Misty Mountains and Moss Frogs: Finding Frogs in Nests

Jodi Rowley is a National Geographic grantee discovering and documenting the diversity, ecology and conservation status of highly threatened amphibians in the forested mountains of Vietnam


One of the first things that I noticed upon walking in to the forests of Cham Chu Nature Reserve for the first time was a grainy “raaaawk”. The noise erupted intermittently from the forest floor, in all directions. I recognized it from previous expeditions- it was the call of a small Fanged Frog that is a rather unusual for a number of reasons. First, it’s relatively strange for a Southeast Asian frog to call during the day, but these frogs call all day.

Second, it’s somewhat uncommon for frogs to call from the middle of the forest, no-where near the streams or ponds. The most interesting thing about the frog, however, is that this frog actually builds nests!

Males of this fat little frog make body-hugging nests in the mud on the forest floor, and call day and night, hidden under leaf-litter. If the male gets lucky, a female Fanged Frog will be attracted by his call and visit his nest to deposit eggs. These eggs hatch into tiny tadpoles that spend their time in the nest until they develop into little frogs and can hop out. Born with a belly full of yolk, they don’t even need to eat- which is a good thing when you’re crammed in a tiny next with all your brothers and sisters.

It’s all a clever strategy to protect their young from voracious predators such as fish, snakes and invertebrates swarming in nearby rivers and ponds. Who said frogs aren’t great parents!?

Frog in a nest
Male Fanged Frogs call from mud-nests on the forest floor, hoping to attract females to their nest to lay eggs. Photo by Jodi Rowley.

Excited by the prospect of recording the call of one of these frogs, and finding them in their nest, I grabbed my call recording gear and set off upstream as soon as I could. My frog recording gear consists of a microphone, a digital audio recorder, and a weather meter (it’s important to know the temperature as it actually affects the way a frog calls).

It was pretty easy to get close to a couple of frogs and record their calls, but it took a very long time to actually find a frog. Although I could tell that they were within a meter or so, I spent a good amount of time rummaging around on the forest floor looking for small brown frogs in small mud nests (which look surprisingly similar to the rest of the ground!).

You would think it would be simple to find such a noisy frog in the middle of the day, but it’s a lot harder than you’d think! Thankfully, I did find a frog in a nest in the end!


NEXTMisty Mountains and Moss Frogs: A Bumpy Start

Read the entire blog series

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Jodi Rowley is a National Geographic grantee discovering and documenting the diversity, ecology and conservation status of amphibians in Southeast Asia. Amphibians in the region are both highly threatened and poorly known, and Jodi and her colleagues conduct scientific expeditions to the forested mountains of Vietnam in search of amphibians.