The Western Ghats is a unique mountain range that harbors an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. I have been observing Rhacophorus lateralis– Winged Gliding Frog – for the last five years and did not have a single opportunity to hear their vocal call. In the monsoon of 2013, I was determined to observe and learn more about this frog species. Fortunately, they are found in coffee plantations, close to my home town Chikmagalur.
Rhacophorus lateralis is an endangered species of Rhacophorid tree frogs, endemic to the Western Ghats in Southern India. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, intermittent freshwater marshes and plantations. This tree frog species eluded scientists for centuries and was rediscovered after 120 years. It has only been recorded in some parts of Karnataka (Coorg and Chikmagalur) and in Kerala (Wayanad). It is one of the few nest building frogs in Asia. After mating,the female uses leaves of plants hanging over a water-body to build a foam nest by folding the leaf together, or by covering the eggs with a second leaf.The eggs hatch into tadpoles in approximately two weeks on the leaf itself, and wriggle themselves free (aided by rain) and drop into the water.
On the onset of the monsoon, I started my observations at around 6:30PM. There was a slight pre-monsoon shower at 8:00PM, followed by heavy down pour at 10:30PM. This made frogs more active. It was very interesting to observe their call for the first time – it sounded like bubble had burst. One day, while constructing a nest on a leaf hanging low over a water tank, a frog fell in the water. The tank was filled with Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis – Skittering Frog, an aquatic frog species. The Euphlyctis are voracious predators and largely feed on aquatic insects, beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers and tadpoles.In no time, the hapless lateralis became prey to a lurking cyanophlyctis, giving me the opportunity to witness and document this natural history moment.
Sunil Sachi was one of the winners of a nationwide amphibian photography contest conceptualised by Lost Amphibians of India (LAI) and Sanctuary Asia. This unusual image was his winning entry.