How do I stay safe while FrogSpotting?
Counting frogs at night might seem a risky business but there are a few things you can do to make it a safe and fun experience for FrogSpotters of all ages.
- Always do your field work with somebody else and especially avoid working alone at night.
- Wear flat, sturdy footwear or gumboots, a long sleeved shirt and long pants. If you have one, wear a high visibility shirt.
- Dress according to the weather conditions. Take extra clothing for changes in the weather.
- During daylight hours protect yourself from the sun (hat, long-sleeve shirt and sunscreen).
- Please protect yourself from insects but IF YOU HAVE APPLIED INSECT REPELLENT DON’T TOUCH OR HANDLE FROGS.
- Let somebody know where you are going, what you are doing and what time you will be expected home.
- Carry a mobile phone with you and stay within mobile phone range wherever possible. Make sure you have relevant emergency numbers.
- Always keep an up-to-date first aid kit in the car with you.
- Take care of yourself and do not take unnecessary risks.
- Carry water with you.
- Avoid high risk weather conditions, such as potential flood events and extreme fire danger days.
- Limit your recording sites to areas within public land unless you have permission to survey on private land.
- Take a map of the area you are going to.
- When working at night carry a torch.
- Beware of snakes in long grass and near waterways and stomp to scare snakes away.
- Should snake bite occur seek medical attention immediately.
- Emergencies should be immediately reported to the authorities (police, fire, ambulance etc.) on 000.
How do I survey frogs?
By assisting with frog monitoring you can help us understand the health and distribution of our local frog species. Contributing is easy. Just go to a water body of your choice during the early evening, login to your FrogSpotter app and record the frogs calling for 3-5 minutes.
This five minute call recording time for all surveys allows us to have the most accurate estimate of the numbers and types of frogs at any specific place and time. Even if you hear no frogs calling it is still very important to make the recording for 5 minutes. If no frogs are calling, simply record "No" Frogs Calling’ in the 'Add Frogs' section of the FrogSpotter survey. Recording the absence of frogs is as useful as their presence because it gives us information on where frogs are not breeding and thus where conditions are not suitable at a particular point in time.
Details about the site, such as location, habitat type and quality, are also recorded with the FrogSpotter app.
Do some planning before your survey. Look at the weather forecast to see if the weather is likely to be calm and dry on the day you would like to survey. The optimum time to record frog calls is on a warm, still night just after or before it rains. Avoid heavy rain and breezes stronger than 20 km/h. Frogs are less likely to call in these conditions and capturing good quality recordings can be difficult. Try to avoid temperatures below 12°C. Even if the weather conditions look good during the day, check the Bureau of Meteorology website before heading out to see if the weather may change. http://www.bom.gov.au/sa/
Visit your selected site during the daytime so you can familiarise yourself with the terrain and to find the best place to take your recording before heading out at night. Please also take a photo of the site during the day with your FrogSpotter app so we can see how habitat condition affects the numbers and types of frogs calling. If you sight any frogs at your survey site, please take a photo with your FrogSpotter app to contribute additional information about the frogs that are there. Frogs can be hard to see but if you do see one, a photograph will help us identify a frog that may not be calling during a survey.
Please remember to take a torch with you when you go to collect your survey data. Turn the torch off as soon as you are settled and ready to start your survey. The frogs at your site will probably go quiet when the light is on and if you are moving around or making noise. So it is best if you sit or stand still for about five minutes before recording. Please don’t talk or whisper during the recording. Once the chorus of frogs starts up again, take your five minute recording.
Try and take your recording a few metres away from the waterway or wetland, as frogs that are very close can cause distortion to the recording and can make it difficult to hear other species or individuals. Most frogs will be calling from the water or vegetation near the water’s edge. Also try to find a location that doesn’t have loud background noises such as traffic or wind rustling through vegetation. If there is traffic nearby that could impact on the recording, put your back to the traffic and the recorder in front of you to block as much unwanted noise as possible.
With reference to the frog call resources provided in the FrogSpotter app, record all of the species you hear calling. Try to estimate how many frogs of each species are calling according to FrogSpotter’s abundance categories.
After you have completed your five minute recording, play it back to ensure that the recording is clear and without background noises that make it hard to verify the species calling. If the recording is not very good, you can delete it and take another one.
You don’t have to know the species of frogs that are calling during a survey. After you upload your surveys to “FrogSpotter Central” we will send them to a panel of experts for identification. This ensures a high level of quality control for species sightings. After the species and abundances in your recording have been verified, we will send you a brief report on which species of frogs you thought were present, which were actually calling and how many there were.
You will be able to see your survey data on the FrogWatch SA website as soon as you upload your survey session. Initially the frogs that you report were present during your survey will appear as unverified species at your survey site. You can also download survey data from the FrogWatch SA website for more detailed analysis. Species records from FrogWatch SA will be regularly forwarded to the Biological Database of South Australia and to the Atlas of Living Australia to ensure they are widely accessible. These databases are used to make decisions about the status of native animal populations including threatened species nominations.
We can learn much more about local frog populations if FrogSpotters 'adopt a site' that they regularly return to and collect frog survey data from. Most frog species breed in late winter and spring, but other species have quite different breeding periods. If you make recordings each month, or seasonally, it is a great way to experience how the environment changes through the year and how your frogs respond to those changes. It is also a very important contribution you can make to our understanding of how our local frog populations change over time.
What field hygiene practices should FrogSpotters be using?
One of the leading threats to amphibians globally is the spread of chytrid fungus. You can reduce the risk of spreading this and other potentially threatening organisms, especially if you are recording at more than one site, if you follow these recommendations:
- Stick to paths and avoid walking through mud if possible.
- Use a stiff brush to remove any soil that may be stuck to shoes or clothing.
- Use methylated spirits or bleach to disinfect shoes or contaminated clothing.
- After a few minutes you can rinse off the disinfectant.
- Wash down vehicles if there is mud on tyres before entering a site.
- Do not handle frogs. Some species are protected in SA and disturbing frogs may stress them as well as increase the risk of spreading disease between individuals.
Review our survey checklist below.
- Check weather conditions are optimal for recording – wind speed less than 20 km/h, not heavy rain, temperature above 12°C.
- Check that your recorder is working.
- Follow field hygiene recommendations and safety guidelines before visiting site.
- Wait 5 minutes after arrival before you record calls to allow frogs to become accustomed to your presence.
- Stand a few metres away from the water’s edge.
- If there is nearby traffic, put your back to the road and hold recorder in front of you.
- Begin your five minute recording.
- Fill in abundance index, species identified and any other relevant details.
What makes frogs so interesting?
Most Australian frogs require water to lay their eggs in and for the early stages of their lifecycle as tadpoles. The tadpole stages are very different to the adult frog. Tadpoles live entirely in water and eat a wide variety of foods such as vegetation, algae and small dead animals. They look quite different to frogs because, unlike frogs, tadpoles have gills for breathing in water, small rasping mouths, and tails that enable them to swim. The size and shape of the tadpole and its mouthparts have evolved to suit the habitats they depend upon. The length of the tadpole stage depends largely on water temperature and availability of food. The warmer the water, the faster the tadpole will turn into a frog. Some species of tadpoles in the arid regions of South Australia grow extremely quickly and can metamorphose in less than a month after hatching. This allows them to make use of ephemeral pools of water following infrequent, large rainfall in the drier parts of our state.
The metamorphosis of tadpole into frog is a dramatic change in form and lifestyle. As they grow legs, their gills start changing and just before metamorphosis they start coming to the surface to gulp air as they grow lungs that will replace their gills for supplying oxygen to their blood. The long, coiled intestine that was needed for their vegetarian diet shortens to suit the carnivorous diet of frogs. Finally their gills are lost, their rasping jaws and teeth are shed along with their tadpole skin. In addition, their newly rounded mouth widens, their tail is resorbed and a little frog hops onto land! Despite these huge physical and physiological changes, during the final stages of metamorphosis the tadpole does not eat.
Frogs are flesh-eating animals with insects, spiders and larger animals (including other frogs) their most common prey items. They catch their food with their sticky tongues. Frogs can take in water from their mouths but usually absorb it through their skin. They are mostly active at night and usually need to be close to free water when they are active on land. They remain in hiding when conditions are dry unless there is readily accessible water. They also tend to be inactive when temperatures are very cold.
Temperature, humidity and adequate free water determine if and when most species of frogs will breed. In the drier northern regions of South Australia, significant rainfall events trigger a rapid response in breeding. Frogs will emerge from their refuges (often underground burrows) and congregate to breed. Contrary to popular belief, it is the female that selects who she will breed with, not the male. This is why males of each species have a unique advertisement call – to tell the females where they are and that they are looking for a mate.
Why monitor frogs?
Frogs are well known for their sensitivity to pollution and habitat degradation. They live on land but usually need water to lay their eggs in and they need a healthy environment in which to complete their life cycle from egg to tadpole to adult frog. Most frogs are sensitive to polluted water because their eggs can absorb toxic materials that can kill embryos or lead to deformed offspring that don’t survive.
Frogs are easy to monitor because each species has its own distinct call. To listen to the calls of South Australian frogs, browse through the species on the website or in your FrogSpotter app and touch their photo to play their call!
From the surveys submitted by FrogSpotters, experts can accurately identify which frog species are calling at each location. This information provides insight into the health of our waterways based on the assumption that healthy habitats provide suitable conditions for diverse and abundant frog populations. Unhealthy or degraded habitats, on the other hand, are likely to support few or no frogs.
It is scientifically important to have surveys at the same locations over a long period of time. This helps track changes that might indicate a decline in habitat conditions and enable management action to be taken where possible. Frog mating activity and the success of breeding can change markedly with even slight variations in temperature and rainfall. For example, in wet years there may be more frogs breeding and a greater chance of offspring surviving to adulthood than in a dry year. It is, therefore, very important that sites are continually monitored to provide ongoing information about South Australia’s frogs. With more information collected over a number of years, and in different environmental conditions, we are better able to understand the status of our frogs.
FrogWatch SA surveys can lead to the discovery of new species and range extensions of known and threatened species. This was the case for the Brown Toadlet (Pseudophryne bibroni), which was recorded outside its known range in 2001 during the Environment Protection Authority’s Frog Census program.
FrogSpotter surveys can also help us detect incursions of disease and invasive species that can impact on our local native frogs. For example, there are concerns that Cane Toads might become established or that chytrid fungus may spread throughout our waterways.
And we are still describing new species in South Australia! So, with more eyes and ears across the state collecting data and contributing it to FrogWatch SA, you never know what we will discover.
What are the current threats to frogs in South Australia?
Frogs are in trouble throughout the world. This is one of the reasons the information provided by FrogSpotters is so important. All of the known threats to frogs in South Australia are associated with humans: climate change, habitat loss and degradation, inappropriate developments on flood plains and catchments, flood protection works such as draining swamps and re-channelling urban streams, storm water and drainage programs, invasive species, pollution, unsuitable management practices such as excessive stock grazing, and spraying and removing water-loving plants.
The most worrisome and hardest threat to manage has been referred to as the silent assassin, the chytrid fungus. It has been found in four regions of Australia, including Adelaide, and has been directly implicated in the extinction of four species of Australian frogs and the decline of 10 others. Other threats to frogs are thought to make some species more vulnerable to infection by the chytrid fungus. It is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 and a Threat Abatement Plan has been developed to guide its management.
What can be done to reduce threats and help frogs in South Australia?
Contribute information about frog populations with FrogSpotter: This is the best way we have to understand changes in the numbers of frogs across South Australia. You can also help by providing regular or opportunistic frog observations. Use the FrogSpotter mobile apps and the FrogWatch SA website to learn more about the frogs in your area so you can better understand them and detect changes. Local expertise is invaluable to informing land managers of emerging conservation problems.
Reduce the risks of spreading the chytrid fungus: Humans can contribute to the spread of the chytrid fungus but steps can be taken to reduce the risk (see hygiene protocols above):
- Don’t handle frogs or tadpoles in the wild.
- Clean footwear between visits to individual wetlands.
- Never transfer frogs or tadpoles from one site into another.
- Never release into the wild a frog or tadpole from a pet store or one that has been displaced, such as frogs found in produce boxes.
- If you purchase a frog or tadpole, do so only from a licensed supplier who is certified to be chytrid free.
- If you find a mass die off of frogs or tadpoles in the wild, record the location with a GPS and report it to your regional Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources office.
It is best not to handle frogs or tadpoles in the wild at all. This will help prevent their unintentional infection. Handle frogs only if it is absolutely necessary. It was previously recommended that single-use latex gloves be used to prevent the spread of chytrid fungus while handling frogs and tadpoles. However, more recent research has shown that handling tadpoles with latex, nitrile and vinyl gloves can lead to their death. If you must handle a native or displaced frog or tadpole, use washed, single-use latex gloves or a single use plastic bag and always disinfect your hands afterwards.
Contribute to wetland recovery programs: Contact your local government Natural Resource Centre, or regional Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources office, to find out if there are programs you can be involved with.
Create frog-friendly habitats: There are many rewards from creating wetland habitats in your back yard. You can attract and support healthy frog populations and it isn’t too hard to do. You can find a booklet in FrogWatch SA's learning resources with everything you need to know to create a pond that will attract frogs to your backyard.
How do FrogWatchSA and FrogSpotter help frogs in SA?
The information provided by FrogSpotters lets us know where frogs are present and also where there are no frogs in our waterways. The results let us know which species are common and which are rarely found. We also learn which parts of the State may need further work to improve the water quality or habitat condition.
Each year of FrogSpotting builds on what we know about where frogs occur and the habitats they live in. By comparing survey results from year to year we can also find out whether a species is becoming more or less common over time, which can help us work out if something needs to be done to protect and conserve our frog populations.
The information provided through FrogWatch SA also helps managers know when additional monitoring needs to be undertaken to better understand changes in specific frog populations or at specific locations or areas of the state.
How else can I participate as a FrogSpotter?
Contributing frog surveys to FrogWatch SA with the FrogSpotter apps is critical for managers of frog habitats. But there is more you can do.
Learn to identify frog calls and become an accredited frog call identifier:
Each species of frog has its own unique call. This makes it easy for experts to determine exactly who was calling during each survey. You too can become a frog expert! The FrogWatch SA website has a fun and interactive training program that anyone can use to learn the calls of South Australian frogs. All you have to do is select a region you are interested in, browse the frog species in the region and listen to their calls. You can build on your local knowledge with FrogWatch SA’s frog identification training program.
Once you are confident that you know the frogs in your region of interest, you can test your skills. If you can identify all of the frog calls provided in the test, you will become an Accredited Frog Call Identifier. This means you will be able to listen to recordings from your accreditation region and verify which species were calling during the survey. If you are too busy to verify recordings at a particular point in time, that is okay. You can always access recordings from the FrogWatch SA website and contribute your knowledge when it is more convenient.
Adopt a site:
There are certain parts of South Australia that we need to know more about. One important way is to undertake surveys throughout the year and to continue surveys at particular sites for many years.
The FrogWatch SA website will show you which sites need more surveys. Green sites have lots of information whereas red sites have not been visited very often. You can fill important knowledge gaps by adopting some of the sites that need more survey effort and returning to them regularly to collect survey data. You can also create a FrogSpotter group to help you fill information gaps.
Respond to frog alerts:
Another way to contribute as a FrogSpotter is to respond to FrogWatch SA ‘frog alerts’. The FrogWatch SA program and researchers will, over time, reveal parts of South Australia or certain species that we don’t have enough information about. Without such knowledge it is difficult to protect our frogs. FrogWatch SA stakeholders will send out ‘Frog Alerts’ to registered FrogSpotters as a call to arms when there are opportune times to fill critical information gaps. This may include significant rainfall events in our desert regions, which can be a rare opportunity to discover new breeding sites and new species of frogs in the remote parts of our state.
As a registered FrogSpotter you can always establish a FrogSpotter group and register new survey sites that you or your group can return to frequently. Such efforts can target some of our rarer or little known species.
Create frog-friendly habitats:
It isn’t that hard to build habitats for frogs in your backyard. This can help build up the numbers of frogs in your locality. Then you can use Frogspotter to record how your frog population grows over time. Have a look at the booklet on creating frog ponds in FrogWatch SA's learning resources.
What should I do if I find a “lost frog”?
Frogs can accidentally be imported into the South Australia through the transportation of fruit, vegetables, flowers and other agricultural materials. These frogs are usually tropical species that cannot survive in South Australia’s climate but they can’t be returned to their home state because of the risk of spreading disease.
Surveys of the people who find “lost frogs” have shown that the frogs are usually released into the area immediately surrounding the supermarket or grocery that has received the produce. This is not good practice because it can increase the spread of disease into South Australia. Releasing a “lost frog” is also a welfare issue for the frog concerned because it is unlikely to survive.
Never touch an unfamiliar-looking or injured frog because you might unintentionally contaminate it with chemicals on your skin or spread disease from it to local frogs. You can rescue it to an appropriate authority if you follow these guidelines:
- Pick the frog up with a clean, single-use plastic bag and place it in a clean container. The container should first be washed out with hot water. Don’t use detergents or other chemicals to clean the container as they are likely to poison the frog.
- Put a small amount of cooled, boiled water in the container with the frog to keep the frog moist. Add a few live crickets for the frog to eat.
- Cover the container with a lid that has holes in it so the frog can get fresh air.
- Never put one of these frogs in a tank with pet frogs as your “lost frog” might have a disease that will harm your pets.
If you find one of these “lost frogs”, please call the nearest regional Natural Resources office at the Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources for advice on where to take it. (Choose your region from this link. All regions have link to 'Find us' in the bottom righthand corner of their home page.)
If you can’t get the frog to an appropriate authority quickly, the Victorian Frog Group has developed guidelines for caring for these frogs for short and medium periods: http://frogs.org.au/vfg/features/lostfrogs.html
After you take the frog to your nearest Natural Resources Centre or regional office, clean and disinfect the container by wiping it down with bleach. Rinse it well to make sure there is no residue (you can check this by smelling for chlorine). Now you can use this cleaned container the next time you find a “lost frog”.