Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog

golden-green Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog amongst leaves
Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog

The Dry season isn’t the best for frogs but this Eastern Dwarf Tree Frog, Litoria fallax, seemed comfortable enough amongst the shady leaves of a tree on the edge of the Town Common. He was spotted by my companions on another of Wildlife Queensland’s monthly  field trips, one which introduced me to the boardwalk behind the Sustainability House in Rowes Bay. In the Wet, of course, the boardwalk passes over very swampy ground – ideal frog territory – but now it has all dried out.

According to frogs.org.au (the best online froggy information source I know of) the species grows to “less than 30mm” long; 25 – 30mm is common and about right for this one. Colours are somewhat variable but the whitish streak from eye to shoulder (very obvious in my photo) and the dark streak from eye to nose (less obvious) are normally present. Wikipedia confirms all this and adds that the species is very common along our Eastern coast from about Cairns to central NSW.

Frogs don’t often appear on Green Path, simply because so many of my subjects are drawn from my own suburban garden and we don’t have any permanent water. Making a frog pond is one of those nice ideas which has never quite become reality although there are plenty of sites online which give instructions, advice and encouragement – visit SGA, FNPW or BBY if you want to do it yourself.

Frogs and tropical plants at Mary Who?

cover of "Frogs of Queensland"A quick announcement: Mary Who? Bookshop, Flinders St, Townsville, is celebrating National Bookshop Day tomorrow, Saturday August 10th (apologies for the late notice) and these three Author Talks, all including Q&A, should be of interest to regular Green Path readers:

12pm – Yvonne Cunningham – Tropical Food Gardening
1.00 pm – Eric Vanderduys – Frogs of Queensland
2.00 pm – Keith Townsend – Plants of the Dry Tropics

The full programme apparently begins at 9.30 with a public “Read-in” and continues with children’s book events but they are not listed on the bookshop’s facebook page so you may have to contact the shop’s staff for details.

Green Tree Frog

close-up of large frog
Green Tree Frog

I don’t know how many frogs we have in our garden but we have seen this one a few times in the last week. He (she?) is a Green Tree Frog, Litoria caerulea, and is a very large member of the species. Wikipedia reckons they reach 10cm and he was at least that big – he is resting on large adult male hands here. I will measure him next time I see him.*

Yesterday I discovered him enjoying the cool water in the bottom of our old concrete laundry tub and hauled him out to take a photo on the way to a safer place. As I noted a while ago, they adapt their colour to their surroundings and this one had spent hours trying to look grey-brown. He didn’t manage to change as much as this virtuoso, however.

Handling frogs is not generally recommended because salt, oils and traces of other chemicals on our skin can be passed on to them and harm their health. Their damp, delicate skin is easily damaged by rough handling, too. Washing our hands in clean water and handling the frog immediately after – with our hands still wet, as seen below – is best for them.

Frog on hands
Another view of the same frog

* We measured him the same evening: 11.5 cm. Wikipedia is wrong!!

Frog fortress

We have quite a number of Green Tree Frogs, Litoria caerulea, in our garden but they don’t live where their name would suggest they live. The species has adapted very happily to suburban life and they sit every evening on windowsills outside lighted rooms, feasting on insects attracted to the lights; or they come indoors like this one; or they catch some warmth on the edge of the birdbath; and so on. Around this time of year they get pathetically optimistic about breeding opportunities (never mind that it hasn’t rained for months!) and call out in response to lawnmowers, dogs barking next door, motorbikes, aeroplanes and anything else that makes a baritone grawwrk!, so we know there’s one in the laundry tub drain pipe, too.

cement bricks with a glimpse of frog noseBut they can still surprise us.

A couple of days ago we spotted a shiny dark – something – in the cement-brick base of a garden seat. It turned out to be the nose of a frog, and he had a neighbour in the adjoining brick. The holes were barely wide enough for me to fit my thumb through and the frogs were well grown – even their noses looked too big to fit through the holes, let alone their bodies. There were no other ways in or out so we decided they must have got in there when younger and survived ever since on passing ants.

To the rescue!

lifting the top brick out of the way

the two frogs in their cells

close-up of one of the frogs

Green Tree Frogs? They certainly weren’t green, but we weren’t surprised since we know they change colour to match their surroundings. The darkest I have seen were in Reef HQ Aquarium; I showed one here with a more normal one for comparison.

They were also not keen to escape. In fact, we needed a hose and quite some time to persuade them to hop out. Then we patted ourselves on the back for our kindness towards dumb animals, put the seat back together and went on with the rest of our lives.

Next day we were out there again but when we looked at the bricks we had to laugh at ourselves and marvel at frogs’ ability to squeeze through tiny gaps: two dark shiny noses poked up out of their holes. So much for our rescue!

Green Tree Frogs – not always green

Reef HQ Aquarium has been building a rainforest display for the last few months and it has reached the stage at which animals are introduced. This one surprised me:

a very dark Green Tree Frog
Green – yes, really – Tree Frog, Litoria caerulea

The Green Tree Frog, Litoria caerulea, is very common around Townsville – indeed, all the wetter parts of Queensland – and it usually merits its common name. Here, for instance, is one in my garden:

Green Tree Frog
Green Tree Frog showing more normal colour

The Wikipedia article does say, ‘Its color depends on the temperature and colour of the environment, ranging from brown to green,’ and we often see examples with a dull olive-green coloration but the one in Reef HQ in a (so far) black and grey-brown setting is the most extreme I have seen.

More information: this page on frogs.org.au. The home page will take you to all sorts of useful or fun stuff about frogs.

What’s around – mid December

Brown Cicada on Frangipani trunk
Cicada, Brown Bunyip

In the last three weeks we have finally had some rain (see previous post for details) and the insects are responding. We have more …

  • Beetles – mostly 12mm long brown beetles, with a few green ‘Christmas beetles’, flying to the house lights at night. Some ladybird-size beetles in the shrubbery too, but no Elephant Beetles yet.
  • Dragonflies, in our garden again; at least 3 species.
  • Mud-dauber wasps and resin bees.
  • Orb-weaver spiders, after a long gap. The Austracantha aren’t back yet but the Silver Orb-weavers are.
  • Mantises – I have seen two hatchings (1) and (2).
  • Cicadas – I have seen three species so far: the Brown Bunyip at left, the one posted here almost a month ago and a green one I didn’t photograph.
Green frog
Small frog

We also have more …

  • Frogs, large and small. The one on this page is about half the length of my little finger, i.e. around the same size as the cicada.
  • Birds, lots of them and very noisy. Their idea of ‘morning’ is 5 a.m. which doesn’t go down very well with us, however much we like them at other times.

Still around:

  • The same butterflies (I guess we’re waiting for them to breed and pupate), a slightly greater number of moths, and a much greater number of mosquitoes (ouch!).
  • House spiders indoors and lynx and jumping spiders outdoors, though not so many flower spiders.

New Cape York frog species

small brown frogThe Townsville Bulletin today reported the discovery of two new species of frogs on Cape York. Their article begins:

A Townsville scientist was hopping up and down with excitement after stumbling upon two new species of frog in the Far North.

James Cook University researcher Dr Conrad Hoskin and Kieran Aland from the Queensland Museum discovered two boulder-dwelling amphibians while exploring a remote part of Cape York Peninsula.

small brown frogThe tiny thumb-sized frogs have been named the kutini boulder frog and the golden-capped boulder frog.

They were found in two different areas in the vicinity of Iron Range near the township of Lockhart River, north of Cooktown.


The whole article is here but if you prefer something a little more formal you might like to go straight to the JCU press release it is based on.

The discovery should remind us how little we still know about the living world around us. We have been systematically naming and classifying creatures for nearly two hundred years but are still finding new animals, even quite large ones  (e.g. the Saola), in remote areas and we are not even close to knowing all the insects around us. For instance, the introduction to CSIRO’s Australian Moths Online notes that, ‘There are about 22 000 species of Australian moths, of which only half have been described [i.e. scientifically identified] so far.’