Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Froggy- Would - a - Wooing - Go

When I designed and built my first water feature (pictured in my Blog header above) two years ago, I was hoping to attract birds to the garden. Well I’ve been amply rewarded. On any given day during the season, I can expect to see one or more of Cape Whiteyes, White- browed Sparrow-Weavers, Cape Robins, Red-eyed Bulbuls, Wattled- , Red-winged-, Pied- and Common starlings; Karoo and Olive Thrushes, doves and pigeons as well as a pair of resident Hadeda Ibis (Hadedas) and even once, a Hamerkop in the pond.

What I didn’t expect was the added bonus of tadpoles which subsequently turned into frogs. (The metamorphosis can take up to a year to complete). As the summer weeks blended into months, I’d lie in bed and hear the frogs croaking through the open window. If I walked towards the pond in the dark, (OK, so once I got up out of bed and went outside to check up on them!), I’d hear the plop-plop as these shy amphibians sought refuge from the approaching danger. However, last week during the day, I noticed the frogs actually sunning themselves on the rocks below the waterfall and in the middle of the pond. Over the weekend my husband and I watched them from the sun porch using my birding binoculars.

As I mentioned in a previous post, (which you can read about here) when hubby’s home on break, we tend to have a great deal of fun. Last Saturday was no exception. We waited until dark; then, dressed in black, headlamp in place (hubby), camera in hand (me), we snuck up to the edge of the pond. Relaxing on the garden bench, where three of our eight cats joined us, we were able to watch the frogs in the beam of the light. Contrary to during the day, now they seemed a lot more relaxed. We could only see a few close ones in the beam - they were all hanging suspended in the water with their heads exposed and eyes bulging - but counted many gleaming eyes against the edge of the pond as well.

Hannibal Lecter? Fortunately not; only an ardent frog-watcher

Apologies for the fuzzy photo. Here the frogger stands at my third pond.

A pair of resident Hadeda Ibises in/at my second pond

From our Sasol Field Guide to Frogs of Southern Africa, we identified our frogs as The Common River Frog(Afrana angolensis.) 40-80mm. Its body is angular with a sharp nose – eyes bulge beyond the outline of head when viewed from above. They are green or brown (ours are brown) with a vertebral stripe. Belly is smooth white, sometimes with dark markings. Very longs legs and toes long and webbed. They’re found in grassland streams and other permanent bodies of water (i.e. my pond!)

They lie on river banks or on rocks (in my pond!) and plop into the water when approached. I’m delighted to have these interesting amphibians in my garden as they attract the larger birds (Hadedas, Hamerkops et al). Conversely, I’ve even seen a Karoo Thrush making short work of a smaller frog for breakfast, which according to the birding experts, is not such a common sight. Last summer I was pleased to notice a resident snake, harmless red-lipped herald, (Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia) living in the rocks behind the waterfall but he has since left. (More about this in a later post)

Best I end now before I launch into another wildlife gardening story. I promise to write about the reptiles later...

Common River Frogs sun themselves on a rock in my first pond
Alarmed by my presence, the frogs begin to jump into the water. Going, going...


Note: to view the photos of the Hadeda Ibis and frogs, please click on the image to enlarge.

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