Rod and I got lucky and were allocated the beautiful Jasper Gorge down the Buchanan Highway to check for toad invasion. We counted 30 creeks, floodways and channels on the way although many of these were dry. With so many potential areas to investigate we selected to scrutiny the creeks closest to the Victoria Highway as well as the main creeks leading into Jasper Creek. We are ecstatic to report that we did not find any sign of tadpoles, metamorphs or adult cane toads in any of the creeks nor on the road. What we did see was plenty of native wildlife including fish, crocs, eagles, hawks, frill necks, spiders and the tracks of water monitors. We had a good look around Jasper Creek and two of its tributaries further south down the Buchanan at night and the only thing moving was definitely native.
Cane Toad Tally
6 females, 3 gravid
Croc (probably freshie)
Jasper Creek (night) - 16 ◦101.657 S 130 ◦47.224 E
1 st creek south of campground (night)
Similar wildlife found in all other locations checked. Native frogs and toads were noticeable by their absence. Although we heard a few, the only one we saw was a young, unidentified (but definitely not cane) toad at Jasper Creek at night
The purpose of this busting weekend was to have a look at the progress of the toads around The Gregory Tree access road and some sites west of there.
Gregory Tree Access Road
Got three male toads from a gravel pit that’s a couple hundred meters of the access road. Appears that there will be standing water here for most of the dry season.
I made my way from the bitumen to the car park for the tree. I got 15 toads along this road way. There were two toads in the CALM trap as well. The worry is that were spread out along the road and not in a group. I even got a small male right at the information bay!
I starting making my way west, and I finally had an answer to the male calling recording that I play at all stops. I made my way upstream of the creek just west of The Gregory Tree access road and headed up the south east branch. I could here a bunch of males talking. I came across them one kilometer from the road in a large flat section of the creek. I located and removed 13 males from here. Once back at the road had a look down stream and some of the standing water close to the road, were I previously had busted toads from. I removed 6 more toads from this area
On the trek back towards Kununurra got 6 toads from the road between Gregory Tree turn off and Sandy Creek. At Sandy Creek got 1 that was standing on top of the culvert. Went for a short walk up and downstream. There were 2 toads upstream that were removed.
Pear Tree Creek
Between these two creeks I got 4 more live toads. A worry is the amount of road kill toads in this stretch of the highway. Checked out the culverts along this section and did not find any toads by the water.
It was time to head home. Up at Alpha Creek meet up with crew that had been out at Auvergne. There are several billabongs and swamps that these creeks head into. They will all require some looking at in the near future.
Field Report Map produced by KTB Team Leader John Cugley.
Hi there Lee I have attached a map with some good spots to hit around the Gregory Tree area. I would also suggest a look at Little Horse Creek upstream. If the toads are calling a hummer is really good to find the isolated pockets of males. If not a cd of the toads calling played on the car stereo will normally make the males start calling. Just play it at all creeks that cross the highway
Report By KTb Team Leader David Woods
Remote Area Toad Surveillance
Crew: Chris Shaw, John Cugley, Ian Petherick, Chad Sloan & Dave Woods
The Aim of the visit to Legune Station was to investigate the Napp Springs Area. This is the most northerly area along the Western side of Victoria River where permanent water and perfect habitat for Cane Toads exists. We were not sure to whether or not the toads had made it this far downstream on the Victoria River over the last wet season. If the toads had crossed to the western side this far downstream, then Napp Springs and it’s surrounding permanent water would be ideal for Cane toads.
Early Saturday morning we left in two vehicles for Legune Station. A quick stop at the homestead was required to touch base with the new manager, Cameron and to brief him on our movements for the weekend. We missed him, but got to speak with Megan who also knew that we were coming out to check for toads. No worries there, so we head headed off round the side of the tidal flats east towards the Victoria River .
A good hour and a half from the homestead we reached Napp Spring stream. As we needed to get in further upstream towards the spring, we pushed the vehicles through some challenging country. Over three hours later we arrived less than 1 km from the spring. The Afternoon and evening were used to check the surrounding pools of Napp Springs. We hiked and ‘hummed’ and saw or heard no sign of Cane Toads. It was definitely confirmed as an area very well suited to Cane Toads. Also, Napp Spring is an extensive system and to completely rule out their existence after one search might be dangerous. Further work in this area is required.
The next morning we managed to check another permanent creek further east of Napp Springs towards the Victoria River . Much smaller than Napp Springs, this little Creek was just as habitable. It was also that one step closer to the Victoria River . We began the hike where the freshwater met the salt. Only 100 metres upstream it became fresh shallow and sandy, perfect for toads but once again no sign. A check further upstream was carried out with no signs of toads and all looked healthy. This is also as Far East as we can get our vehicles, and on this trip ran out of time to hike to the next creek west which is followed by several more that still need checking ASAP. This is an area where the Quad Bikes will be of great use and will allow us to use our time more efficiently on these more remote trips
It was time to head home as lunch was nearing. Met Cameron the Manager on the way out and had a yarn. I thanked him very much for allowing us access to his land. Made it back to Kununurra mid afternoon, all safe and sound. Thanks to the Crew who make it all happen.
Report by David Woods.
Crew: John Cugley, Donna Cavlovic Chris Shaw Desanka Mijovic, Yo Early and Dave Woods
Leaving just before 6.00pm on Saturday evening saw us arriving at our camp on the banks of the Victoria River just after 10.00pm . Our job this weekend was to report back to Lee on numbers of toads in this area. As the Victoria River dissects Fitzroy Station, we would be focusing our search closely around its permanent pools. As time was limited, it was decided to use this trip as a gauge to how much attention this area will require over the coming weeks.
We had a quick break after our long drive and then we checked the local area near the rapids. This was an easy place for Toads to cross the river because it narrows considerably as it cuts through a dolomite rock bar. We checked the Western side of the river; Johno and Donna went downstream to conduct their search whilst I went upstream. We met back at camp after a couple of hours and the news was not good!
We had barely headed 500 metres in each direction and collectively we caught 87 Toads. The sandy riverbanks in this area were leaching out ground water, enough to create perfect habitat for Cane Toads. It was also very apparent that this area provided great daytime shelter for hiding toads, as there was no shortage of rocks, sand and muddy burrows to hide in. As it was now after midnight and we were all pretty tired after our long day and bed was sounding good.
In the Morning our late arrival toad busters, Chris, Desanka and Yo, were keen to get in the action and helped us measure and sex last nights haul. There were 71 males in varying lengths from juveniles around 45mm to mature toads 135mm long Females for the previous night totalled 16 and had a similar size range as male toads found from same area. Also Chris Shaw has donated a pair of Vernier Callipers, which makes measuring super easy and super accurate, Cheers!
On a Toad Bust a couple of weeks ago Chris Shaw found Toads during the day. I was confident of the same success today as we learnt some valuable lessons on that trip to Skull Ck. Johno and Donna took the Quad Bikes downstream following the track but as it has not been graded this year, it was slow going and after a few kilometres they cut back in to the Victoria River .
They checked a few locations for any toads in the banks of the river but none were found. Muddy and sandy banks are ideal but where Johno and Donna were, were rockier in composition. As we are finding the Toads are very specific about where they hold up in dry season conditions.
I had spied a creek on the map that ran into the Victoria River a couple of kilometres upstream from where we camped. Although this creek would not be flowing, a check was required where it entered the river. The Section of river is called Tortoise Reach, which is over10 kilometres in length. The River in this area is mainly steep banked and they rise sharply from the waters edge. The banks that are matted together by roots coming from the dense vegetation that exists around these permanent pools Although there is sand and mud making up these banks, they are heavily compacted and fused with tree roots. Along with steep banks and closed in shady areas, there is a low chance of toads habituating along these sections of river.
What happens where creeks enter these steep banked sections of river? Johno And I took the Bikes through the bush upstream until we intersected the creek. A quick ride up the stream verified it was indeed dry, so we turned the bikes around and followed it downstream until we hit the river. We walked down into the dry creek bed and starting back about 20 metres from the rivers edge the mud underfoot became soft and wet. So we started searching for toads in holes, cracks in the mud and under half buried logs
My first log produced a couple of toads straight away, not good! Johno also found a likely log close by and started to pull one after the other from under it. I walked back up to the bikes and grabbed a garbage bag. By the time I got back to Johno, which was at least a couple minutes, he was still pulling toads from the same log and his other hand was loaded with 20 plus toads I was amazed to see how many toads were jammed into a hole no bigger than a lunch box!
I relieved Johno of his toads and it wasn’t long before we found more jammed into a long crack in the mud, but this time now only a couple of meters from waters edge. We ended up with 52 males and 12 females from this Creek’s mouth. I then found a dead freshwater crocodile still half in the water on the bank of the river. We decided to leave it there and head back to camp. We discussed the crocodile with Chris and Desanka and they agreed that it was likely it died from eating Cane Toads but it would be better if we knew for sure.
As Desanka was a Vet’s Assistant and knew how to perform an autopsy we decided to take her back there to investigate further. Desanka began to dissect the crocodile’s under belly to expose the digestive system and it wasn’t long before the stomach was located and removed from the dead crocodile. Desanka then made an incision into the stomach wall and sure enough, revealed two Toads. So it was now highly likely that it died from ingesting these toads found in the dead crocs stomach.
The day was disappearing quickly so it was time to pack up and head home to Kununurra. In total our Toad count was 151 and 64 of them were caught during the day. Thanks again to the dedicated crew whom make these missions possible. Every trip brings us new information, which will strengthen our fight against the Dreaded Cane Toads
Foot note: The permanent pools on the Vic River that are steep banked and heavily vegetated would be best accessed via a small boat. As this would allow us to scan each side of each pool much more efficiently than by doing it on the shore by foot.
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Report By David Woods
Crew: Chris Shaw, Desanka Mijovic, Mike Shaw, Syd Eru and Dave Woods
Junior Toadbusters: Maddison Shaw, Christen Mijovic, Nadia Cummings and Toia Cummings
We arrived at our campsite near Fitzroy Falls on the Victoria River by mid afternoon on Saturday. The kids excited to finally be here were in no time off to check the place out. Mike, Chris’s Dad who was visiting from Bunbury wasn’t far behind them. The rest of the crew had a cool beverage to help them get into the mood of this beautiful place. It wasn’t long before Mike had come back to report that there was a dead crocodile on a rock just above the top of the waterfall. As it was not far from waters edge it would be easy to get to.
Desanka was cool about doing another autopsy so she grabbed a knife, some gloves and headed to the waters edge. I followed with my camera, as it is important to record our observations. When we got close to the dead croc we could see that abdominal area was bruised black and blue, exactly like the crocodile we did an autopsy on last week that had eaten two toads. We are thinking this may be the sign of a poisoned crocodile. Desanka waded out in the shallow water and grabbed the croc.
It was rather bloated and had obviously been sitting in the sun for a few days. After grabbing the croc by the tail, Desanka then carried it back to the shore and began the Autopsy. Although the contents of the stomach had mostly broken down, it was obvious from the bones and some undigested skin that it was indeed the remains of a toad. This was sad, as it was our second dead croc in the area, from toads, in only a week.
The afternoon went quickly as we prepared ourselves for the nightly toad bust. As soon as dinner was done the kids were keen to get busting. After being given a headlight and a net each, they were off into the night. Syd was not far behind them as he was keen to join in on the action. It wasn’t long before all the kids had got their first toads for the night. Shortly after Mike and Chris went off in the other direction hunting for toads. A couple of hours toad busting had worn the kids out and back to camp they came with a big bag of toads in tow. An outstanding effort from the Junior Toad Busters once again!
Desanka sorted the kids out whilst I readied the quad bikes for the evenings mission. Syd cooked up a storm needing both the fire and the stove to cook on. Chris and Mike came back with over 50 toads and reports of a very large but grumpy python over 4.5 meters long! Chris took us back to the python and it was amazing to see. Great to see this beautiful reptile alive and well, in an area infested with toads. Although I do hope it knows what is good for it!
We then took the bikes up to Turtle pool, as this permanent waterhole is only 5 kilometres from the Victoria River. Before we even got their Chris spotted a toad in the middle of the track. An average sized male well away from water and in good shape. I G.P.S’d the location and the toad was 2.2 km from the nearest permanent water! We were now certain to find toads at Turtle Pool and that was soon confirmed.
We spent over an hour collecting Toads at Turtle Pool, Desanka Chris and myself amounting to 114 Toads. This waterhole will need some regular busting over the coming months. It was back to camp for a warm beverage before getting some rest for the next days adventure.
Toads were finally weighed, measured and dispatched by Syd and Desanka, Whilst Chris and I took the Quads down to Wickham Heights. The last wet made a mess of this section of track but this is where the quads are so helpful as it took only about 20 mins to get down into this remote corner of the Victoria River
As a large creek entered the river here, I knew that this would be perfect habitat for the Toads and this is where we would more than likely find them. After checking the general area and finding another dead freshwater crocodile we observed the same bruised abdomen area as the other poisoned crocs. We hadn’t a knife with us so we couldn’t do an autopsy but a sure bet it was poisoned. Also Toad tracks were found in the sand by Chris. We went to the creek mouth and within about 10 seconds Chris was dragging toads from the cracks in the mud, you can imagine the Toads dismay. 21 were collected from this one creek mouth.
The rest of the crew packed up Camp and when Chris and I arrived back from Wickham Heights it was all done. So after a quick wash in the river we began our drive back to Kununurra. A total of 229 Toads were busted for this trip. It is now evident this beautiful area will require regular busting before next wet.
Many thanks to all involved all of the crew that dedicate their time midweek to make these trips happen as these weekends require considerable preparation Special thanks to Chris and Desanka as your efforts are greatly appreciated! Also to have three generations of Shaw’s on one toad bust is fantastic. Thanks to Mike for showing enough interest in our cause to get involved whilst visiting. And the biggest thanks goes to our junior Toad Busters who once again did an excellent job busting the terrible Toads and are most welcome on our future trips. Thanks Heaps!!
VRD Station - Toadbusting 26 th – 27 th August 2006
Report by David Woods
David Woods, Chris Shaw, Mike Shaw, Georgina Wilson, Dean Goodgame, Ronnie Atkins
Our objective this weekend was to identify how embedded the Cane Toad was in the Victoria River Downs Area. Having had reports of Cane Toads from this station and it’s surrounding outstations, it was important for us to gain an understanding of the situation. The Victoria River was still a large river in this area as the Wickham, Armstrong and the Camfield Rivers all feed into it.
As the Wickham and Vic flow upstream to the west, this makes an easy route for the Toads push west. Particularly when you see on the topographical maps how close the headwaters of the Victoria River and Stirling Creek actually are. Following the Stirling downstream you’ll shortly meet the Negri, which soon meets the Ord River. Not to mention the Wickham’s headwaters coming within Cooee of the West Baines. They’re all quite scary scenarios!
We were heading past V.R.D Homestead on our way to Dashwood Crossing on the Victoria River and spotted some station crew at the yards by the road, so I asked Chris if he would mind stopping so we could have a yarn. That all worked in our favour as Jo the Stockman was glad to tell us where he had seen toads and a rough amount, explained in a very colourful manner. This Info was to save us a lot of time and gave us a better idea of where we would focus the evening’s work.
The Sun set and after setting up camp we looked over the maps and planned to work the western side of the Vic River downstream to Andersons Yard. I checked earlier with Jo that it was O.K. to go down there and was given the thumbs up! Before dinner we all wandered off with our spotlights to check the local area for Toads.
I headed downstream close to the waters edge, back towards the crossing. Over this 600-metre stretch of riverbank I didn’t find any sign of a toad. So I decided to check higher ground away from the waters edge on my search back upstream to camp and sure enough about 20 metres from waters edge was one big lonely female Toad sitting upright on the corner of a big flat rock. This is why checking away from waters edge is important as Toads are found roaming and hunting in this area if habitat is suitable i.e. open flat areas.
The area was checked in all directions by the rest of the crew and no other toads were found. So after dinner we made our way to Andersons Yard and 12 kilometres along, the track was impassable due to a muddy creek blocking our way. . Inspection of this Muddy creek revealed another toad shortly followed by a few more to substantiate a good needed bust of this creek.
After a thorough search of this area we had collected around 35 toads. My dozen I picked up were all between 5 and 10 metres from the waters edge, rustling in the leaf matter on the ground. Most of the toads caught in this area were done so by hearing them first. Toads are definitely not too concerned about being quiet! A trap was set here and needs checking next week
Chris had found a way around the boggy creek via a couple of gates and we had soon arrived at Andersons Yard. As we approached the turkey’s nest more toads were spotted, so the crew in the car stayed to bust the turkey’s nest and set a trap whilst Chris and I headed down to the river from the yard, with the bikes. We dropped down a level and then crossed an overflow arm before reaching the river proper, In this overflow arm we found a muddy puddle infested with Toads, some very large. We filled a large garbage bag, headed back to the car crew to drop off our catch.
We grabbed a trap and took it down to the waters edge opposite Anderson’s yard we put the trap near the pump that was used to fill the turkey’s nest. We set up the trap and found only one around this section of riverbank, although habitat was not ideal.
We met the crew back at camp and as it was near one o clock, Chris and I excused the older members of our crew as some snuck off to the fire and others to bed. We crossed the river to check Mawks Lagoon. The map showed a permanent pool, which would give us another gauge on toad populations in the area using the G.P.S and Quad Bikes we pushed through the bush into this lagoon. It turned out to be very substantial and was holding a healthy population of toads.
As dawn was not far away we made our way back into camp to grab a few hours sleep. Morning was upon us and we counted and dispatched last nights catch. Amounting to 212 Toads with over 85% male. Some very large toads were caught, some as long as 140mm! Camp was broken and last job on the list was to set a trap in Crawford’s Creek by the highway. After that was done we began our long drive home.
A Big thank you to the crew and Special thanks to Chris Shaw who spends his time midweek cleaning and maintaining the Quad Bikes, keeping them in tip top condition. This consumes quite few hours each week but ensure the longevity of our equipment. Next weekend we will be spending time in this area to get a better picture of the Cane toads movements in this area. Thank you all once again for your commitment.
Wednesday 7 th & Thursday 8 th September 2006
Trip report Chris Spurr
Crew;Students from Kimberley TAFE’s certificate I in Conservation and Land Management and New Apprenticeship Access Program students embarked on a toad bust and trap placement exercise in early September. This exercise was a coordinated component of the Kimberley Toad Busters Inc. field strategy.
It was a first toad bust for all the students who were supported by Toad Busting TAFE staff and Kimberley Toad Busters, Chris Spurr, Tony Edland, Bill Manning and first time buster Roland Fiegert.
Pear tree tank and wombat Billabong on Auvergne Station west of Timber creek were the focus of the bust.
Pear Tree Tank
A daylight reconnaissance of the turkey nest at Pear tree tank found 6 adult toads ( 4 female and 2 male) in the single trap located on the NW corner of the turkey nest. The trap was situated next to the overflow pipe from a top water supply down to the bottom dam.
A walk along the banks quickly discovered many 5mm-10mm toad metamorphs. At least 500 of these were killed in a short time by the team. These toads were evident on the banks and shallows. Many appeared to be hiding in cracks in the mud. As we were there in the early afternoon the heat may have kept many of the metamorphs hidden in the mud.
Two more traps were set at the turkey nest. One in the NE corner and another in the SE corner.
On returning here the next day, 2 females were found in the NE trap, 1 gravid female was found in the SE trap and none were found in the NW trap. More toad metamorphs were found along the banks.
Dwayne spraying a neat solution of Dettol into a goanna hole containing a cane toad. The toad quickly came out in an agitated state.
Six toads were also found in holes (during the day) that had set in the mud, either from drying cracking mud or cattle footprints. Four were found in a single hole and two in another. A spray bottle with a neat solution of Dettol was sprayed into these holes where the toads became quickly agitated before climbing out of the holes.
They appeared to be close to death and a red rash developed on their underside between their back legs. When put into a sealed plastic bag with approximately 100mL of undiluted Dettol they died within minutes. This method was used for all busted toads on this trip.
Access to this area was granted by the traditional owners.
A daylight investigation of the site we were going to bust in the evening began with 7 toads being uncovered in goanna holes along the banks of Sandy Creek .These were either pulled out or encouraged to come out with a spray of Dettol.
Four traps were set in the Wombat Billabong vicinity, 1 at the man made waterhole near the bore and 3 along the creek, each next to a pool of water. 19mm polypipe was placed over electrical wires to prevent cattle from eating the wires. There was no evidence of damage after one night.
The boys check a trap set the previous day at the creek at Wombat Billabong.
After the traps were set, camp was established at Big Horse Creek camping ground. After dinner the night toad bust activity began with a drive back to Wombat Billabong. Three toads were captured on the road back to Wombat. 115 toads were captured at the man made waterhole and creek. No toads were caught in the traps when checked the next day.
There was plenty of wildlife seen at night. At least 3 snakes and many young frogs.
A male cane toad was heard calling at Big Horse Creek camp ground.
The newly trained team
TOTAL TOADS CAPTURED
137 adult toads
500- 1000 metamorphs
Pear Tree Creek Toad Bust 27th -28th Oct 2006
Crew: Chris Shaw and Dave Woods and Junior Toadbuster, Maddison Shaw
Our objective this trip was to substantiate if the toads had made it upstream into the permanent pools on Pear Tree Ck. We left on Friday night just after sunset and within a few hours we had reached the creek. It took a little work to find the track in the dark but once we did we followed it upstream to a permanent pool about 5 kilometres from the highway.
It was obvious to us the pools were shrinking quickly as it was the end of the dry season and the days are rather hot which is great for evaporation. Over the night we busted only 11 toads from these two pools Only Two Were male and the resat female. All mature breeders no smaller than 110 mm. The biggest female was 170mm. One shrivelled female toad was pulled from the trap as well. Over about five hours we checked the pools four times. It was obvious the work done by Trevor has had a major reduction in the number of toads in the Pear Tree Ck area. Our nature bonus for the night was to have four Water Pythons cruising the pools and just before daylight we found two of them sheltering under some rocks close to the waters edge
At first light we began our trip on the quads upstream. It turned out being 6.4 kilometres of rough going, rocky country. Taking us about 1.5 hrs to get to the next permanent pool on pear tree ck. It was already warming up so Chris and Maddy had a swim whilst I began searching for toads. Chris and soon Maddy joined in and after a couple of hours checking every nook and cranny, we came up empty handed. It appears the toads had not made it this far upstream.
It is interesting to note that even though the toads are further west than this system by about 30 kilometres, they had not made it upstream on pear tree ck, to this pool. Which is only six and half kilometres away. This suggests that the toads will not take the hard road upstream against the current when they can continue west crossing these systems in easily traversable floodplain country.
Thanks to Chris and Maddy for their ongoing Toad Busting. Some of our reconnaissance trips are far from easy and having reliable, experienced people to work with makes it that much less stressful. Big thanks to You Both
Trip report by Dave Woods
Crew; Chad Sloan and Dave Woods
We decided to go back downstream to where our camp was and conduct a search of this section of river, as it was a little closer to the V.R.D. homestead. We knew of the reports from the station folk that toads were sighted in this area, late in the wet. So we were looking to see if the toads had colonised on the permanent pools of the Wickham. Chad and I spent over two hours searching high and low this section of river but came up empty handed again. This was also somewhat of a relief.
We then decided to check Draft Horse Turkeys Nest, which sits on the banks of the Wickham River but another five plus kilometres further downstream. Leaving only another seven or eight kilometres until the Wickham meets the Victoria River. This is now also downstream of the Homestead and as we know how much toads love Turkeys Nests, this needed to be checked. Being so close to the river I held grave fears but was very pleased when we found it free of toads.
From Draft Horse we headed due south on the Quad Bikes to a crossing on the Victoria River. The crossing is called Bismark Crossing. It is about twelve kilometres upstream from Dashwood Crossing. Once at the crossing, Chad went downstream with a spotlight and I went the other direction. After searching for over an hour we met back at the bikes and neither of us had seen any toads at all. It was good to see no toads at this crossing on the Vic, as it proves from Dashwood upstream, the population of toads diminishes to non-existent.
After making our way back to camp we had one last look in the area for toads with nothing to report. It was then time for some shuteye as the new day was not far away. At sunrise we packed up before it got to hot and made a move back home. Big thanks to Chad for his big effort on this weekend’s toad bust. It was also great to see this area unaffected at present, even if it may be short-lived as the wet season is just around the corner. Special thanks to Russell and Julie (Station managers) for the opportunity to access the property and to conduct our work.
Crew: Chris Shaw and Dave Woods
Chris and I arrived late afternoon and set up camp on the banks of the Victoria River not far from Blueys Croc Farm. After unloading the gear and quad bikes, we managed to squeeze in a quick ride to work out how to access the paddocks further downstream. We needed to do this without passing to close to the croc pens, especially at night as loud noises like Quad Bikes can spook the crocs; causing them to pile on top of each other and eventually suffocate each other.
After sussing the access out we made haste back to camp as a build-up thunderstorm was approaching. We moved to higher ground before it hit us. After about twenty-five minutes we were able to get out of the car as the blinding lightning bolts had moved far enough away not to be a danger.
This was good timing for us that night as the recent downpour meant the toads would be out in force. Toad activity certainly increases this time of the year. As the temperature rises the country becomes flooded along with a rise in the humidity. These factors allow for much more successful migration and propagation of the Cane Toad.
We had a quick feed before heading off downstream on the bikes. It wasn’t long before we had our first toad for the night found by Chris in middle of the track. They were not in large numbers but were found up to 2.5 kilometres from the river that night. Before long the rain began again and the track lost its form real quick. We had no choice but to turn around as black soil is very unforgiving stuff to get bogged in.
This was no major drama as we had actually visited this area last year but we accessed it from the Fitzroy Station. Even last year we found breeding Toads in two areas here so it was no surprise to see them here this year. Along the tracks heading downstream from Blueys, we collected only 10 toads.
On our way back we stopped at the top of a jump up which is over 100 metres above the river where our camp was. This is the closest permanent water from this jump up and what do you know! Chris soon had picked up a dead Toad, which was less than a day dead. We were wondering if the toad, had unassisted got himself up there and perished from dehydration. If so what would attract a toad all the way up there or was dropped by a bird that picked it up closer towards the rivers permanent pools and consequently got rid of it mid flight??? On This Jump up Chris also found a pair of remarkable geckos that neither of us had seen before. Our Reference book shows that it is possibly a Northern velvet Gecko. It has not been found on the west coast of Australia to date; otherwise it could be a similar species. This is exciting stuff!
We then headed back to camp to do some Busting along the river to get an idea of the Toad populations around its permanent pools. Chris headed off downstream whilst I went the other direction. A couple of hours later we met back at camp to see what the other had found. We had found thirty toads between us and one native Burrowing Frog that even had us experienced Toad Busters looking twice to make sure it was not a toad!
Beware, as they do look similar although to the touch there is a distinct difference as the native frog is very soft as opposed to Toads being coarser.
Chris also caught a Freshwater Croc in the act of taking a toad. This was unfortunate but there was little we could do to save it as it shot off for deeper water, with the toad in its jaws. This would of happened less than a minute before Chris arrived on the scene, as the toad still was wriggling between its teeth. For the people that doubt the toad’s impact on Freshwater Crocs ask Bluey, the Proprietor of the Croc Farm.
The Croc pens attract Toads like Ducks to water. Bluey also has an added drama this time of year as they also breed in his pens. He looses freshwater crocs each week to cane toads, as it is a losing battle keeping them out, as the pens are great habitat for toads. Also the autopsy’s carried out by Desanka on the Freshwater Crocs at Fitzroy Falls, showed us that one toad is enough to kill a Freshwater Croc stone cold!
We decided to call it a night after dispatching of the toads and in the morning we loaded up our very muddy quad bikes and headed to Coolibah crossing where we spent an hour cleaning them and making certain not to bring any Noonggorra burr back home with us. This was followed by a smooth journey home to Kununurra.
Thanks to Milton and Christine Jones for access to the station and Bluey also for access to his land. Thanks to Chris for being the ever-reliable partner on such trips.
Report by Dave Woods