Coast KZN

07 Oct 2016

Have you seen a Pickersgill’s?

Judi Davis (South Coast Herald)

Nature lovers are searching for this little amphibian, the Pickersgill’s reed frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli).

Nature lovers are urged to look out for a critically endangered frog that occurs only along our coastline.

The search is on for a rare little amphibian, the critically endangered Pickersgill’s reed frog (Hyperolius pickersgilli), which made headlines on the South Coast earlier this year when a new colony was found in Pennington.

South Coast Conservancy Forum scribe Peter Vos is appealing to members of all local conservancies to join the search for more of these elusive little reed frogs, which are endemic to the KwaZulu-Natal coastal area. This means that they are only found in a narrow coastal strip along our shores and nowhere else in the world. They are only known to occur at about 20 widely-dispersed sites between St Lucia village in the north and Sezela in the south.

However, nature lovers were thrilled to report that a colony had been found at Nkomba, a gem of a little wetland in Pennington, under the guidance of frog expert Nick Evans, in January this year.
Peter is optimistic that more colonies may well survive in suitable habitat further south. “Let’s see if we could find some more Pickersgill’s reed frogs,” he said.

Although many nature lovers take an interest in frogs and have become fairly knowledgeable about them, this will not be an easy task for local ‘froggers’. Fast, small, cryptic and quiet, these reed frogs are extremely hard to find, living as they do in dense reed beds over shallow perennial water. Given Nkomba’s rough history as rice paddy, railway siding and town dump, experts were amazed to find this special little creature there. “The little frogs are clearly tougher survivors than they look,’ said Peter.

This species is easily confused with the abundant painted reed frog in its juvenile and plain forms. However, close examination reveals that the Pickersgill’s lacks the bright pink pigmentation of the painted reed frog on the concealed surfaces of the legs.
The males, growing to 22 mm are generally olive brown to green with a pale lateral stripe from snout to groin. Females, up to 29 mm long, are plain bright green-yellow above, but never as luminous as the tinker reed frog.

Like most frogs they are most easily identified by their call. This is a problem because they are so quiet and insect-like. To identify its call you would need a fine ear and no general froggy chorus din as distraction. Pickersgill’s do however tend to distance themselves from their painted cousins, which communicate with familiar, explosively loud chirps.

The Pickersgill’s reed frogs call from late August through to March, peaking from October, so now is the perfect time to look for them.

“With our current (and hopefully to be continued) good coastal rains, there is a good chance of finding them,” Peter said. He called on Lower South Coast conservancy members with local knowledge of suitable wet, densely vegetated habitat to put on their wellies, to go out frogging and to have a keen nocturnal listen-out for these special little creatures.


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