ON A sunny day in early spring, I pull off Phillip Island Road at the butterfly sculpture for a walk in Scenic Estate Conservation Reserve. A wide gravel path follows the grid of streets laid out in 1960 for a subdivision known locally as ‘Chinamans Estate’ because many of the 332 house blocks were bought by investors in Hong Kong. After weeks of rain the swamp paperbark scrub that covers much of the reserve is immersed in shallow pools and it is easy to see why the estate was deemed unfit for development and no houses were ever built.
As I venture deeper into the reserve the muffled hum of traffic fades, absorbed by dense swamp paperbark thickets that shelter me from the thrum of the outside world. I hear water trickling and bubbling into tiny streams, birds call to each other through the scrubby trees and the fragrance of paperbark flowers drifts through the air.
A cacophony of frog calls surrounds me. It must be breeding time with every male in the neighbourhood calling for a mate. Every puddle large and small resonates with their calls and the wetland ahead is pandemonium. The sound subsides as I approach but when I stop and stand still the volume rises to fever pitch. I open my FrogID app and press record. It is hard to believe that only two frog species, common eastern froglets and eastern banjo frogs, are making all these marvellous sounds.