Getting froggy with it

Jessica Stingemore
Published 27 Feb 2020 
by Jessica Stingemore 
about  Charles Darwin Reserve  
Frogs gathered in large numbers to breed. Photo Jessica Stingemore.<br/> Frogs gathered in large numbers to breed. Photo Jessica Stingemore.
Ominous clouds as a thunderstorm brewed above us. Photo Jessica Stingemore.<br/> Ominous clouds as a thunderstorm brewed above us. Photo Jessica Stingemore.
Pools formed and filled with frogs. Photo Jessica Stingemore.<br/> Pools formed and filled with frogs. Photo Jessica Stingemore.

Whenever we’re driving back to Charles Darwin Reserve along the Great Northern Highway, it’s always a heart-warming sight to see Gunduwa (Mt Singleton) appear on the horizon. It tells us ‘we’re home safe’.

But on one occasion this February, on our trip home from Perth, the familiar monolith was missing from view — hidden behind a dark veil of ominous clouds that belonged to an even-darker thunderstorm brewing above.

We'd been in Perth for our monthly shopping and recycling drop-off trip, so the ute and trailer were both chock-full of items that we didn’t want to get wet. Luckily, we had just enough time to open the front gate, drive up the driveway, unpack our groceries, and park the trailer in the shed, before the skies opened up and emptied their beautiful wet, life-bringing buckets of rain.

And what a sight (and sound) it was!

There were high winds causing the trees and shrubs to swirl and dance like no-one was watching; hail smashing-down all around us in a bouncing golf ball frenzy; lightning dashing back-and-forth amongst the clouds like giant neural impulses across the brain; and rain, rain and even more glorious rain.

And once the rain stopped and the thunder had passed, a new noise entered the landscape — one that resembled the sound of a small hammer busily and repeatedly repairing a shoe. And in the background another sound — a distinctive long, low trill that could be heard from some distance away.

With our head-torches on, we ventured outside to the house dam, which at this stage was filling up with not just water, but also hundreds of protruding eyes and webbed feet — frogs!

And not just one species of frog but two — the Shoemaker Frog (Neobatrachus sutor) and the Wheatbelt Frog (N. kunapalari).

With numerous pools forming around the homestead and the main lake filling with water, over the past few days the male and female frogs of these two species have been gathering in large numbers to breed after the rain has brought them out of their burrows.

As with many arid-adapted frogs, breeding may be confined to just a few big rain events each year — so hopefully the much needed rain will not only reinvigorate the landscape, but also help produce future froggy generations.

Fun Fact: These two species of frogs are very difficult to separate on the basis of their appearance – with the Wheatbelt Frog classified as a new species in 1986 on the basis of its call and genetic makeup. You can see for yourself by downloading the free FRogID app to hear the calls for yourself.

Frogs gathered in large numbers to breed. Photo Jessica Stingemore.<br/> Frogs gathered in large numbers to breed. Photo Jessica Stingemore.
Ominous clouds as a thunderstorm brewed above us. Photo Jessica Stingemore.<br/> Ominous clouds as a thunderstorm brewed above us. Photo Jessica Stingemore.
Pools formed and filled with frogs. Photo Jessica Stingemore.<br/> Pools formed and filled with frogs. Photo Jessica Stingemore.