28 August 2011 – Another Moss Frog in the bag!
After having to sort out a few things at home, Trevor joined James, Dominic and Scott again at about 10:30am at Paarl Mountain. Contrary to yesterday, the first part of the day was for birding and the main target here was Protea Seedeater, but the wind was blowing fairly strongly and there was not a seedeater to be heard or seen anywhere. The usual suspects like several species of sunbird and Cape Sugarbird were still quite active, even in the windy conditions, but there was not too much else to be found, despite a fairly long and intensive search. One small consolation prize was a couple of Cape Rock Elephant-Shrews that whizzed across the track in front of us, a new mammal for the challenge list. Unfortunately, they were way too quick to even attempt to get a photo, so they will go down on the list as “seen only”. After a couple of hours, we eventually decided to give up on the birds and made our way across to Bainskloof.
James made a couple of calls to see if he could get some more detailed information on our intended target, Hawequa Flat Gecko, but the information was anything but specific. Nevertheless, we arrived at Bainskloof and found what looked like potentially suitable habitat and began the hike up the side of the mountain. While James, Scott and Trevor worked the slopes turning over every available rock, Dominic worked his way up the stream close-by hoping to find a Cape Ghost Frog. After a few hours, we realized that we were not having too much success with only a single scorpion (Opistacanthus capensis) and a couple of Marbled Leaf-toed Geckos found, so we decided to give up on it as a bad job until we could get better information on where to look.
Driving along the road on our way back, we came across a seep on the side of the mountain and almost instantly heard Bainskloof Moss Frogs calling. Now, it must be said that Moss Frogs are generally very difficult to find. These tiny animals live in the thickest of vegetation and are akin to seeing Flufftails for birders i.e. it hardly ever happens! But not put off by this fact, we found a place to park on the side of the road and then began climbing the side of the mountain to get to where the frogs were calling from. The problem with these things is that, as soon as you get anywhere near them, they stop calling! And then you have to stand around like a fool waiting until they start calling again, so that you can try and work out where they are calling from. An hour later, with us dotted along the mountainside in various places honing in on several calling individuals, Dominic suddenly bellowed out “GOT ONE!”. (It’s obviously his much younger eyes and reflexes that helped him catch it!).
Major excitement as this was a lifer for everyone! We then set about setting up a platform of moss on the side of the road to photograph this tiny dark frog on – photographing such small things is not an easy task in itself and we all still have a lot to learn about how exactly to do it. Nevertheless, we managed to get a few photos where you can actually see that the small dark blob in the middle is actually a frog! This situation also created a lot of interest from others who were driving by seeing these 4 men pointing cameras at a patch of moss on the side of the road – in fact, several of them were heard to be laughing their heads off as they drove past us! Also, at that very moment, who should drive past us but good friends, Cliff and Suretha Dorse. Cliff, having been in this situation with us many times before, obviously realized that we were photographing something interesting and screeched to a halt and piled out of the car, camera in hand. Lucky him – it’s got to be the easiest photographic opportunity he has ever had on a Moss Frog in his life (and probably will remain so as well!).
So, we currently have 7 species of Moss Frogs in South Africa of which this was the 6th one Trevor had seen. Just one more to go… Subsequently, we have heard that there are 3 new species in the process of being described – Damn, 1 step forward, 3 steps backwards…