Finding the Typewriter Frog

Published: 29th September 2015 05:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th September 2015 05:03 PM   |  A+A-

Frog

In the 1990s we lived in Pune. During our years there we made numerous visits to Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar – the twin hill stations. My favourite time to visit these locations was in the monsoons. On one such visit I strolled out at night from the cottage we were staying in. The cottage was tucked away in a corner at the edge of the forest. As I stepped out, I heard a loud “tik-tik-tik” call. The call seemed to be coming from the bush next to where I stood. Those were early days in my natural history journey and I was still learning (as I still am!). I had no idea what creature was calling and for 15 minutes I searched high and low, but I could not locate it. I surmised, “Must be an insect.”

On my return to Pune I mentioned this to one of my natural history friend and he laughed at me. “You just heard the typewriter frog!” he said. I did not believe him, and decided to do some reading on my own. Indeed, I discovered that I had heard one of the bush frogs (Raorchestes species). These frogs are tiny; some can be only 15-18 mm in size, while most are only slightly larger. Bush frogs live in bushes, shrubs and lower branches of trees. A few weeks later I made another trip to Mahabaleshwar, specifically to search for the frog. While the bush frogs were still calling I searched and searched but could not locate it. Each time I would shine my torch the frog would stop calling. Finally, I hit upon the trick of covering my torch with a handkerchief. In dim light I continued to search for the frog.

Nature.jpgWith lots of persistence I finally spotted my first bush frog! A tiny frog sitting on the branch peered out at me. “Looking for me, were you?” it seemed to say. Bush frogs are abundant in the Western Ghats and North-East India. If you visit the forests in either of these areas in the monsoons, you are sure to hear the loud “tik-tik-tik” calls of bush frogs. These calls are of the male frog, who is calling to mark his territory and attract a female frog to mate with.

The male bush frogs have external vocal sacs and when they call their sacs expand to a size that is as large as the frog itself! Despite these frogs being quite common I had never actually seen a pair mating. Finally, during a visit to Eaglenest WLS in Arunachal Pradesh, a few years ago, I managed to see a pair in amplexus. Amplexus is the mating position of frogs wherein the male clasps the female from above. Some day, I would love to observe the entire life cycle of bush frogs, as some of these species are known to give birth to their young as opposed to most frogs that lay eggs. Till then, I will revel in the night sounds of the typewriter frogs.

Go Green

On one of my recent train journeys I was sitting next to a young boy. During the journey he opened a packet of chips and munched away. When he finished he promptly looked to throw the empty packet out of the window of the moving train. I spotted this and quickly stopped him. Very politely, I requested him not to throw the packet outside but give it instead to the people who come to collect the trash in the train. The boy only had dirty looks for me for the rest of the journey! A hard lesson that I learnt is that no one likes to be told that they are doing something wrong. Hence, normally, if I see someone littering I just pick up the trash myself, hoping to shame the person into not littering!

(Feedback and queries are welcome at sanjay.sondhi1@gmail.com)

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