All About A Backyard Frog Pond

The cacophonous and often noisy sounds of our Aussie amphibians – from the revving of the motorbike frogs to the strum of the banjo frogs and the grumpy wails of the moaning frogs, make our wetlands come alive! Little do we realise that the presence of these critters is an important sign of the good health of our wetlands.

We are blessed with a unique frog diversity with over 200 frog species calling Australia their home. Alarmingly, more and more of them are dwindling and now over 43 of them have been documented to be critically endangered and 3 seemingly extinct. Everything from human activity, urbanisation, urban encroachment and habitat loss, pollution and litter, clearing and draining of wetlands, and introduction of toxic chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers, is affecting them.

By building a frog pond in your backyard you are ensuring that these happy hoppers get a chance to beat the odds and survive. Plus, a healthy frog pond means that all is well with your garden. They will keep pests and insects in check by feeding on them. The frog pond will go a long way in enhancing the beauty of your otherwise ordinary backyard, and in bringing the lively sounds of the wetlands a little bit closer to home.

Our frogs spend more time in the bushland and return to the wetland to breed. If you can’t have a frog pond, a native garden, native plants, logs, mulch etc. will support them too!

Few caveats to begin with

Although frogs appear to be hardy, native frogs can be sensitive to their environment. Here are a few considerations to make while keeping our new friends:

  1. Frogs can be extremely noisy. Consider this before beginning construction. You may also want to talk to your neighbours and adjust the location of your frog pond accordingly.
  2. Do not use pesticides, fertilizers or other strong chemicals. These may impact your frogs’ food source.
  3. Avoid using exotic, non-native and invasive plants, such as amazon frogbit and water hyacinth, in and around the frog pond. Instead, use native species that the frogs love.
  4. Avoid adding “exotic” fish to your frog pond as these can predate on frogs, especially tadpoles and eggs. However, it may be beneficial to include some native fish, such as the Western Pygmy Perch or the Swan River Goby, as they are non-invasive as well as help in controlling mosquitoes by feeding on their larvae.
  5. Frog ponds may attract snakes, skinks and other reptiles. It is best to practice caution and be aware of these creatures’ presence while accessing the backyard. Consider covering the pond top with mesh or wire-fencing the pond to safeguard children.

 

Construction of your frog pond

Frogs need ample moisture, adequate food and some shelter. Consider these aspects while designing and constructing your frog pond. The pond itself doesn’t need to be very large for these tiny critters to feel safe and sheltered.

Sunlight is an important consideration to make. Without enough sunlight the tadpoles may not metamorphose in a season. So, the placement of your pond should be such that it receives a good amount of sunlight and some shade. Choose a location with about 70% shade and 30% sun. (And, a one-third sun during winters and a dappled sun during the summer months.)

For materials, everything from concrete to fibreglass works and pre-cast or prefabricated ponds are available in shops. Although it is essential to get PVC and UV stabilised liners for these.

Creating a comfortable home

To create a comfortable home for our frog friends, place gravel, rocks and logs in and around the pond. Frogs are ectothermic and rely on the external environment to control their body temperature i.e. if it’s cold they will try and find a sunny spot to bask and if it’s sweltering hot, they will then find a cool shady spot to relax. Make sure that variations of sunny and shady spots are available to them around their habitat throughout the year.

Ensure the walls of your pond are not too steep or slippery, as some frogs can get stuck and drown in the water. The pond must have sloping sides for frogs to easily navigate and manoeuvre around as well as move in and out of the pond. Fashion ramps made of wood or plastic or collect rocks and pebbles around the edges. If gardens are attached to the bush and attract bobtails, they too need these exit ramps to avoid falling in and drowning.

Fringing and aquatic vegetation is essential to their survival. A leaf litter and algae often safeguard tadpoles and fringing vegetation provides shelter and habitat for frogs. Use rushes, sedges, hostas and ferns to create an enclosed and safe habitat.

Attracting frogs to your pond

Once you have built your perfect pond, it may still take a while for it to become well-established and for froggies to come find it. Don’t be disheartened. Have patience!

It is important that you don’t import frogs from elsewhere into your pond, rather wait for local native species to find it. This is an important step in preserving the genetic integrity of the local gene pool. The local motorbike frogs can smell water from a great distance and will be the first ones to arrive.

Note that catching tadpoles or frogs from local water sources is illegal!

There is a local tadpole exchange program happening through the Western Australian Museum. Also, the national “Frogs Australia Network” database can be an invaluable resource while finding resident frogs through their tadpole exchange program. And, heaps of useful information on frogs and frog calls can be found here.

Should the frogs still be hesitant in arriving, here are a few tips for making your frog pond more attractive to the shy critters:

  1. Avoid keeping the pond too clean and tidy. Preserve the natural rustic state of the pond along with healthy leaf litter and organic matter. Insects and other organisms will thrive in such an environment and so will the frogs that in turn feed off them.
  2. Skip any fountains, filtration systems or waterfalls that you may want to add. Frogs like quiet, still and undisturbed waters.
  3. Create damp and cool crooks and crannies and wet areas around the pond. Use terracotta pots and planters, bricks, dead logs, driftwood, pebbles and stones, mulch and other materials. Frogs will often hide and take shelter in these spots you create.

 

Frog Pond at Norm’s Garden at The Wetlands Centre

If you’re seeking inspiration for your own frog pond or are simply looking for a spot to observe the happy hoppers in action, Norm’s Garden at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn may be perfect for you.

Norm’s garden is a water-wise garden developed using sustainable gardening practices and named after “Norm Godfrey”, a wetland visionary and poet.

Our frog pond is overflowing with tiny critters that aren’t too shy to make some noise on a good day. Or, come down to the Centre for our frog night stalk where we uncover the delightfully raucous sounds of frogs calling through the dense cover of the night.

 

References

  1. Black, D. (2019). The Amphibian Research Centre at Frogs.org.au. Retrieved 20 August 2019, from https://frogs.org.au/
  2. My Backyard » Frogs. (2019). Mybackyard.info. Retrieved 21 August 2019, from http://mybackyard.info/backyardblog/?cat=4
  3. Ponds, B. (2008). Backyard Frog Ponds. GARDENING AUSTRALIA. Retrieved 21 August 2019, from https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/backyard-frog-ponds/9428752
  4. Frog bog and pond basics | Sustainable Gardening Australia. (2019). Sustainable Gardening Australia. Retrieved 23 August 2019, from https://www.sgaonline.org.au/frog-ponds/
  5. Oz Watergardens – the know-how on frog pond design. (2019). Ozwatergardens.com.au. Retrieved 23 August, from http://www.ozwatergardens.com.au/frog-ponds
  6. Frogs – Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges. (2019). Naturalresources.sa.gov.au. Retrieved 3 September 2019, from https://www.naturalresources.sa.gov.au/adelaidemtloftyranges/plants-and-animals/native-plants-animals-and-biodiversity/native-animals/frogs

Our Battle Against Weeds

A collage of weeds illustrations against a background of a weed infested field and people doing weeding work.

It is easy to be moved by the earthy and bountiful beauty of our wetlands. Carried within the constant rush is the spur of everyday life in the wetlands. From the smallest creatures to the most complex ones, all life is interwoven and interconnected. And delicate, diverse bionetworks bustle with unseen activity.

Weeds are slowly changing all we love about our wetlands. They overwhelm the ecosystems, choking and outcompeting native flora. They crowd and degrade the habitats. They spread aggressively, establish themselves stubbornly and are extremely hard to dislodge.  They hamper the myriad ecosystem functions.

In Australia, over 4 billion dollars are spent annually towards managing weeds. Costs compound when you consider the impacts from loss of biodiversity and environmental services.

Our battle against weeds is ongoing and persistent. And winning it will take a precise combination of science, engineering, ingenuity and committed on-ground support!

 

What are “Environmental” Weeds?

Environmental Weeds are unwanted invasive plants that establish themselves in natural ecosystems and permanently alter the natural processes of those ecosystems (as opposed to Agricultural/ Pastoral Weeds that thrive in agricultural and pastoral lands).

Here are a few weed facts.

  • Over two-thirds of the weeds now established in Australia originated from gardens and ponds.
  • About 10% of Western Australia’s flowering plants are introduced weeds.
  • Of the 1233 identified weed species in WA, around 800 are found in Swan Coastal Plain bioregion.

 

How Do Weeds Invade the Wetlands?

Weeds showcase resilience and they flourish in the nutrient-rich wetland environment. So much so, that weeds have established themselves in every wetland in Western Australia.

Weeds are disturbance opportunists – plants that respond positively and rapidly to changes in soil, salinity, dampness, pH and native plant distributions. So, the disturbed edges of our urban wetlands are most at risk – where roads, verges, tracks, paddocks and housing settlements, are located close to the wetlands. In these disturbed areas, conditions quickly become favourable for weed growth.

A host of activities that we humans undertake can also boost the spread of weeds in the wetlands. Urban run-off and leaching, dumping garden and pond waste, prunings and clippings, fire events such as burn-offs and arson, and overusing groundwater from bores and wells, can all have serious impacts.

 

What Effects Do Weeds Have on Wetlands?

The wetland vegetation is specialized and contributes to processes within the wetland ecosystems. And these ecosystems are delicate, often relying on natural conditions of light, salinity and dampness.

When weeds encroach our wetlands, they affect the distribution of wetland vegetation. This, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the plants and animals that depend on native vegetation for survival.

 

Weed Impact at a Glance

  1. Loss of biodiversity and simplification of wetland plant community.
  2. Impacted and altered ecosystem functions.
  3. Altered nutrient recycling.
  4. Loss of habitat and food source for wetland fauna.
  5. Increased risk of erosion.
  6. Increased fire risk, as weeds add to the fuel load.
  7. Altered soil quality.
  8. Loss of water quality.
  9. Loss of aesthetic value.
  10. Increased management costs.

 

Ways to Fight Weeds

Compared to disturbed areas, densely vegetated areas are far more resilient to weed attack. Here circumstances do not permit weeds from taking a foothold or competing successfully for nutrients, sunlight and moisture.  Thus, rehabilitating the wetland vegetation is a crucial first step towards weed control.

Restoring dryland vegetation and establishing shelterbelts around the wetlands is important too. They act as a line of defence and barrier from weed invasion.

Prevention is key. Prevent garden prunings and clippings from entering the wetlands. Similarly, prevent aquatic plants from ponds and aquariums from entering the wetland catchments. Prevent pet animals entering the wetlands, where they may graze on native plants. Pet faeces have been known to carry and spread weeds.

And finally, participate in wetland rehabilitation and conservation activities. These include weed removal, as well as planting activities, to re-establish native plants.

 

Join Our Forces!

At ‘The Wetlands Centre Cockburn’, here in the heart of the breathtaking Beeliar Regional Park, we are working towards building healthier wetlands for everyone.

We are involved in landcare, conservation and rehabilitation work. We run some exciting educational programs. We are community driven, we have a fantastic community outreach. And, we are pioneers in wetland management.

Get some action when you join us on Thursdays and Fridays. We start early, at 9am, and you can work for as long as you want until the close of day at 4pm. We have an array of weed control measures that we undertake. Or, you could participate in the nursery, where we nurture native flora.

Talk to us today and join our forces. Together let us win this fight!

10 Things You Could Do To Help Our Wetlands

A conceptual image of caring palms cupping wetlands

Taking a walk through the lush wetlands is a delight this time of the year. The winding tracks and sturdy boardwalks that open up hidden new worlds. The thick bush, fringing vegetation and the canopy of swaying trees. Startled animals we catch off-guard that quickly scamper away. And, the thin blanket of mist that lies settled over the water.

We discover a different pace and rhythm as we let go. Unwind. And absorb a hundred splendid experiences that the wetlands offer unbiddenly. There is such peace and tranquillity here.

We are fortunate that our wetlands are so close to our urban dwellings. We are able to enjoy their unique splendour and partake in their beauty. But being so close to urban habitation poses a serious threat to our wetlands. Urban run-off, littering, leaching and degradation – there are several impacts that continue to take a toll.

As much as the wetlands are places of recreation and pleasure, they are also grounds that support delicate ecosystems, intricate bionetworks, diverse wildlife and their habitats. They require our care and attention. Here are 10 simple things we can do to help our wetlands:

 

1. Household Plants and Gardens

By practising a little care in our gardens, we can help the wetlands immensely. For example, limit your use of chemicals – fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides or fungicides – and use organic remedies instead. These potent chemicals can leach into groundwater, and subsequently into the wetlands. Use animal manure that is great for the garden and has no unpleasant side-effects.

Be careful while discarding plants or seeds. Our non-native household plants can be invasive and dominate over native flora. The same goes for aquatic plants from our aquariums. They must not be dispensed into the wetland catchments.

 

2. Pets and Pests

Our cuddly pet animals can be quite destructive. Cats are known to prey upon native species – turtles, frogs and even lizards. Rabbits can wreak havoc on plants by binging on them, any fresh regrowth and seedlings. Rabbit faeces are known to carry and spread weeds.

It is best to keep pets indoors or under supervision. They are likely to cause less harm if they are not allowed to stray.   On a similar note, pests that are introduced into the wetlands can have a detrimental effect on the wetland ecology.

 

3. Waste and Recycling

Using safe, sustainable and eco-aware methods of waste disposal will go a long way in protecting the wetlands. Reduce the use of plastic, whether it is plastic water bottles or disposable plastic containers, straws and cutlery. Reuse and recycle to the maximum possible extent.

Maintain a worm farm or compost pit at home. Compost can be great for your garden, and you will be amazed at how much of your waste – like cardboard, paper, egg shells and tea bags – can be put to good use. Get your children involved.

 

4. Reduce Pollution

Reducing pollution can begin at home with some relatively small but consistent steps. Be conscious of your choices. Buy organic, eco-friendly and sustainable products. Your local farmers markets can be great places to shop.

Be energy-conscious and use energy wise appliances. Avoid throwing away stuff carelessly. If you find litter in public parks or wetlands, be considerate, pick it and throw it in the bin. Every step counts.

 

5. Conserve Water

Lifegiving water is central to wetland health. Observe the wetland vegetation. Their leaves, limbs, roots and other remarkable features help them conserve water.  Even wetland wildlife is adept at using water, a vital resource, judiciously.

Turn off the tap when not in use and use only as much as you need. Check your pipes and fittings regularly for any leakages. Harvest rainwater. During the summer months, water your plants early in the mornings.

 

6. Healthy Wetland Vegetation

Healthy vegetation is crucial for sustaining life in the wetlands. This includes upland vegetation, fringing vegetation and aquatic plant-life. Wetland vegetation is highly specialized, in that it has evolved to thrive in varying conditions of dampness and salinity.

Within the wetland catchments, ecosystems flourish based on an energy exchange between living organisms and the non-living environment. Leaves or branches from overhanging trees and shrubs, fall and are broken down by microbes, bacteria and fungi. These, in turn, become food for larger animals within the food web.

You can help in the conservation and rehabilitation efforts – by planting native flora, creating habitats for wildlife and participating in citizen science projects and initiatives.

 

7. Help Wetland Wildlife

Much like the wetland vegetation, wetland wildlife too is exposed, fragile and susceptible. Turtles that live in the swampy wetlands are known to venture out, cross busy roads or polluted areas in search of suitable nesting sites. Similarly, snakes and bobtails too are known to sneak-out to bask in the sun during winter months. Accidents are common and animals get run over. It is also common for animals to get entangled and hurt in the plastic debris.

Animals sometimes venture into homes and gardens, looking for nesting sites or grounds to lay eggs. There are many ways in which we can help these animals, by looking out for them, helping them get to their destination and protecting their eggs or hatchlings.

Apart from the permanent wetland residents, some migratory birds use the wetlands for resources. The dwindling bush and fringing vegetation and the changing environmental conditions are posing a serious threat to all their lives.

 

8. Important Contact Information

It can be useful to locate and carry information on local bodies responsible for wildlife rescue, wetland rehabilitation and conservation work, and research organizations. This can be especially significant if you reside in an area close to wetlands. We encourage you to keep such information handy.

At the Wetlands Centre, we are involved in wetland conservation, rehabilitation, research and education work. We can be contacted through phone, our website or through our social channels. We welcome your messages.

 

9. Learn and Educate

Wetlands are fascinating worlds that open doorways to some interesting natural activity. Take the initiative to deep dive and learn about the wetlands – their mysteries and intricacies. While there are several avenues for learning, there are also avenues for teaching, educating and spreading awareness.

 

10. Participate and Volunteer

At “The Wetlands Centre Cockburn”, we are a warm, friendly, community-based organization. We are located in the heart of Beeliar Regional Park, in the vicinity of the beautiful Bibra Lake. Visit our centre nestled in nature. Take a look at what we do.

We run a range of educational programs all-year-round. We have a fantastic community outreach. And, our in-house nursery and Seed Propagation Areas (SPAs) are our pride and joy.

There is so much you can do! Come begin this journey with us and help us restore our wetlands for everyone to enjoy!