Lysterfield Park is not far out of Melbourne and is a great spot to 'get back to nature' and do some 'bush tracking' with the kids. Lysterfield Park adjoins Churchill National Park (an equally lovely spot!). These two parks form much of the southern side of the Lysterfield Hills and are a valuable link between the Dandenong Valley and the Dandenong Ranges. These two parks joined in 1997 and cover a total area of 1,668 hectares. The parks are a haven for native birds, mammals and reptiles, and provide great recreational opportunities and have all the toilet and picnic facilities you need (see here for more details: parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/315693/Park-note-Lysterfield-Park-and-Churchill-NP.pdf.)
There are many walking and bike riding tracks to explore (see link above). You will hear a variety of birds in the bushland areas as well as see some water birds on Lysterfield Lake - although there are often watersport activities . There is a resident mob of kangaroos at the parks and as you walk/ride you are likely to see them lazily sleeping the day away or quietly feeding come late afternoon and dusk. A good spot to see the Roo's at Lysterfield at dusk is adjoining the Mahogany car park, on the right as you drive in the entrance or in the paddocks just before the main entrance.
You can hear Common Froglets calling all year, and lovely Pobblebonk choruses come spring and summer. Obviously look out for snakes on warmer days and there is a great diversity of plant life to smell, touch, and look at and many natural obstacles to explore.
We had a student from Jiangsu province in China staying with us this week, so we took the opportunity to show her some lovely Australian bush and our iconic Eastern Grey Kangaroo at Lysterfield. We have also held Junior Nature Club sessions here in the past - great family spot!
It was during University when I started working with my favourite beastie, the Growling Grass Frog (also known as the Southern Bell Frog and sister species to the Green and Golden Bell Frog well known from Homebush Bay where the Sydney Olympics were held). These frogs are big, green and beautiful with an awesome growl like call, hear it here: frogs.org.au/frogs/species/Litoria/raniformis/. Females are larger than the males and can grow up to about 10 cm long. You can find them on the outskirts of Melbourne in a variety of wetlands from deep permanent wetlands left over in old quarry holes and slow-moving creeks to ephemeral wetlands where they can breed and metamorphose without any hassles from the fish eating their young. They like a good amount of plants around the wetland and in the water too, but not so much as to block out the sun as these guys are a basking species, and love to catch a few rays during the day. Like all frogs, they will eat anything they can fit in their mouth, even eating their own species if need be.
My first project with Growlers started back in 2003, 13 years ago! No selfies - it wasn't really a thing back then! I worked with Victorian frog experts Geoffrey Heard and Peter Robertson on a project where we had to rescue as many frogs as we could from an old quarry hole that was going to be filled and turned into housing. So we caught us some frogs and moved them to newly created wetlands, just down the road. These wetlands are within a housing estate called Botanica Park Ponds, next door to Darebin Creek.
The tricky bit was that we wanted to see what happened to these frogs once they had moved into their new abode. So we put some nifty little radio transmitters on them and I followed them for a couple of months. They loved hiding away during the cooler months, under rock rubble, dumped concrete slabs and within that dense vegetation they love so much. Some even appeared to be in a torpor or dormant state, where they shut down their bodies to conserve their energy and didn't move for weeks on end.
Since then I have worked most breeding seasons in search of these lovely animals, I still get a thrill seeing them in the wild. I hope to run some frog survey sessions once we hit the warmer months and our amphibian friends start to get active again, stay tuned!
It is often hard to explain to young children when they see a pregnant woman that the baby is not actually in her stomach it's in her womb... wouldn't it be easy if we could just say mums carry their babies in their stomachs...? Well we can, but only when we are talking about this awesome and special frog... the Southern Gastric Brooding Frog. This little beauty of a frog broods tadpoles in her stomach! The species was discovered in 1973 in South-east Queensland. Amazingly, the female swallows the fertilised eggs which stay in her stomach for six weeks until they turn into tadpoles. The jelly around the eggs stops them being digested. The stomach expands so much it becomes as thin as a plastic bag and poor mum can't eat for six weeks! After this time the little froglets emerge from her mouth. It's name comes from the word 'gastric' meaning something to do with the stomach, like an 'upset tummy'.
Sadly, this amazing frog has not been seen since 1981, it is now thought to be extinct. What a devastating loss to the world. It represents the wonderful intricacies of biodiversity and evolution, and to us humans possible medical treatment for stomach ulcers or other gastric problems.
Frogs are fantastic, don't you think? There are still new species being discovered today, it's amazing to think what other types of wonderful animals there are out there!
Reference: 'It's True, Frogs are Cannibals' M.J. Tyler.