Thailand - Into the wet season.

For your reports/images, made outside Europe and the "Mediterranean" countries. Not to be too narrow minded and limited to our European/Mediterranean herps.

Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Sat Apr 21, 2012 11:09 am

The following observations were made between 28th June and 20th August 2011 around the Thai village of Saan Phokae. The village is situated midway between the tourist hotspot of Pattaya and the Thai naval base at Sattahip. The busy coastal town of Bang Sare is roughly five miles due west.

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The garden of our temporary home was surrounded by an interesting tropical garden which contained mature fruit trees, a damp fern and orchid area, a small ornamental pond and a couple of outbuildings. The village itself was small with a single shop and a school. Once the houses and shacks petered out vast fields of pineapples and manioc stretched in most directions. Within a 5 minute stroll was a lake fringed with reed beds and covered with floating islands of striking pink water lilies.


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Dawn over pineapple fields.


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Pineapple fields. What appears to be rubbish in the field is in fact the remains of hundreds of paper sky lanterns that had been released the night before during a festival.


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Nearby Lake.

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Water Lillies.



It took my wife and I a couple of days to grow accustomed to the tropical heat. During our first night we quickly realised that the veranda outside our bedroom was home to a number of Tokay Geckos (Gekko gecko) that called frequently whilst clinging to the insect screens attached to the open windows.


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Part of the garden.

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Within two days the first snake made an appearance in the garden when a Banded Kukri (Oligodon fasciolatus) was found crawling along the path near the fish pond. Although non venomous, these stout bodied snakes can reportedly deliver a nasty bite. Their name derived from the Ghurkha kukri knife similar to the snake’s sharply curved rear teeth that are used to slice open both bird and reptile eggs. The flat head and neck is marked with a distinctive chevron whilst the body of this particular specimen was a mixture of dark edged diamonds and two faint vertebral stripes.


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Banded Kukri - (Oligodon fasciolatus).



Our days took on a regular routine, walking the dog at 6. a.m. before it got too hot. This was a good time to keep an eye out for wildlife, in particular birds. We alternated the walks between the pineapple fields and along the lakeside.

Often locals were already out fishing or collecting the water lilies to decorate the nearby temple.


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Morning catch - no idea what fish were in the lake.



Birding highlights included Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Indian Roller, Brown-throated and olive-backed Sunbirds, Racket-tailed Treepie, Green and blue-throated Bee Eaters, Barred Buttonquail, Puff-throated Babbler and Lineated Barbet. The clucking of wild Red Jungle Fowl was often heard but they stayed exasperatingly well hidden and subsequently unseen.


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Weaver bird nests.


Around the lake were colonies of Streaked Weavers and Plain-backed Sparrows. In the shallows were both Cinnamon and Yellow Bitterns, Cotton Pygmy Geese and Asian Openbill Storks. Hunting White-bellied Sea Eagles were often over the water. Dragonflies were numerous and included the colourful Common Picture Wing or Variegated Flutterer - (Rhyothemis variegata).


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(Rhyothemis variegata).

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During the day it was pleasant to potter about around the garden and pool area. Reptiles turned up fairly regularly.


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Many-lined Sun Skink - (Eutropis multifasciata).


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Chequered Keelback - (Xenochrophis piscator).


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Indo-Chinese Rat Snake - (Ptyas korros), juvenile.


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Flat-tailed Gecko - (Cosymbotus platyurus).


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Golden Flying Snake - (Chrysopelea ornata).


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Tokay (Gekko gecko) hiding.


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Large female Four-lined Tree frog - (Polypedates leucomystax).


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Garden Fence Lizard - (Calotes versicolor), male in breeding colour.


One afternoon we noticed small birds mobbing an area of leaves in one of the trees but even through binoculars nothing could be seen. After dark it was clear that a snake was up in the branches and from the balcony a Long-nosed Whip Snake could be seen curled among the leaves. It remained in place for 3 days enduring a regular mobbing by small birds. The only way to get a half decent picture was to lean out over the first floor balcony.


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First sight of a Long-nosed Whip Snake - (Ahaetulla nasuta).


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The night time torch lit patrols around the garden were the most enjoyable. Plenty of Tokays to be seen and it made quite a change to find them in trees and bushes as well as on the gable ends and house walls.


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A gravid Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko (Dixonius siamensis).


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Common Sunda Toad - (Duttaphrynus melanostictus).


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Beetle and tree frog, dispute over sun lounger.


We found a small snake low in bushes at the side of the house. It was a new one to me.


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As first sighted, Red-necked Keelback - (Rhabdophis subminiatus).


This back-fanged snake, previously thought to be harmless, was recently reclassified as a dangerous species after one fatal bite and several serious envenomations were recorded. Ours showed little sign of aggression as it moved through the undergrowth. The dark checked body markings becoming orange around the neck region before reaching a black, collar which was bordered with yellow. The grey head had a black tear mark below the eye. The Keelback remained in residence a couple of days and caused us to exercise more caution around the garden.


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A week or so after our last sighting a second specimen was seen hunting during the day along the base of a wall in an area that was home to several Many-lined Sun Skinks (Eutropis multifasciata).


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About halfway through our stay the wet season struck and soon the ferocious afternoon storms were a regular feature of our days. The standing water around the fields and lanes meant a huge increase in amphibian numbers and a rise in the decibel levels of calling frogs.

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Amplexus in Four-lined Tree frog - (Polypedates leucomystax).


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Going for a drive round the partially flooded roads and lanes was always likely to turn up something interesting. Amphibians were active but tricky to photograph, trying to catch them was equally difficult.

One evening we came across a motorcycle standing at the edge of a flooded field, a torch beam could be seen flickering over the ankle deep water nearby. As I approached the light I could see a young man wandering towards me wearing a head torch, in his hand a plastic bottle. On inspection the bottle was found to contain several frogs. Keen to discuss the local amphibian populations with a fellow enthusiast I was disappointed to learn he was only catching the amphibians to use as bait when fishing. However, his bottle catching technique proved to be one worth copying. With the top part of a plastic bottle cut to form a funnel it had then been pushed into a hole in the side of a second bottle. When the frogs were found the open funnel was placed over the top of them and they obligingly jumped straight up through the hole and were trapped.


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Armed with my own “Thai Amphibian Hoover Mk.1” it was far easier to scoop up the tiny bouncing frogs and identify and photograph them back at the house before re release.

Microhylids were particularly abundant and very noisy.


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Ornate Narrow-mouthed Frog - (Microhyla fissipes).

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Beautiful Pygmy Frog (Microhyla pulchra).


and prettiest of the bunch...

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False Ornate Narrow-mouthed Frog - (Micryletta inornata).

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and probably the ugliest...

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Asian Banded Bullfrog - (Kaloula pulchra).


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Field Frog - (Fejervarya limnocharis). The Thai fish bait frog of choice.


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Floating mats of microdot frog spawn.



We quickly got used to the elongated, shuffling shapes of big black scorpions crossing the road in the headlamps.

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Perils of nightime strolling.

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Black Scorpion - (Heterometrus spinifer).



One evening, whilst inspecting roadside puddles, a palm-sized Raft Spider skated across the water surface very close to my torchbeam.

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Raft spider - (Dolomedes sp.).



Back at the house the damper weather also marked an increase in insect activity.


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Hawkmoth.

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Seen from behind, conspicuous eye markings.


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Asian Deaths-head Hawkmoth (Acherontia lachesis).


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Long horned Beetle (Aristobia horridula).


This monster buzzed around the top of a garden ornament. Everytime I moved a little closer it flew off for a few seconds before returning to it's favoured perch. Eventually I really annoyed it and I ended up taking refuge in the house. Reputedly Xylocopa latipes is the "World's largest Bee."

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One morning whilst sitting on the patio our breakfast was interrupted by a large Kukri that came crawling along the edge of the swimming pool. The swelling midway down its body suggested it also had been eating breakfast. On sensing us nearby the snake froze and was obviously uncomfortable about being out in the open.


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It briefly tolerated me creeping forward for a few photographs before taking evasive action and slipping straight into the pool. It made heavy work of swimming across to the far side, during which time I was dismayed by the possibility of it regurgitating a belly- full of half digested eggs into the water. On reaching the far side the snake eased itself out onto the tiles and then turned defensively to watch us. Making half a dozen half hearted strikes at the camera lens it then slipped into a bush and spent the next four hours dozing in the sun.


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A couple of final observations made around the place.


A noisy presence around the garden were the Indo-Chinese Ground Squirrels. Seen every day.

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Jellyfish around the jetty restaurant in Bang Sare.

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An ant Queen that turned up in the house one evening.

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Green Ant Queen (Oecophylla smaragdina)


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Cliff face Buddha.


As our time in Thailand drew to a close we made arrangements to head south to Penang, Malaysia.



Thanks for viewing.
Ray Hamilton
 
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Mario Schweiger » Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:12 pm

Thanks for sharing pics!
I love the night shots of the Tokee on the branch ;)

Mario
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Please visit also my personal Herp-site vipersgarden.at
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Bobby Bok » Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:45 pm

Mario Schweiger wrote:I love the night shots of the Tokee on the branch ;)


My favourites as well, as well as the Kaloula pictures. Seems you've had a great trip there with many snake species, great shots!
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Jürgen Gebhart » Sat Apr 21, 2012 5:20 pm

Very cool!!! Excellent Pictures!!!
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:04 pm

Super !
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Peter Oefinger » Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:58 am

Very impressive!
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Wolfgang Wüster » Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:59 am

Great photos and narrative!

Spent a lot of time in Thailand in the early 1990s, so this brought back a lot of memories.

The keelback is Xenochrophis flavipunctata, not X. piscator, a species only found in the north of the country. The oblique black markings behind the head are diagnostic.
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Re: Thailand - Into the wet season.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:17 am

Thanks for the positive comments.



The keelback is Xenochrophis flavipunctata, not X. piscator, a species only found in the north of the country. The oblique black markings behind the head are diagnostic.

Thanks Wolfgang for the correction on my ID. I can see now the snake must be X.flavipunctata.

Ray
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