One of my favourite things to do in nature is to just sit and listen, whether it be to hear the birds singing, a lion calling in the distance or even the exciting possibility of hearing impalas alarming at a leopard.
And now with all the recent rain we have had a whole new orchestra of sounds is present in the evenings: frogs.
Unlike the birds, lions, impalas and leopard which are regularly seen, frogs are mostly heard rather, so myself and fellow ranger Kirst Joscelyne decided to change that up a bit and try our hand at frogging.
The easiest way to track down frogs is by their call, so it is best to go at night when they are most vocal.
A frog will have many calls; for mating, territory, to signal release and a distress call, but the call that we mostly hear is the mating call made by the males to attract a female.
The female will select a male based on the volume or frequency of his call as well as the call site, and the reason why his call is so loud for such a small creature is because the sound is amplified in a thin-walled vocal sac. Males will establish choruses – kind of like a frog call time-sharing – so that the sound is orchestrated to enhance their effectiveness and this is what we hear when we drive past a waterhole.
Kirst and I set out armed with our torches to find the perfect spot to do some frogging.
Just finding a spot wasn’t as easy as we thought, as for some reason all the waterholes we had in mind were either dead quiet or had a crocodile in them and neither of us were too keen to get eaten that night.
We eventually settled for a series of mud wallows where the sound of the frogs were almost deafening and there were no crocodiles. At least we hoped.
Not long after we got there we found our first specimen; a Plain Grass Frog, shortly followed by the Sharp-Nosed Grass Frog.
At this stage we thought this whole frogging thing was going to be a breeze. That thought was short-lived as the next frog we found I had to take my shoes off and wade right out into knee-deep water just to attempt to get a good view. Finding the beautiful Golden Leaf-folding Frog was well worth me stumbling through the mud and coming out a lot less clean then when I went in.
After a while of searching and no new species, we decided to head to slightly larger waterhole where we could already hear the chorus of Bubbling Kassinas (their call sounds very much like bubbling water). We could hear a herd of elephants not too far away so I made a quick dash to where I heard one particularly loud Kassina calling and managed to get a short view of him sticking just its head out the water.
We decided to call it quits as the elephants were suddenly getting a bit too close for comfort.
Although we didn’t find as many frogs as we had hoped, we have definitely learnt a thing of two about trying to catch them, one being to make sure to wear old clothes and have a pair of wellington boots at the ready.
And keep your sense of humour, because a flounder into the mud is almost inevitable!