Green and gold frogs that is. In the bathtub near the small greenhouse-cum-potting shed that’s been a haven for green and golds for several years, and is also a water source for thirsty birds when they don’t fancy drinking or preening their feathers in the bird bath.
The latest wildlife rescue was a large frog who’d gone exploring in the raspberry patch, and then couldn’t work out how to negotiate the netting to extricate herself. We’re sure it’s a ‘she’ because of her size. Female GGs are bigger than the males. Rescue accomplished the obvious solution was to plonk her in the bathtub to join the two frogs already there. At least we think they’re both still there but days can go by when we don’t see them so it’s hard to be certain. Then just as we’ve decided they must have hopped off to pastures new, suddenly there they are, basking on the side of the tub, or hanging onto the wire netting that covers some of the tub, while enjoying the view. Neither of them seem too fazed when we walk past now so assume they’re got used to us and realise we pose no threat. Hopefully they’ll also get along with ‘big mamma’.
Heartening though it is to have seen and heard some GGs this summer, and been able to rescue a couple of them, we’ve not seen as many as usual. Not even squashed ones on the road – roadkill victims when they’ve been out partying in the rain.
It would be easy to lay the blame at the door of development for the apparent loss of these frogs given so much former farmland in the area has been sold for residential housing. It’s known that disease can all too readily be introduced through heavy vehicle movements, and on the soles of boots, and the amphibian fungus disease known as chytrid is still very much a concern around the world.
We’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope our ancient bathtub is providing a sanctuary for at least three green and golds, and they’ll choose to overwinter there, ready for breeding again come the spring.
I’ve come across some strange finds over the years when dog walking each morning. There are the typical, if depressing, bottles, cans, cigarette butts, food wrappers etc, and for which I’ve ensured there’s always a bag in my pocket so these offensive items can be removed, and dumped into the relevant disposal bin at home. But sitting in the middle of the road one day last week was a bright green juvenile green and gold frog. Bizarre.
Given the absence of any obvious suitable water habitat close by, how this frog came to be there will forever remain a mystery. His (or her) life was destined to be extremely short though if he remained on the road, so I picked him up and carried him home. Froggy didn’t even try to resist so maybe he was already regretting the adventure that had led him to this spot.
Green and golds are not uncommon in our area, despite being now extremely rare in most parts of the state. To the point where they are now a listed species. Until the campaign to stop failed timber company Gunns Ltd building its pulp mill, most people in the area were unaware the green and golds that happily hopped around their properties and basked in the sunshine, were in fact a threatened species. Such is the depressing lack of knowledge about our vulnerable wildlife among so many Tasmanians, or concern and care by successive governments.
Several years ago I’d researched green and golds for an article so I knew about their vulnerable status, and we’d got excited one summer a couple of years ago when we counted up to 12 of these frogs living in an old bathtub we keep topped up with water for birds and various visiting wildlife to drink from. By last summer though they had dispersed, as they do, not to be seen again until their growling mating calls are heard in spring. Disappointingly though there was no sign of frog life in our bathtub last summer, and there’d been none this year either thus far.
So young GG was on his own when I popped him into his new and rather murky watery home, unsure if he would stay, or even if he was actually healthy. At least I thought he was on his own.
He kept very much to himself, and if we did happen to spot him basking on the edge he quickly dived in before we got too close. We noticed his colour was darkening though. Perhaps that was something to do with the water . . . ? Then a few days ago we noticed there were two green and golds sunning themselves on the edge. One was significantly larger. Had it been there all winter unbeknownst to us? Or was it a recent arrival?
So now there are two, and while the juvenile is still rather timid, the older one is quite laid back and sits on the side quite unconcerned when we walk past. Hopefully their tenancy will last the summer, but after that who knows? Where these frogs go during the cooler autumn and winter months still remains something of a mystery so far as I’m aware. We’re just enjoying having them visit.
Green and gold frogs that is, and who continue to call the sunken bath tub beside the little garden potting shed, home.
Actually our whole back garden seems to be something of a frog nursery, and although the green and golds rule, we’ve also spotted tiny tree frogs amongst the raspberries and grape vine, and for a few days at least one banjo frog was bunking down with his green and gold cousins.
Unless there are way more frogs on the property than are living in the bath tub though, some of the green and golds are getting adventurous and ranging further afield. On more than one occasion I’ve surprised them while picking strawberries or raspberries, while in the last couple of days we’ve noticed one who clearly prefers his own company. He or she has taken up residence in a regularly-watered plant pot by the back door.
Given the record-breaking temperatures that have characterised January this year, and with more hot weather forecast, frogs must be having a hard time keeping cool. The long dry spell means several smaller dams are also probably drying up, so reliable waterholes like our bath tub must represent premium real estate for frogs. They aren’t stupid. They know the garden areas that are watered regularly, and which plants are the best ones to seek shelter so it’s no surprise the bath tub has become a cool and welcome sanctuary. And now we know it has so many amphibian residents we naturally make sure it’s topped up every day.
With so much of Tasmania currently on fire, and so many of our wildlife displaced and suffering as a result, it’s lovely to think our garden is an oasis for at least one species, and a few individuals who’ve chosen to stick around longer than we remember them ever doing before. While some still dive into the tub when we walk past, others have become increasingly unconcerned by our presence and just continue to bask contentedly in the sunshine.
Now we have two (at least) green and gold frogs in the sunken bath tub. Although both are a similar size neither is the bright green of a mature frog, so we’re assuming they’ve still a bit of growing up to do. One of them especially was quite timid to begin with when it saw us approaching, hopping off the rim into the safety of the water, but they both now seem to have realised we pose no threat, and are content to sit and bask while watching us, the chooks, the garden, and Della the dog until the heat becomes too much for them.
A bit of research has also shown the bath tub could well be a nursery to more green and golds than just these two since it’s a species that takes longer than some to develop from tadpole to frog. Green and golds can stick around the bottom of ponds, dams – or our bath tub – for around 12 months while they slowly mature, so we could well have a few more lurking at the bottom and not quite ready to face the world.
Time will tell, but hoping these two will decide to stick around while they grow into the bright green of a fully mature frog, and maybe pass the time of day on a pumpkin or two, like these two in the photograph.
We’ve always had frogs on the property, both where we are now, and at our previous place a few kilometres away. Initially though we didn’t realise the large green frogs that we regularly spotted basking in the spring and summer sunshine were becoming increasingly rare. The first inkling these frogs weren’t commonly seen was when our vet – who had something of a thing about reptiles and amphibians – showed great excitement when we casually mentioned this bizarre (to us) sunbathing habit during the course of our then-dog’s annual health check.
Paul’s eyes lit up and he immediately asked if he could come down and frog hunt on our property one weekend. Naturally we agreed, rather intrigued that he thought we were home to a creature clearly rather special.
While we learned from Paul that green and gold frogs (Litoris raniformis) were quite rare, it was several years later, and during the pulp mill campaign, that I learned the species was listed nationally as ‘vulnerable’ due to rapidly declining numbers. The cause was a likely combination of habitat loss, and the fatal chytrid fungus disease that has decimated frog populations globally. It seems our East Tamar community is home to a reasonably large and healthy population of green and golds – a status that proved of significant environmental importance in stopping the pulp mill. As one of several listed wildlife species whose habitat would be destroyed or disturbed by the pulp mill, pressure to up the ante to ensure the frogs’ protection provided another environmental complication for Gunns Limited during the long years of the fight to stop it.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot more about green and golds, one of three frog species found in this area. Their growling call can be heard throughout spring and summer and although like all frogs they need to be near water, it was exciting to learn we had a long-term resident last year who decided to make its home in an old bath tub filled with rain water that is adjacent to the small potting shed.
We’d inherited this trough when we bought the house, and as it’s partially covered with a wide-spaced wire mesh then possibly several generations of green and golds have called it home over the years. Last year’s tenant hopped off at some point during autumn, but a week or so back we noticed a new one has moved in.
Hopefully he – or she – will decided to hang around for a while.