by Elizabeth Begg, Mt Riverview Bushcare Group
A couple of months ago, I moved a treated pine log that we had dragged up from our Mt Riverview Bushcare site behind our place (it had been dumped there some time ago) to re-use in a garden bed, and found a most intriguing small frog! Or so I thought. With a black body and bright orange red markings across the crown of its head and on its body, this 2cm frog was not like anything I had seen before. A quick google returned the name of Red-crowned Toadlet. Monica quickly confirmed my thoughts. There were not many other candidates for the description small frog with black body and orange spots!
Monica’s excitement at the finding of this threatened species was infectious, and a bit more research helps us to understand why this creature is listed as vulnerable. It lives only in the Sydney basin on Hawkesbury Sandstone vegetation. This small toad needs to be near a freshwater creek – they mate in damp leaf litter, lay their eggs on the banks of the creek and are watched over by the male. The eggs hatch after heavy rainfall, when the young are well developed, and the tadpoles are washed into the creek. Such restricted habitat and specific life cycle requirements are the factors that, in a changing, disturbed environment under pressure from a rapidly changing environment threaten the viability of some of our native species.
On our next bushcare day, working in the creek bed in Magura Reserve, our youngest team member, Scott Wiezel, found some of the black taddies, already with legs, wriggling in a shallow, evaporating pond in the creek bed. He was on leech alert for us at the time. A very important job that day as we seemed to be working in a nest of them! (Though Scott’s mum, Lynn reports that she later discovered a leech in her belly button …)
The scientific name is Pseudophryne australis (Gray 1835), (Pseudo meaning similar to though not the real deal or ‘sham’; phryne meaning toad). The common name rendering of ‘toadlet’ sounds a little kinder! Our little Aussie wanna-be toad.
How did such a small creature get all the way from the creek to my back yard? Apparently they like to hide out under rocks and logs in the bush. I guess we carried it up when we brought up some of the dumped railway sleepers and treated pine logs to make our garden. Interesting isn’t it, the complexity of bush regeneration? The removal of dumped material possibly disturbed part of the habitat of this threatened species. For me it has been a gentle reminder of the care we need to have when working in the bush!
References and for more about frogs:
The Museum also has a fantastic free app to download: http://australianmuseum.net.au/frogs-field-guide
For an excellent though detailed fact sheet: http://fieldofmarseec.nsw.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/tsprofileRedcrownedToadlet.pdf