QLD were both very "froggy" because of the rains.
NACairns wrote:What are you using for your recordings?
For these recordings I used a couple of things. I used an Olympus LS-11 handheld recorder with its onboard mics for some of them. But for others I used a Tascam DR100 mark II recorder with a shotgun microphone (Sennheiser ME66).

You can get decent recordings without a microphone with a good recorder as long as you can get close enough to filter out extraneous noise. If there is more ambient noise or the frogs/chorus are more than 10-15 feet away, I prefer a shotgun mic.

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by Fieldnotes » September 24th, 2015, 2:38 pm

Frog calls together with pictures... incredibly cool. I feel i'm looking at the future of frog posts, including sound.

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by chrish » September 25th, 2015, 7:32 pm

Fieldnotes wrote:Frog calls together with pictures... incredibly cool. I feel i'm looking at the future of frog posts, including sound.
It is already a well established trend! ;)

http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=21261
http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... 1&p=237926

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by Berkeley Boone » October 12th, 2015, 6:12 pm

Oh man, Chris, that was cool!

I loved the Laughing treefrog! Very aptly named.

I am a little disappointed I didn't get to see any of the anurans when we were over there. You got some great pictures of them all. Nicely done!

So, did you find a cassowary (+ 31 other sp) and hit your 2K mark?....
--Berkeley

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by chrish » October 12th, 2015, 6:59 pm

Berkeley Boone wrote:So, did you find a cassowary (+ 31 other sp) and hit your 2K mark?....
--Berkeley
I can't give away all the details ;) ...you have to wait for me to put together a bird forum post?

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Re: Queensland over Xmas...yes, 9 months late - Frogs (w/aud

Post by John Williams » October 13th, 2015, 5:38 pm

Great post. You really have the frog recording down and it is much appreciated. Thanks.

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