Hot Stove Herping 5: Hong Kong

Some of our large group had to return home, but the rest of us pushed on to Hong Kong and another type of herping situation. For the first few days we stayed on Lantau Island, and herped the open green spaces there.

The hills were lush with vegetation, and hiking trails along the rainwater catchment systems provided opportunities for observing amphibians and reptiles. It was beautiful up there.

Guenther’s Brown Frog (Sylvirana guentheri) was perhaps the most common frog we saw on Lantau.

Sylvirana guentheri

A ‘green phase’ copper-cheeked Frog (Odorrana chloronota).

Odorrana chloronota

The first snake was this Red-necked Keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus), which is both venomous and poisonous (it’s a bit complicated: this serpent sequesters bufotoxins in nuchal glands).

Rhabdophis subminiatus

Giant Spiny Frog (Quasipaa spinosa)

Quasipaa spinosa

Krait at last! A meter-long many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus) was spotted in a crevice, and then posed for photos. This was the first of several kraits seen on our Hong Kong leg.

Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus

Romer’s small treefrog (Liuixalus romeri) is endemic to Lantau Island, and I felt fortunate to see one.

Liuixalus romeri

A mountain slug snake (Pareas margaritophorus). It seems like everywhere I went, there was another Pareas or two, and this trend would continue.

Pareas margaritophorus

This south China green snake (Ptyas major) was very similar to the worm-eating green snakes we saw in Vietnam. Formerly in the genus Cyclophiops.

Ptyas major

Megophrys brachykolos, the same species of megophryid frog we had seen (and heard) in Vietnam.

Megophrys brachykolos

Wolf snakes are notoriously difficult to photograph, and this Lycodon capucinus was no exception.

Lycodon capucinus

A pretty cool Chinese stripe-necked turtle (Mauremys sinensis). I found it up in a catchment stream, and in all likelihood it was a release.

Mauremys sinensis

An Indo-Chinese rat snake (Ptyas korros) was retained briefly for photographs.

Ptyas korros

At this point it’s my 24th day in this herp juggernaut, and in the mornings I’m feeling every bit of it. Still plenty left in the tank, though – I’ll be ready as soon as I finish my coffee.

All too soon we left Lantau for the mainland and Hong Kong. We stayed downtown in a swanky place (and for not much money); my room was near the top of the hotel with a great view of the harbor.

Hong Kong has some close-by green spaces and that night we headed to a park in the hills above the city. A water course provided some spectacular finds, including this Hong Kong warty newt (Paramesotriton hongkongensis).

Ptyas korros

Also present were Hong Kong torrent frogs (Amolops hongkongensis), hanging around the edge of a waterfall.

Amolops hongkongensis

A freshly emerged Atlas moth, waiting for its wings to dry.

An uncooperative eastern water snake (Sinonatrix percarinata). I didn’t get any quality time with this unruly serpent.

Sinonatrix percarinata

A group photo session along the trail, with Hong Kong proper as a backdrop.

I can’t remember who turned up this cool and rare Boulenger’s odd-scaled snake (Achalinus rufescens) but it was found crossing the trail.

Achalinus rufescens

An Asiatic water snake (Sinonatrix aequifasciata). A striking serpent that was very calm and never offered to bite.

Sinonatrix aequifasciata

There was nothing going on the next morning so we all slept in for a bit. I walked over to a small pocket park and spent some time photographing turtles in the park’s pond. Most of the turtles were red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) but I did photograph a few Mauremys sinensis.

Mauremys sinensis

That afternoon Kevin took us to some private land out on the edge of the city, which had a great assortment of herps, including this Formosa kukri snake (Oligodon formosanus).

Oligodon formosanus

After dark, the pit vipers came out, and we saw a double fistful (don’t try that at home) of white-lipped tree vipers (Trimeresurus albolabris). It seemed like every bush and shrub had one. The property was loaded down with frogs which might explain the numbers of pit vipers.

Trimeresurus albolabris
Trimeresurus albolabris

Another cool find was this Chinese mud snake (Myrrophis chinensis).

Myrrophis chinensis

Next, we moved on to a park on the side of a steep mountain, and walked up a trail alongside a stream. A waterfall yielded more of the Hong Kong torrent frogs (Amolops hongkongensis), and I was more than happy to crawl up close and shoot pictures and video.

Amolops hongkongensis

Serpents were out and about too, including several yellow-spotted keelbacks (Xenochrophis flavipunctatus), a snake I had previously seen in the pineapple fields of Thailand, seemingly a hundred years ago.

Xenochrophis flavipunctatus

As Andy and I were crossing a stream I spotted a small snake moving in a riffle, Bad leg and all, Andy went in after it, and came up with two snakes, and different species in the same genus to boot! Here’s Anderson’s mountain stream snake (Opisthotropis andersonii), and next up is the Hainan mountain stream snake (Opisthotropis balteata).

Opisthotropis andersonii
Opisthotropis balteata

Adam found a Malayan banded wolf snake (Lycodon subcinctus), which, like every other Lycodon we encountered, fought hard to deny us even a bad photograph. If there’s a technique for photographing this genus, please let me know!

Lycodon subcinctus

The last herp of the night was a many-banded krait, close to where we parked the car.

Bungarus multicinctus multicinctus

In the morning, the bulk of the group would head for home, but Kevin and I flew to Taiwan to meet up with Bill (Bill of the flying snake) and spent a few days up in the mountains there. That episode is covered in the Misty Mountain Herping blog post.

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