Dusk Frog Survey Swim

29th February, 2016

A recent Photo of the Week featured a man having a swim in a waterhole in Australia, prior to a dusk frog survey. Intrigued, we asked Peter Hancock from New South Wales, Australia, to tell us more about his world

“Gingham Waterhole is part of a wetlands system in NSW, Australia. I was there with my colleague to assess how well recently established environmental flows are helping frogs and fish. We’d had a busy day, and we knew we’d end up working through the night. So, on the cusp of evening, when all the fish traps were set but it was still too light for the frogs to come out, I went for a relaxing swim.

“The low afternoon sun cast a yellow light on the reeds that fringed the waterhole. A second layer of light danced across them, bouncing off the water and dappling the shoreline and grey skeletons of drowned trees with motion and life. Mud squashed up between my toes as I waded from shore. I moved carefully so not to trip over the hard eucalyptus branches I knew were lying prostrate on the bottom, unseen in the turbid water. When I was hip-deep, I crouched and leaned forward into the warm embrace of the 30°C water. Usually, this temperature is uncomfortably warm, although today it had a refreshing coolness to it. An hour ago, the air temperature measured close to 40°C, so the 10° deficit was welcome.

“It took 15 minutes to breast-stroke, head up, around the waterhole. Apart from the ripples that curved in diminishing magnitude in front of me, the water was completely still.   Three pelicans, their feathers washed by the double layer of yellow light, sailed slowly above their mirror-image vessels across the far end of the waterhole. Freshwater herring, which are one of the most abundant fish here, leapt from the water to snatch low-flying midges. White-breasted woodswallows too hunted the midges, skimming like small grey-nosed jets, mere centimetres above the water. They flew low, in strafing run that crossed 2 m in front of me, then soared upward to reveal their white belly in a steep, circling climb.

“After a circuit, I found a log in the middle of the waterhole that rose close enough to the surface for me to sit on comfortably with my head above the water. I waited there, still, for another 10 minutes, watching the birds and the colour change in the sky, and listening to the last of the daytime orchestra and the rousing of their nocturnal counterparts.  Behind me in the reeds, swamphens clucked and rustled stalks, scolded their chicks and prepared to settle down for the night. Reed warblers called to each other with clamouring voices that carried across the flat water. And the first ratcheting call of a Perons tree frog announced that the local frogs were starting to emerge from their daytime hiding places. It was time for me to swim ashore, put dry clothes on, get a head-torch, and go looking for frogs.”

  • See Gingham Waterhole on the wildswim.com: Gingham Waterhole
  • Gingham Waterhole is part of the Gwydir River catcment area. It’ s a It’s a conservation area and a haven for breeding waterbirds, migratory waders, and many other aquatic species.

February 2016