In September/October, after another year of relative quiet, it’s spring again when the motorbike frogs (Litorea moorei) are revving up and going off!! They are quiet for a while and then a noise such as a loud car, a helicopter or a truck coming up the street will set them off; they even start when the vacuum cleaner gets turned on, competing with the other noises for territory. When the frogs first start croaking we make fake frog noises so the dogs never bother looking for them, thinking it’s just us being silly humans again.
A number of awful frog screams during the year had me worried that had killed or eaten most of our little amphibious friends. Now we think there may be eight or more of them – it really is very hard to tell, as they change colour and can hop a long way in a short time.
The other night in the dark hallway, I stepped on one. I turned on the light thinking it was something awful a dog had left behind! It gave me a little fright when I saw a big green and brown frog looking at me. It promptly turned around, took a few large hops in the direction it came from and was back outside. Somehow I doubt that one will come inside again. Luckily my quick reactions (and slow movements) had stopped my full weight from squishing it, so it could still hop in a straight line!
Our dogs protect the frogs from cats; we also provide them with habitat in the form of pvc or clay pipe, old boots and other things that they can hide in. Frogs like dark, shady damp places to retreat to in the daytime. Bromeliads, ferns and other moisture loving shade plants are a good place to set up habitat for them as they get watered more often.
Baby baths, dog water bowls and buckets have enough water for them to live and breed in too, so an elaborate pond set-up is not totally necessary – the frogs don’t seem to mind. The only time Motorbike frogs need water is during breeding season, which is also croaking season. The rest of the year they stay happy somewhere damp and shady.
They also give you a good excuse to go spying in the garden at night, the best time to collect pesky snails. (Note: the one useful thing rats do in a garden is to eat snails, so if you have ever found a pile of snail shells hidden away, it is likely that rats have been cleaning them up.)
If you decide you want to encourage or keep frogs in your garden it is quite important that you not mess about with their habitat. They are fairly adaptable, but they may leave if they constantly get bothered. Even more importantly – if you do put in a pond – PLEASE DO NOT GO DIGGING AROUND IT!! A friend was labouring for someone who wanted their pond moved; he was digging around…and he cut a frog in half. They make a blood-curdling shriek that is hard to forget. He still has nightmares to this day and refuses to use metal implements around ponds!
Frogs indicate a healthy garden, they are easy to keep, and they are natural pest control at its best, reducing flying insect problems as they catch their dinner.
Happy habitat building!