After an extremely successful first day, my friends and I didn’t really care what we during the remainder of our short stay in the Cape. We’d seen more than what we had hoped for! But we were staying with Cliff & Suretha Dorse, their levels of enthusiasm hadn’t died down at all, and they still wanted to show us many more species that the Cape has to offer!
The morning started off with a quest for the Montane Marsh Frog (Poyntonia paludicola), a species listed as Near Threatened. At the same site, we’d hoped to find a DeVilliers’ Moss Frog (Arthroleptella villiersi). Well, we found both of them in quick succession. The Marsh Frogs were surprisingly easy, as they slid across the edges of puddles. We picked up a handful. The Moss Frog was a bit more difficult, but we managed to track a calling individual down. Our second Moss Frog species for the trip!
To top the morning off, we had cracking views of a vocal Victorin’s Warbler!
Later in the morning, we met up with Trevor & Margaret Hardaker (http://www.hardaker.co.za/), who are well known for their birding exploits, for lunch. After grabbing something to eat, we headed out to look for another species of Moss Frog , the Riviersonderend Moss Frog (Arthroleptella atermina).
The Riviersonderend Moss Frog was only described as a species last year! Crazy! It is one of the smallest frogs in South Africa, rarely exceeding 2cm in length. Trevor and Margaret had tried to find it before, without success. So we knew this would be a tough frog to get.
We soon arrived at the site, after driving through farmlands, where we saw dozens of Blue Cranes, our national bird. Cliff had marched ahead of all of us, trying to find the site where he had found one before. It wasn’t long before he called me, only me. “Nick, you’re going to want to lift up this rock”, he said. Ok, clearly this was something he knew I hadn’t found before. I lifted the rock, and there was this super cute little Olive Ground Snake! Ah! Lifer!
I had gotten two Olive Ground Snakes (Lycodonomorphus inornatus), previously known as Olive House Snakes, in the past on call-outs before. But they had already been caught by the time I had arrived, so I couldn’t have counted them as a species I’ve found. I was desperate to find one, and when I saw this under there, I was so relieved. I was the only one in the group to not have found one before!
After the excitement of finding the Olive, we then started hearing the Moss Frogs. They were calling above a waterfall, and further down, along the drainage line below it. Half the team climbed up the waterfall, while the other half, including me, searched below.
The bush along the drainage line was really dense. Finding a frog, less than 2cm long, in this, was going to be a real challenge. Talk about finding a needle in a hay stack…
I tracked a crawling individual down. I got on my hands and knees, in the mud, and tried stalking it. I got to a point where I was literally positioned above it. I scanned the ground below me, and when it called again, I started moving the vegetation aside, in a hurry, hoping to flush it out. All I did though, was scare it into silence. I waited, and waited. While waiting, I heard Darren shout, “We found one!”. He and Nick Schaller managed to find one in some grass growing above the waterfall. I didn’t want to give up on my one just yet, but after fifteen minutes of silence, I decided it was time to call it quits, and I went to have a look at the only one found that day. It was, as expected, tiny!
On the way back home, we stopped off to see the famous African Penguins of the Cape! What little characters!
Later that evening, we went out in search of the Western Leopard Toad (Sclerophrys pantherina).
The Leopard Toad was one of my main targets for the trip. It is an Endangered species, mostly occuring in the suburbs of Cape Town. They’re only active for a short period of time, usually in August, when the rains fall. Sadly, during this time, when they move to and from breeding sites, they’re frequently run over by cars. There are signs along the roads where these toads breed, warning drivers to please look out for them. Sadly, I’ve heard that people either ignore these signs, or they actually aim to hit the toads, for fun (sadistic fun). Conservation-minded folk in these parts are trying their best to save this species from extinction, thankfully! Here is a link to a website, which you may find interesting: https://www.leopardtoad.co.za/
It just happened to be pouring on this night, when we planned to search for them. The conditions were perfect!
We drove on a road that runs straight through a breeding site, and we were not left disappointed. We found about a dozen or so Leopard Toads! The first one that we saw had us all excited, as was the second, and third. Then, we were like “here’s another one”. Not that we were bored of seeing them, but we were seeing so many, all quite close together. Us Durbanites couldn’t believe the size of them. They were even bigger than our Guttural Toads, except way, way prettier. They are such impressive frogs! To our dismay, we saw one that had been run over, a massive female. That was really disappointing, but we were fortunately distracted by the other dozen we saw. We also heard plenty of Cape Rain Frogs calling, although to my frustration, we couldn’t find any. Still, we got our target, which was the main thing!
And that concluded yet another extremely successful day in the Cape for us! We could not be more content than we were. The Cape’s frogs did not disappoint us!
We still had one and a half days left, which we were going to use to focus on reptiles, as we headed up the West Coast. Stay tuned for part 3, to see what we found there 🙂