Northern spadefoot (Notaden melanoscaphus)
In December, during one of my weeks off from working in the Pilbara, I decided to fly home to Townsville. After a grueling red-eye flight from Perth, I arrived one Tuesday morning, whereupon Stewdawg picked me up and we began the 7 hour drive to Georgetown. Having managed no sleep on the flight over, I slept for most of the drive.
Why Georgetown? The area lies halfway between the Atherton Tablelands and the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland’s Gulf Plains bioregion, and it had just received quite a bit of rain from an ex-tropical cyclone. With rain comes frogs, and the area has several frog species that we had yet to see and photograph. And that’s why I flew across the entire country during my week off.
Anxiety set in as we approached our destination; there didn’t appear to be much standing water around. No water means a fat chance of finding calling frogs. Had we driven all that way for nothing? Thankfully not. There was just enough moisture for all four of our target species to be active; albeit, we had to drive further west, to the town of Croydon, to find most of them. And since most were not calling, we had to locate them by looking for eye-shine.
Here’s a map to give you a sense of location if you don’t know the areas I’m referring to.
Dahl’s aquatic frog (Litoria dahlii) was our first target. While we had both seen this species previously in the NT, the Queensland animals look fairly different. Plus they’re just cool—one of the Australia’s most aquatic frogs, and often active by day. These animals were found at a small dam, floating in the shallow water or sheltering between mud cracks.
Superb collared-frogs (Cyclorana brevipes) are a common and widespread species in Queensland. They belong to the water-holding frog group.
The northern spadefoot (Notaden melanoscaphus) occurs across the savannas of northern Australia, from the northern Kimberley of Western Australia east to Cape York Peninsula, with a threatened population near Townsville. I love this genus (who doesn’t?) and this was only the second time I had seen this species in the wild, and the first time in Queensland.
When threatened, the frogs inflate their body and lower their head, thus presenting their back, which is full of ‘goo’ producing glands (Notaden basically translates to gland-backed). The goo is very, very sticky, and presumably quite noxious.
The hidden-ear frog (Cyclorana cryptotis) was one of our primary targets. This is one of the smaller species in the genus Cyclorana and can be distinguished from its congeners by the lack of a distinct tympanum (ear drum). The species occurs across much of northern Australia, from Broome, Western Australia, east to Cape York Peninsula, Queensland.
Pallid rocketfrog (Litoria pallida) are another typical northern Australian frog, yet this was the first time I’ve photographed one. Hooray!
Another small member of the water-holding frog group, the small frog (Cyclorana manya) was our primary target. These are the smallest frogs in the genus, and are known only from Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf Plains in Queensland.
Stonemason toadlet (Uperoleia lithomoda), yet another frog typical of the northern Australian savannas.
Our final target was the buzzing treefrog (Litoria electrica), named such for their call, which has been described as sounding similar to a high voltage electric arc. This species occurs in the Gulf Country and Mitchell Grass Downs of Queensland. It’s very similar in appearance to Litoria rubella, but can be distinguished by its call and the presence of bands on the dorsum. We managed to locate a few in a flooded area near Croyden, along with many more Cyclorana manya.