Frogging in the Western Ghats

Call it luck or chance, I joined a group for some frogging lessons and amphibian watching by the frog expert Dr. Gururaja Kv at Bisle Ghats, located closer to Sakleshpura town in the prime Western Ghats region.

(out in the field... looking for frogs)

This camp was a continuation of their last year camp (that very well I was unaware of), and many thanks to Avinash that I grabbed this opportunity to attend this camp. I had just begun having interests in frogs/snakes and had purchased the book of Gururaja, Frogs and Toads of the Western Ghats. Vivek and Deepika were the key planners and organizers and we camped at the Samudaya bhavana at Bisle village, completely cut off from the rest of the world.
(art in the rain)

Got to know a whole new bunch of people from diverse backgrounds and interests and I should mention about the youthful, cheerful, smiling Mr Ashokavardhana (of the Athree book centre, Mangalore fame) who was always infusing us with his energetic enthusiasm (that many of us lacked at times) and infectious smile and whistles. You should have a look at his blog in Kannada here.

(find the frog...!)

We had field sessions and indoor sessions to study the distribution of frogs in and around the place and this is planned to be done every year so that there is a base of data collected over few years that helps us study the amphibians and their distribution better.

(field discussions)

What we did? Ganged up on Saturday morning and after a filling breakfast did a small hike inside AshokaVana (pvt land purchased by Ashoka sir and others and completely let grow wild) till Dr Guru and team arrived, then a brief introductory session by the master followed by a homely filling meal and then two field sessions in search of amphibians around. Next day was more relaxing with an early filling breakfast followed by a field session collecting data and then an indoor final session and lunch followed by dispersal.
(art in the rain 2)

Why was Bisle chosen as a place of study? May be because of the copious amounts of rains it receives, less exploitation of the habitat so far and an environment conducive for the amphibians to exist. We will have a trend and some amazing facts coming out in a few years time from now basis the data collected every year.

Personally for me, I got to learn quite a lot of things about amphibians, their life cycles, differences and also was able to connect with a very diverse and vivid group of people, such groups infuse you with the energy at levels that you can only think of. Overall, was a great learning experience and I hope to be back this monsoon again to collect and contribute to the data.

(an indoor session by Dr Gururaja, Priti and Sudhir are seen standing)

Dr Gururaja was accompanied by his wife Priti and good friend Sudhir of Gubbi Labs who themselves are experts in their own fields, related to each other.

(art in the rain 3)

Many things I picked up over the two days:
> Frogs do not hibernate, they are present in their regular places but are less active.
> There are no poisonous frogs in India.
> Frogs and Toads are called amphibians because they have a 2-staged life, tadpole and adult stage and not because they live in water.
> Most of the frogs are territorial, they fight for territories and they kick and choke the opponents.
> No major differences between frogs/toads excepts for the feature that toads have got poison glands on their back (from which they discharge poison) and have rounded snouts.
> Sexes do differ. Males have got vocal sacs and have glands on inner legs called fermonal glands and the males have got nuptial pads on the thumb that differs them from the female who do not exhibit these features.
> Success rate is considered higher in less egg laying frogs, nearly 100%.

(how to hold a frog!)

How to handle Frogs?
They are very sensitive creatures and need to be handled with utmost care else you could suffocate them or break their limbs. Some tips on handling them better...
> clasp them with soft hands and not by force
> hold it gently by its forelegs or hind legs and by abdomen in the case of bigger sized ones.
> allow it to relax before you start inspecting them

Some interesting facts:
> 6000+ species of frogs in the world
> around 340 frogs/toads found in India
> around 180 frogs/toads found in Western Ghats alone
> 36 cecilians found in India (endemic to India)
> 1 salamander species found in India
> 94 species of frogs/toads found in W.Ghats are data deficient meaning we do not have proper scientific information about them as yet!

(L-R: Sudhira, Vivek, Ashokavardhana, Sandeep, Suman, Aparna, Shishir, Ashrita (partially seen), Rohit, Santosh, Vinayaka, Ananth, Avinash, Karthik, Anup, Navya, Guru, Gururaja, Priti Gururaja, Chinmayi, Deepika, Sowmini)

How to Reach: Bangalore - Kunigal - Channarayapatna - Holenarsipura - Shanivarasanthe - Bisle State Forest OR
Bangalore - Hassan - Sakleshpur - Shanivarasanthe - Bisle State Forest

Note: No accommodation facilities available, small shops are present that serve tea/coffee and light food. Have no expectations.

And, finally here is the link to the android app of Frog Find, the e-version of the frog book of Dr Gururaja.