Hot Stove Herping 3: Thailand

Leaving Malaysia behind, Adam returned home to Hong Kong, while Dan, Kevin and I flew to Bangkok, where we met up with ten (ten!) of our herping friends. It took two vans to haul our collective asses around, and we engaged the services of TonTan Travel for logistics and guide services. Tony and Tan are fine, knowledgeable people and fun to be around – I had engaged them on my first trip to Thailand in 2016.

We had a day in Bangkok while everyone assembled, and a subset of us headed over to Lumphini Park to check out the free-range water monitors and turtles that make the urban park home.

Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator macromaculatus)

Bill said “I think there’s a snake on that branch over there”, pointing to a small tree maybe 25 meters away. Bill, as I was to subsequently discover in Taiwan, is dialed in on the serpentine form, and sure enough, even my old eyes could spot the serpent as we closed in to secure it. It was a golden flying snake (Chrysopelea ornata ornata).

Chrysopelea ornata ornata

I was amazed that we would find a Chrysopelea here in this manicured environment, although I suppose there are plenty of lizards and other prey around.

Chrysopelea ornata ornata

The monitors in Lumphini are a joy to photograph, and some of them are legit monsters. See my blog post “The Water Monitors of Bangkok” for additional illumination.

A very large and gravid monitor

I didn’t see as many turtles on this visit, but I did get to interact with a Malayan Box Turtle (Cuora amnoinensis kamaroma) ambling about. The trip was off to a good start and I think the gang had a good time at the park.

Cuora amnoinensis kamaroma

Next morning we headed southeast towards Kaeng Krachan National Park, where we would herp for a few days. Our large group was settled into the nearby BaanMaka nature lodge, and the first snake there was a Fasciolated Kukri Snake (Oligodon fasciolatus).

Oligodon fasciolatus

Heading over to the park, Tony spied an Asian whipsnake (Ahaetulla prasina prasina) as we pulled up to the entrance, and the gang stopped for photographs.

Shooting the Ahaetulla
Ahaetulla prasina prasina

Driving in the park, we saw a number of clouded monitors (Varanus nebulosus) clinging to trees or crossing the road. Not quite as big as Varanus salvator, but they still reach a respectable size.

Varanus nebulosus

The park features a campground and a little restaurant, and there are quite a few herps there as well.

A golden flying snake, poking its head out of the tree in the previous picture.

Chrysopelea ornata ornata

A few common sun skinks (Eutropis multifasciata), AKA snake food, were in the tree as well.

Eutropis multifasciata

Another flying snake on the roof of the restaurant.

The beautiful Calotes emma, found just out back basking on a bench.

Calotes emma

There were plenty of tokay geckos around the restaurant area, hiding behind objects and in crevices, and some of them were enormous.

Gekko gecko

There are watering holes for elephants and other wildlife along the park roads, and we investigated a number of them, coming up with some interesting herps.

Boulenger’s pricklenape (Acanthosaura crucigera) found in a thick section of forest.

Acanthosaura crucigera

A white-lipped tree viper (Trimeresurus albolabris).

Trimeresurus albolabris

Erik spotted a Nong Khor bushfrog (Chiromantis nongkhorensis) in some vegetation nearby.

Chiromantis nongkhorensis

The Baan Maka lodge was surrounded by forest and had its own collection of herps, including a juvenile tree viper that showed up at dinner.

The lodge had a nature trail that snaked around the perimeter of the property, and we found a number of herps while walking it, including a Phetchaburi Bow-fingered Gecko (Cyrtodactylus phetchaburiensis). By now I am completely enamored of this genus.

Cyrtodactylus phetchaburiensis

A Siamese leaf-toed gecko (Dixonius siamensis) back behind one of the cabins.

Dixonius siamensis

Two species of slug eaters turned up – a keeled slug snake (Pareas carinatus) and a spotted slug snake (Pareas macularius).

Pareas carinatus
Pareas macularius

Plenty of red-eared frogs (Hylarana erythraeus) were scattered across the hotel grounds at night.

Hylarana erythraeus

Another day hiking around in Kaeng Krachan. Trees overhanging water is a pretty good spot for a tree viper.

Sure enough, a white-lipped tree viper was tucked back in that area.

Trimeresurus albolabris

Additionally. a pale-brown stream frog (Clinotarsus penelope) was found nearby.

Clinotarsus penelope

A mock viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus pulverulentus). This little bugger nipped me while I was posing it, leaving two shallow scratches on the ball of my thumb. Within a minute my thumb began tingling/buzzing, much like a scorpion sting does, which lasted for hours. After the bite I also experienced a brief episode of euphoria that lasted for maybe five minutes. It was an interesting experience to say the least.

Psammodynastes pulverulentus pulverulentus

Oud, a guide who works for Tony and Tan, turned up a beautiful black copper rat snake (Coelognathus flavolineatus).

Coelognathus flavolineatus

One night we drove down out of the hills to an agricultural area, in search of a particular pit viper. Walking along the margin of a pineapple field, it didn’t take us long to find our target, the Malayan pit viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma). These snakes have enormous and elongated heads in proportion to their body size, reminding me of the Terciopelos (Bothrops asper) that I’ve seen on the Yucatán peninsula.

Calloselasma rhodostoma
Calloselasma rhodostoma

We found a number of Calloselasma around the margins of the field, and some other cool herps as well, including several banded bullfrogs (Kaloula pulchra). They are a photogenic species, and after dark they often climb off the ground in search of insect prey.

Kaloula pulchra

In ditches along the field we observed some rice paddy snakes (Hypsiscopus plumbea), formerly in the genus Plumbea.

Hypsiscopus plumbea

Yellow-spotted keelbacks (Xenochrophis flavipunctatus) were also in the ditches. All in all, it was a productive and exciting evening in the pineapple fields.

Xenochrophis flavipunctatus

We also took a day trip in pursuit of cobras, but missed out. An Indo-Chinese rat snake (Ptyas korros) was a nice consolation prize. It was awesome to finally see a snake I’ve been reading about for nearly fifty years.

Ptyas korros

We also saw a number of butterfly agamids (Leiolepis belliana belliana) in a brushy area with few trees. These lizards are extremely wary and have burrows that serve as bolt holes. We managed to get our hands on one of them and get close looks and photos.

Leiolepis belliana belliana

Some of the group did some road cruising at night in one of the vans, including a Koh Tao caecilian (Ichthyophis kohtaoensis). As per usual with caecilians, it was a tough critter to photograph.

Ichthyophis kohtaoensis

Also found on the road was a juvenile Burmese python (Python vittatus). I was grateful that my first burm was in-country instead of in Florida.

Python vittatus

We pulled up stakes and made an all-day drive north and east of Bangkok, to spend a few days at Khao Yai National Park. Khao Yai has some of the same herps as Kaeng Krachan, but different ones as well, and the park has good number of Asiatic elephants as well.

Elephant proof fence in Khao Yai

The park was closed after dark because elephants, so we herped around some agricultural areas at night. It was very dry, and the herps were thin on the ground, but we did turn up some frogs and a snake or two, like this juvenile Indo-Chinese rat snake (Ptyas korros).

Ptyas korros

Frogs included this Chon-Buri bubble-nest frog (Feihyla hansonae).

Feihyla hansonae

We hiked Khao Yai during the day, and there were quite a few visitors on the trails, which always cramps our style a bit. A parachute gecko (Ptychozoon trinototerra) was found in one of the park buildings.

Ptychozoon trinototerra

In the early afternoon a thirty minute cloudburst dumped an impressive amount of rain on the place, and afterwards, the snakes came out, including this handsome Ngàn-Son bronzeback (Dendrelaphis ngansonensis).

Dendrelaphis ngansonensis

A specklebelly keelback (Rhabdophis chrysargos) also made an appearance on the trail.

Rhabdophis chrysargos

The rain also drew out the pit vipers, looking to snack on any frogs out in the wet. First up was this big-eyed green pit viper (Trimeresurus macrops), and we saw a half-dozen or more of this species in a short period of time.

Trimeresurus macrops

Another pit viper out in force was Vogel’s pit viper, Trimeresurus vogeli, and we saw a number of these snakes as well.

Trimeresurus vogeli in ambush mode
Trimeresurus vogeli

We ate a late supper at a restaurant in the park, and the bathroom had special frogs in the rinse barrel – Chantaburi warty frogs (Theloderma stellatum).

Theloderma stellatum

We were late heading out of the park, and had to get special permission to drive out the main gate, rather than driving the hours-long way around. At a sharp curve in the road, we were stopped by a phalanx of elephant butts – a big herd was crossing the road, and they had stopped. We could hear them trumpeting, and more elephants in the forest were breaking branches that made distinctive cracks and pops. The herd was not happy with us, and we soon found out why when three elephants appeared behind our vans. Apparently we had cut them off from the herd. The three behemoths to our rear disappeared from view after a bit, and we backed our vehicles up to allow them to reach the others. Eventually the entire herd moved on, but it was a tense forty five minutes for us in the meantime.

Our last herp of the trip, found the next morning before we headed back to Bangkok and the airport, was another flying snake, our sixth of the trip. I’m still hoping to see one in action someday.

Bill had to return to Taiwan but the rest of us headed for the next leg of this herping juggernaut – Vietnam.

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