How to conduct a frog survey

Frogwatch is a LONG-TERM citizen science project looking at the population dynamics of local frog species at DESIGNATED Frogwatch sites. If you would like to contribute to Frogwatch, come to one of our regular training seminars to learn all about the when, how and where of frogwatching. 

To do a survey at your chosen Frogwatch site(s) you need a

  • Field data sheet
  • Torch
  • Recording device (e.g. phone, mp3 recorder)
  • Thermometer (provided by FW)
  • Watch, maybe a ruler or marked stick until you get used to estimating distances

For a survey you need to record (on your field data sheet)

  • Time of day, date, observers name, code and name of survey site
  • Weather conditions (wind, cloud cover, recent weather patterns)
  • Air and water temperature
  • Water level: depth of pond, vertical drop of water level from full water mark, and distance between high water mark and water edge (min/max), water flow, percentage of rim vegetation.
  • Presence/absence of plant cover (aquatic, edge, bank, surrounding landscape), including signs of mowing
  • Indication of which species you might have heard and their abundance
  • any other information that seems important


  • then take a recording (even if no frogs are calling) for 3mins. State all your observations from above at the beginning of the recording- just in case the field data sheet gets lost!!, then start the 3mins.)

A survey will take approximately 10-15 mins.

Instructions for determining how much a pond water level has dropped:

Go right to the edge of the water and look back towards the bank. Find the highwater mark and squad down so that your eyes are in line with it. Now estimate the difference between the highwater level/your eye level (pond full) and the current level (where your feet are) by 'eye-balling' it to the nearest 25cm.

How to train yourself to get it right:

You can train yourself by taking along a 1m ruler (or a piece of wood 1m long) and standing it at the water's edge (you can tape the ruler onto a sharpened stake that can be pushed into the mud/clay without it covering up part of the ruler - alternatively you can just take a stake and mark the 20 cm increments on it but leave some of the stake so it can be pushed into the clay. Then squat down behind or beside the ruler so your line of vision is about level with the highwater mark to make the visual estimate.

Then tie a string at the sighted level, run it across to the nearby highwater mark, level it (with a line-spirit level, $5 at the hardware store) and read the measurement- this will be a good practise to find out if your estimates are good enough. It doesn’t need to be too accurate – just to the nearest 25cm.

1: Full; 2: 1 to 25 cm down; 3: 26-50 cm down; 4: 50 - 75 cm down; 5: 76-100 cm down; 6: greater than 1 metre down).

1. How to determine the pond level (depth of pond):

This will provide important information about the holding capacity of the water body. Simply guess if the

pond level is <30cm

pond level >30cm

then fill in the next bit IS THE


POND NEARLY FULL = distance to plant cover less than 25cm

POND BANK VERY EXPOSED = large area of exposed mud, gravel etc.

POND EARLY DRY = just a muddy puddle left in a large area of dry or damp clay, silt etc.

POND DRY = dry cracked clay, no water

2. How to determine the amount of min/max exposed soil between high water mark and current water's edge:

Cast your eye along the edge of the water, all the way around the pond. Find the spot with the largest and with the shortest distance between the high water mark and the water's edge. Measure the distance and enter your results onto the field data sheet. If a pond has fringe vegetation and despite a drop in water level this vegetation covers the distance between edge of the pond and the highwater mark your measurement will for the shortest distance will be 0m. All measurements should be in meters.

3. How to determine the amount of emergent aquatic vegetation:

This will describe the percentage of current pond surface area that is covered by vegetation above the water. Your estimate will have to fit into one of the following categories:



COVERS <25% of pond

COVERS <50% of pond

COVERS <75% of pond

COVERS <100% of pond

COVERS the entire pond

4. How to determine the amount of fringe/edge vegetation:

This will describe the percentage of vegetated pond edge. Your estimate will have to fit into one of the following categories:



COVERS <10% of edge

COVERS <25% of edge

COVERS <50% of edge

COVERS <75% of edge

COVERS <100% of edge

COVERS the entire edge

5. How to determine the effect of mowing:

Is there evidence of recent/regular mowing within 10m of the pond?


Yes- what is the width of unmown buffer around the pond?





Canberra Nature Map Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness Atlas of Life Budawang Coast
2 sightings of 33 species in 531 locations from 12 members
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