While this is not exactly the famous kingfisher shot that many nature photographers crave, it might be the best I ever get!
This Sacred Kingfisher has been coming in to a nice perch above a small bush dam on South German Track … a perfect vantage point from which to spy a frog for its nestlings. The images below are in sequence … moments after I took the first shot the kingfisher swallowed the frog and then plunged in after another.
While I’m pretty confident on the bird ID I’d be happy for any suggestions specific to the unlucky amphibian!
Sacred Kingfisher with amphibian prey, South German Track, 2nd January 2020
Sometimes in my native nursery at Newstead the plants provide habitat before they even leave the greenhouse! This morning I found a 4cm long, smooth frog. Looking in Chris Tzaros’ ‘Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country’ I think it is Southern Brown Tree Frog, but am happy to be corrected. The inner thighs are orangey in colour and eyes have slits not a crosses. I am more certain of the plant id: Montia australasica (White Purslane).
No, I’m not referring to some of our more jovial community members, I’m actually talking here about Litoria peronii, or Peron’s tree frog, colloquially known as the maniacal cackling frog, for reasons obvious to anyone who’s familiar with their call.
Heard on warm spring and summer nights, cacklers are distinctive and, well, yes, a bit maniacal. Although Geoff has written about them being in the area, in seventeen years of living in the bush at Strangways, I’ve never heard a single one. Not a cackle. Until this spring, when unexpectedly, I heard not one but several chortling away by our dam.
Frog movements are perplexing. Where have they come from? Chris Johnston has had them at Green Gully only in the last five years, and I don’t remember them at all when I used to live over that way. So where have they appeared from? Are they gradually dispersing westwards? Is this a regular fluctuation in response to climatic conditions, or a unique population drift?
If you’ve heard cacklers locally, I’d be curious to know. Maybe they’re far more common than I’d thought.
And to help you identify them, here is a recording of our new riotous residents on our Strangways dam. You can hear the cackler almost immediately, and a second one takes over calling after a few minutes. This was recorded during spring, and you can also hear pobblebonks (Limnodynastes dumerilii), brown tree frogs (Litoria ewingii) (“weep-eep-eep-eep”, one quietly and occasionally in the background) and a chorus of brown froglets (crinia parinsignifera) (“squelch”ing calls, one quite close at beginning).
I rushed to make this recording the first night I heard them, being enthusiastically attacked by mosquitoes in the process (remember them?!). I needn’t have bothered. Our cacklers are still calling now in January, when most other frog species have fallen silent.
Peron’s Tree FrogLitoria peronii, variously known as the Emerald-spotted Tree Frog, the Emerald-speckled Tree Frog, the Laughing Tree Frog, or my favourite, the Maniacal Cackle Frog, is on the edge of its range in Newstead. This one has been residing for some time in a ‘nice patch of habitat’ – in and around a lemon tree on the edge of town.
Peron’s Tree Frog, Newstead, 24th February 2016
Peron’s Tree Frogs are found over much of south-eastern Australia, with the Murray Darling Basin a stronghold. They come in a variety of colours and can in fact change colour rapidly in response to a change in surroundings. This one is quite pale , with distinctive emerald-green spots over the back and legs. The call is unmistakable once you’ve heard it – a high-pitched hysterical cackling sound, hence it’s oft used common name. What a delight to have it here in Newstead – I’d be keen to hear about other local observations.
With my eyes tending to gaze skyward, frogs are a rare occurrence on the Natural Newstead blog. Not so in our local landscape, where a delightfully wet winter and early spring has triggered a wonderful amphibian chorus. One of the most common local stars is the Pobblebonk, or Eastern Banjo FrogLimnodynastes dumerili.
Pobblebonk, Spring Hill Track, 18th September 2013.
I found this handsome specimen in an unfortunate spot, under a pile of dumped building materials, beside Spring Hill Track.
Back in January, a pair of Maniacal Cackle FrogsLitoria peronii took a shine to each other in my pond (read night hunting) and now the results of their union are emerging.
Hiding under a floating marshwort leaf, a dark metamorph peaks out. Seen earlier, it’s well on the way to frog-hood but still has a long tail as well as legs. Not sure what kind of frog this will turn into?
And then the distinctive cross-shaped pupil of the Peron’ Tree Frog: in a metamorph clinging to the side of the pond, still with a part of its tail and a face no mother could love.
Peron’s Tree Frog – metamorph
Peron’s Tree Frog – small but perfect in every way
Out hunting tonight – at first trying to take a snap of bats emerging from the edge of my bedroom window frame – they are noisily roosting there. But they were too quick for my camera. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of the Maniacal Cackle Frog (Litoria peronii) coming from the direction of my pond. After days of heat, how could a new frog have got there? The last one – a large specimen – disappeared several weeks ago – see post.
Torch in one hand, camera in the other I spotted a frog clinging to the stem of a water plant – definitely the right frog but not where the call came from. Finally the calling frog was located, on the timber deck next to the pond. Both were about 50-55mm long. The cross-shaped pupil is distinctive, along with the emerald green spots on its body – and of course its call.
First frog – clinging to a taro stem
Second frog calling
Checking back a little later, the frogs had found each other. Looks like I’ll have some new tadpoles soon.
And while hanging around the pond I snapped two swimming spiders – a small one out on the open water – see if you can spot the mudeye (dragonfly nymph) too – and this rather large one ‘fishing’ from the side of a pot on the edge of the pond.
Life in my pond is ever changing. A visit from a White-faced Heron seems to have dealt with the large maniacal cackler (Peron’s Tree Frog) previously reported – and the newly emerged bunch of Southern Brown Tree Frogs too. Here’s snap of one of the youngsters before …
Southern Brown Tree Frog youngster
A swimming spider has appeared recently – looking gloriously fresh, with his/her cast off ‘coat’ floating nearby. This one doesn’t have an egg case – but I’ve seen them before grab their egg case and dive under with it.
Swimming spider poised on the surface
But having over-wintered with lots of pond snails – there are now none – where did they go? And no tadpoles to munch the algae – so the walls are looking a little green. No mozzie wrigglers yet so I think the water scorpion must still be active – have a look at Will’s water scorpion and related postings here.
Warm night. Frogs calling. Dull rubble of thunder to the south. Lightning flashing far away.
In my pool turned pond, the tadpoles are getting fat. First season for the pond. Nervously I wait to see what they will become. Not maniacal cacklers … fingers crossed.
Tonight, a frog is calling from the pond. Loud, resonant, cackling. The sound of a Peron’s Tree Frog – a far nicer name than Maniacal Cackle Frog. Its other names are lovely too – Emerald Spotted Tree Frog, Laughing Tree Frog.
Out with the torch – tadpoles about to be frogs hang at the edge of the water – in transition.
Then a tiny frog hanging from a stem. Couldn’t have such a loud voice surely – it’s only the length of half my little finger.
It calls again, answering the frogs in the dam. Out with the torch and there it is – emerald spots and that characteristic ‘cross-shaped’ pupil. And that small frog, and those tadpoles about to become frogs … are they all cacklers? Could be a noisy few months!