Saturday, 26 May 2018

Thailand Wildlife Spectacular April 2018

My usual field trip partner Matt Wilson decided to up sticks with his new wife Katarina Valachova and go and teach on the Island of Phuket Thailand. A big motivation for him going there was obviously the host of wildlife which I was also gonna cash in on at some point. Well that point came in April when I flew out with TUI direct for about 850 quid. I was expecting big things form this trip spurred on by Matt and Kat's posts on facebook of their regular wildlife findings. The good thing was I didn't really have to do any research as Matt came up with an itinerary so I just had to get myself there.

Thursday 5th

A smooth 11 hour flight to Phuket an age getting through passport control and a short taxi ride to Matt and Kat's house and I was there knackered. I wasn't expecting Matt to be there but he was coz he was off work with the trots. The plan today was just to rest up, although I did eyeball a few birds and 3 species of lizard.


Officially Matt was meant to be at work but was still off ill, Kat was at work so Matt arranged for his regular taxi driver Mr Mai to pick me up at 7am and take me to Bang Wad reservoir for a bit of a poke around with a quick stop off at Big Buddha. First impressions of Phuket was its very busy, dodgy driving (2 moped crashes already) and very hot and humid.
Anyhow I managed to walk all the way around the reservoir picking up a few species including 2 female Wagler's Pit Viper that Matt had given me directions for, a few Changeable Lizards, a few Many Lined Sun Skinks and Common Gliding Lizard.


In the evening we had a quick drive around picking up a few birds and my favourite lizard of the trip the Butterfly Lizard. Later just after dark we visited a waterfall where we saw a Green Keelback, Oriental Vine Snake, a very nice Oldham's Bent Toed Gecko, Phuket Forest Spiny Lizard, Common Parachute Gecko and Clouded Frog.

Saturday 7th PHUKET ISLAND

Started the day with a little drive around looking for some birds, with Indian Roller, Chinese Pond Heron, White Breasted Kingfisher, Red Wattled Lapwing, Coppersmith Barbet, Brahminy Kite, Blue Tailed Bee-eater, Common and White Vented Myna and a few other species seen.

Again after dark we went to a different rainforest, it was quite hard going up the steep track with the noise of the cicadas deafening at times. We found a couple of Smith's Litter Frog which was my favourite frog of the trip with their weird bi coloured iris making their eyes look half closed, also Paddy Frog. We then out of no where had company in the pitch dark forest, locals on their way up with ropes and sacks maybe collecting honey, we had had enough by then and scarpered back to the car. On the road on the way back we had a Asian Spiny Toad and Common Tree Frog.


Today we went down to the Mangroves in the hope of some waders but it was devoid other than Common Sandpiper and a Pair of Red-Wattled Lapwings. Wet then went up to the Gibbon Sanctuary where there was a Black Hornbill around the café. A second species of Gliding Lizard was seen but not much else (we were later to get some info which we wished we had on this visit). Matt then got a message from a birder friend that his son Nathaniel had caught an Asian Rat Snake in his yard, so we went to photograph it (which wasn't easy). In the evening we had a wander into a forest where Matt and Kat had previously managed to photograph a Scops Owl but things were very quiet although saw a new species of Skink the Speckled Forest Skink (we released the rat snake here as well.)


First thing in the morning we left Phuket briefly to try and find Spotted Wood Owl. We eventually found it but it kept getting flushed by pestering Black Naped Orioles and Crow Billed Drongos but eventually it sat still long enough for photos. I was glad to get out of this mozzy infested woodland.

In the afternoon the plan was to go into the rainforest in the afternoon and stay till dark to try and find the endemic Phuket Pit Viper. The first snakes we found were Oriental Vine Snakes, we did eventually find two vipers a juvenile female and an adult female. A few frog species were in evidence  the very large Blyth's River Frog, A Green Tree Frog Species and Matt's highlight a Tasan Frog which reminded us of a Corsican Painted Frog.


Tuesday 10th KRABI

We set off for the Phanom Bencha Mountain resort in Krabi on Tuesday morning. A very beautiful place with a few invertebrate drawbacks.

In the evening we met Vern Lovic for a bit of road cruising, it was a bit on the quiet side but we did find a gorgeous Malayan Pit Viper. Back in our digs a good number of Tokay Geckos were on the ceiling.

11th April KRABI

In the morning we arranged to out into the mangroves to search out some Mangrove Pit Vipers, it took a while but we eventually found two in quick succession, there were a few Peaceful Doves near the boat dock.

We had a look around after dark and found a Triangle Keelback, lots of Common Tree Frogs and some River Toads. Our torches were attracting honey bees (bigger than those in the UK) at one point we were surrounded so we retreated not wanting to get stung and causing a frenzy.
A drive down the road was profitable when Kat spotted a Sunda Slow Loris moving along some cables.

12th April KRABI

 In the morning we had a wander around the resort, I managed to catch a Golden Tree/Flying snake which was in a crack in a large boulder. Several Water Monitors were swimming in the local pools. A few birds such as Oriental Honey Buzzard, Striated Swallow, Blue Cheeked Barbet, were seen but over all it was fairly quiet.

A final bit of road cruising with Vern and what a difference a couple of days make. First up was a highly venomous Blue Krait crossing the road. A few more ups and downs and Vern found another Blue Krait which had just caught and was in the process of eating a Brown Spotted Green Pit Viper it was alive right up to the point of it's tail disappearing down the Krait. Another Oriental Vine Snake, and another new species a Common Wolf Snake.

That night we came back to about 5 of these in our cabin, one in the bathroom and 3 or 4 in my room including one perched on top of my mozzy net, im not especially bothered about spiders but I didn't fancy standing on one in the middle of the night. Kat threatened to sleep in the car :-).


I think that this was my favourite location of the trip, we stayed right next to the park for which there is a small entrance fee. Gibbons could be heard in the forest but we never saw any whilst there.
It is against the rules to enter the forest at night without an official guide so we hired Deng who Mat and Kat had met on a previous visit.

We saw quite a lot of critters but only two species of snake Oriental vine snake and two male Wagler's Viper, one was too high up but the other little one was low enough for photography. A Palm Civet was the mammal highlight there was also a Langur high up in the trees. Deng found a giant cricket with a weird human face. There were lots of Penelope's Hill Frogs on the forest floor, also a Frilled Edged Tree Frog and a nice Little Malayan Gecko on a leaf.

April 14th

We had a look for an Eagle Owl that was apparently perched up near the forest entrance but without success. The little male viper was still in situ so we took so pics of him in daylight.

The night walk was a lot more productive than the day walk with some of the best snakes of the trip seen. First up Kat spotted a beautifully marked Jasper Cat Snake perched on a concrete fence post, shortly followed by a smallish Mangrove Snake. Deng then got a message about a Reticulated Python nearby so we hurried to the spot to find a 3 metre plus specimen (my biggest snake seen to date). It eventually made its away off along a piece of bamboo. A triangle Keelback and the previous Wagler's made it a 5 snake species night. A cute little mouse also put in an appearance looks a bit like a dormouse.

April 15th
The aim today was to find a cave and in that cave a Cave Racer. It was easier said than done but with detective skills reminiscent of Lieutenant Columbo we got there in the end. We had to hike up gog knows how many steps then back down and along an overgrown path, we all looked like we had been in the shower by the end of it. We found one large snake approx. 2 metres but it was about to shed so was in a bad mood, also a couple of Banded Cave Gecko spp and loads of Fruit Bats in the first cave.


In the evening we decided to do a road drive and stop off at a waterfall where there was a lot of frog action including quite a few Tasan Frogs of various shades and patterns, no snakes though but the next morning there was a DOR Red Cat Snake where we had been looking.

APRIL 16th Back to Phuket
We drove back to Phuket after a little look round for Langurs to photograph but they weren't co-operating.
In the evening we went to look for some water snakes in the Mangroves, luckily the tide was in this time, however the first snake was a dead Mangrove Pit Viper being eaten a by a crab. We did eventually find one Dog-Faced Water Snake. We then did a drive, a bit of rain had brought out a lot of frogs, we then had a Sunbeam Snake Crossing the Road, it was an awkward little bugger to photograph the heavens then opened making it even harder.  30 minutes later was a nice Green Cat Snake crossing the road and easier to photograph.

April 17th Phuket
We went to see the Wagler's vipers again anyhow after a month in the same tree one had gone however the second was still in the same position. We then went up to see the Pig Tailed Macaques on monkey mountain, unfortunately they are gradually getting squeezed out into isolated islands by human over population.

April 18th
My last day on Thailand, last chance for some new ticks. I had seen a shrike that I wanted to photograph so that was the first stop, it turned out to be a Brown Shrike. In the process of trying to photograph that we saw a snake disappear down a drain, it appeared again popping its head out but we couldn't coax it out, got a pic and identified it as a Copperhead Racer snake species no 21. We then headed in the rain forest Matt spotted a weird looking Vine snake which turned out to be a new species Speckle Headed Vine Snake. Matt spotted another snake disappear into the bottom of a bamboo after a few minutes poking around it made a run for it and another new species Speckle Bellied Keelback (snake species no 23). I then spotted a juvenile Clouded Monitor Lizard on the path but it ran off before I could get a photo and then a Phuket Bent Toed Gecko hiding in a tree hole. We then headed to the Gibbon sanctuary again, frustratingly we heard news that there had been a female King Cobra nest guarding behind the café and it had been caught and moved the week before i.e. after our first visit "bugger"!!! I did see some nice little fruit bats though. In the afternoon after missing them before we went to see the Mangrove Macaques smaller and with a straight tail when compared to the pig tailed.

A final nocturnal foray revealed nothing more than another new lizard species the Green Crested Canopy Lizard high up in the trees and that concluded a very good two weeks of wildlife watching in good company. Thanks to Matt and Kat for organising things and putting me up in their house whilst in Phuket
Snakes (23) plus 3 DOR
Common Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) 2
Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor) 1
Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) 1
Copperhead Racer (Coelognathus radiates) 1
Ridley's Cave Racer (Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi) 1
Indochinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros)  1
Golden Tree Snake (Chrysopelea ornate) 2
Common Wolf Snake (Lycodon capucinus) 1
Green Cat Snake (Boiga cyanea) 1
Mangrove Snake (Boiga dendrophila) 1
Red Cat Snake (Boiga nigriceps) 1 DOR
Jasper Cat Snake (Boiga jaspidea) 1
Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) 20 +
Speckle Headed Whip Snake (Ahaetulla fasciolata) 1
Triangle Keelback (Xenochrophis trianguligerus) 2
Green Keelback (Rhabdophis nigrocinctus) 1
Red Necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) 1 DOR
Speckle Bellied Keelback (Rhabdophis chrysargos) 1
Dog-Faced Water Snake (rberus ryhchops) 1
Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus) 2
Monocled Cobra (Naja kaouthia) 1 DOR
Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) 1
Mangrove Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) 2
Brown Spotted Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops venustus) 1
Phuket Green Pit Viper (Trimeresurus phuketensis) 2 f
Wagler's Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) 4 (2m 2f)
Frogs and Toads