A Froggin’ Good Time at Nkomba

Tuesday 14 November 2017 was one of those dull, sultry south coast days when the clouds press low, thunder emits the occasional threatening growl and the locals prepare to get wet. The only question is when and how much.

Nevertheless, at nightfall when the frog calls began in earnest, an intrepid little band of Froggers set forth into the trackless swamps of Nkomba, a special place of rich biodiversity devotedly maintained by Pennington Conservancy and a testament to the resilience of life - and the foresight of pioneers like John Jerman who saw past its historical abuse as a failed rice paddy, a railway siding and finally, the town dump.

Ably led by The Froglady, Dr Jeanne Tarrant (Manager: Threatened Amphibian Programme, Endangered Wildlife Trust), this motley band plunged into the dense stands of sharp-edged Giant Sedge (Cyperus dives), ignoring the bite of Nettles (Urtica dioica), mozzies and the occasional thrashing retreats of disturbed Bushbuck.

Guided by Jeanne’s expert ear, which somehow discerned the insect-like buzzing of endangered Pickersgill’s Reed Frogs (Hyperolius pickersgilli) through the cacophony of shrieking Painted Reed Frogs (Hyperolius marmoratus), percussive Tinker Reed Frogs (Hyperolius tuberilinguis), the machine-gun rattles of Greater Leaf-folding Frogs (Afrixalus fornasinii), piping Waterlily Reed Frogs (Hyperolius pusillis) and the nasal Eeee chuck-chuck of Natal Tree Frogs (Leptopelis natalensis), we settled for an hour in calf-deep water in a mixed stand of Bulrushes and Reeds. To watch. And listen.

With torches, head-lamps, cell phones and cameras we stood and peered in wonderment at the sheer explosion of life all around us. The frogs soon decided we were harmless and quickly resumed their lusty songs, only briefly falling silent when exposed to direct light, then quickly shooting to another stem or agilely ducking behind a sheltering blade to resume their cries for love.

Embedded in the reeds as we were, the din was incredible! It’s amazing how such tiny, delicate critters can create such a solid wall of sound. Yet under Jeanne’s expert guidance I think we were all able to detect the faint thread of the Pickersgill’s trill so easily lost within the sheer volume the frenetic orchestra of competing species was able to produce.

We never found a Pickersgill’s – nor for that matter, a KZN Dwarf Chameleon (Bradypodion melanocephalum) sleeping beside the wetland. But that did not matter, for as we fled the site, ears ringing, as the skies lit up and the threatened thunderstorm finally broke overhead, we all knew we had an excellent excuse to go back.

Record of Species seen (heard). Nkomba 14 November 2017:

Common                                     Scientific                                        Red-List Status

Greater Leaf-folding Frog

Afrixalus fornasinii

Least Concern

 

Common River Frog

Amietia quecketti

Least Concern

 

Bush Squeaker

Arthroleptis wahlbergi

Least Concern

heard

Painted Reed Frog

Hyperolius marmoratus marmoratus

Least Concern

 

Pickersgill’s Reed Frog

Hyperolius pickersgilli

Endangered

heard

Waterlily Frog

Hyperolius pusillis

Least Concern

Heard

Tinker Reed Frog

Hyperolius tuberilinguis

Least Concern

 

Natal Tree Frog

Leptopelis natalensis

Least Concern

 

Snoring Puddle Frog

Phrynobatrachus natalensis

Least Concern

heard

Guttural Toad

Sclerophrys gutturalis

Least Concern

 

Common Platanna

Xenopus laevis

Least Concern

 

others

     

Bushbuck

Tragelaphus scriptus

Least Concern

heard

Brown Water Snake

Lycodonomorphus rufulus

Least Concern

 

Crane-jawed Harvestman

Arachnid Family, Order: Opiliones Genus: Rhampsinitus

   

Fishing Spider

Genus: Nilus

   

Blue-striped Leafhopper

Poecilocarda cosmopolita

   

Natal River Crab

Potamonautes sidneyi

   

Purple Tiger Moth (?)

Tiger & Tussock Moth Family (Erebidae): Genus Achaea (?)

   

                       

Peter Vos

16 November 2017

 

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