I used to overlook the the frog sounds I heard when walking along the river or visiting my parents bush block. I started paying more attention and tried to identify species that I found. I quickly realized that that frog identification is quite complex and nuanced.
Photography Field Guide To Australian Frogs is one of the books I’ve been using to increase my understanding of frogs. It is a comprehensive guide that gives readers the tools to confidently identify the frog species found in Australia. It can be a lot of work, but it is an interesting journey.
How is the book structured?
Most of the book is dedicated to identification keys and species profiles. The introductory section is unusually short for a field guide at just 20 pages, however it contained a lot of information. It had sections about invasive species, basic information for finding frogs and morphology.
The morphology section was particularly useful. It went beyond an overview of the external pictures: you get illustrations and photos of:
- Frog head shapes
- Skin texture descriptions
- Foot structures
I found the the length of the introduction was perfect. It covered a lot of ground. The only issue is that it relied heavily on scientific language. This may make it overwhelming to beginners, who would need to return to this section often. The steep learning curve makes the rest of the book a lot easier.
I was pretty impressed with the quality of the introduction, however, the real magic happened when I got to the species profiles.
The species profiles are among some of the best I’ve seen in a field guide. They are detailed, well presented and are accompanied by clear photographs. Figuring out the exact species involves a lot of hard work.
This work is made easier by the keys at the started of the chapter. There is a pictorial key with tips on how to narrow the species down to its family, as well as a visual guide to how the hands and feet can aid with identification. There is also an infographic with tips on how to use the key.
The species are organized into chapters according to each family. There are four main families, as well as two chapters that feature just the one species. Each chapter has an overview of the family, information about key identification features for that family and an identification key to help you narrow it down to genus. Images are provided as part of this key where appropriate. You will likely need to refer back to the introduction to understand a lot of the terminology used, however it does get easier with time.
The species are organized according to genus. There is a one page introduction for each genus with a brief overview, information on similar genera/morpho-functional groups and a section on the key features of the genus. In more complex species, these introductions can extend to 4-5 pages. These extended sections have additional information on morpho-functional group or calls.
Each species profiles takes up one page. Two thirds of the page are taken up by a map and species information. The profile includes information on habitat, call and similar species. Half of the profile is dedicated to morphological features. Each profile includes four images. These vary according to genus, depending on what the key features are.
This guide is complex when compared to other species, such as birds. It is worth the hard work.
Do I recommend it?
I would recommend it to those who are passionate about frogs and who want to be able to identify them in the field. It is hard work and can involve a steep learning curve.
I wouldn’t recommend it to younger readers or those who have a casual interest in frogs. A Naturalist’s Guide to the Frogs of Australia would be a better fit for beginners. It features the more common species and doesn’t overwhelm with information and pictures.
This is the type of quality guide that becomes one of the guides that takes up residence in the backseat of your car for easy access. I highly recommend it.