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naivepom

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My apologies for anyone who has already seen this post from Field Herp Forum but I thought I would include it here too....

I have finally got time to sit down and do a write-up of a trip me, my girlfriend and friends and family members did in October. It was a combination of business, pleasure and everything in between as different people were going on the the trip for different reasons and the aim was to keep everyone happy. Needless to say I was the only member of the trip intent on herping so it was with some trepidation of how much compromise would be necessary that we all departed the UK for our first stop - 1 night in Oman.


Oman - a really interesting country that I would love to go back to with more than 18hours to spare. Our taxi driver was a real character and soon warmed to his task of pointing out every mosque, palace, souk, hilltop or otherwise to us on our way to the hotel. We made all the appropriate noises an appreciative tourist should make and he got so enthused by this that he tried to take us to his house for tea and played a game called 'Run down the pedestrians' in the back alleys. Further description of this game is in the link on the photo...



???????? by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


After checking in and having a few beers it was time for bed, though not before I had found and photographed at least one reptile. After sitting in air-conditioned luxury and sipping cold beer for a few hours the 40-degree windless night time heat was hard to deal with, and within minutes I was dripping with sweat. There were geckos absolutely everywhere but it turns out my camera had taken the transition from air-conditioning to stifling heat even worse than I had, and constantly fogged up within microseconds of me wiping the lens clear. As such I only managed one useable shot...(ID is tentative as this is my first time herping in this area).



Southern tuberculated gecko (Bunopus tuberculatus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


The next day it was off to our first proper destination, Koh Samui in Thailand, where we were to meet up with my 2 brothers, who both live in the country - having fallen for the charms of the local women/boys/ladyboys. The idea was to spend one day shopping for knock off designer t-shirts (my idea of hell but believe it or not this was one of the prime motivations of one of my fellow travelers on the trip), one day visiting my brothers house on Koh Tao and one day to relax. I have spent a bit of time herping on Koh Tao and Koh Samui is more populated and polluted so I wasn't too bothered about going crazy with herping here. Nevertheless I hired a scooter for the day and my girlfriend and I hit the only patches of decent forest I could find in the interior. Within minutes, and right within the densest patch of forest the road passed through, we had come across a snake crossing the road.


These guys are common both on roads and ground into roads so I am posting an old pic taken on Koh Tao a few years ago.

Oriental Whipsnake (Ahaetulla prasina) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


Despite this early success the rest of the day was extremely slow going and I was dismayed at the lack of decent habitat even well into the interior of the island. By nightfall we hadnt improved on our total, though did manage to find a few amphibians in a small stream.


Not sure of the ID on these guys
Unknown frogs in amplexus by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Asian Painted Frog (Kaloula pulchra) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


As dark descended we road cruised the best looking patch of forest but despite loads of bats flitting across the road we saw no reptiles. Before packing up for the night we returned to walk the small stretch of stream where we had found the frog and toad and came across one snake (a lifer for me) photographed as it sat on a low-lying shrub on the edge of a footpath.



Common Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


The rest of our time on Koh Samui passed quickly and it was off to our next destination, a tiny island approximately 1500km off the coast of Western Australia - Christmas Island. Christmas Island is a pretty remarkable place, famous for its mass migration of red crabs. It has also become a massive 'sorting office' for asylum seekers and we had a quick look at several of the detainee camps that are dotted around the island - separated into families, children and single men (where most of the trouble predictably happens). Some of the accommodation they live in includes demountable cabins previously used for struggling aboriginal settlements on the mainland, but long since deemed uninhabitable due to rot/asbestos and the like. Any Aussie readers will appreciate how shocking these cabins must be to be deemed unsuitable by the government for use as aboriginal housing. The massive influx of asylum seekers has created a crazy local economy where even the most menial jobs attract 6-figure annual salaries and every single room in every guesthouse, hotel and lodging is permanently rented out, at day rates, to government workers who have nowhere else to stay. Christmas Island also has a massive range of birds and most show almsot no fear of humans. At night a bunch of frigates and boobies roosted on the cliff-top fencing just outside our hotel room and didnt budge even when I disturbed them by standing right beside them. Our hotel used to be a thriving 5-star casino resort but a change in government legislation in the 90s put an end to it. The resort rapidly deteriorated but the hotel component was saved from dereliction a few years ago. However, all the gaming rooms remain abandoned, and it was extremely creepy walking through dark rooms filled with rows of pokie machines, roulette and craps tables.



Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster plotus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Christmas Island by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Christmas Island Thrush (Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Yellow Tropicbird/Golden Bosun Chick (Phaethon lepturus fulvus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


These guys get to monstrous sizes (if you dont believe me CHECK OUT THIS BRUTE: http://www.hoax-slayer.com/images/coconut-crab-2.jpg )

Robber Crab (Birgus latro) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Forgotten Casino by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


After one night in Christmas Island we set off the next morning for our main destination of Sydney, to spend time with my sister and her family. I lived in Sydney for 8 months while working as a research assistant at the university of Sydney so it was nice to go back and visit a few old patches as well as try out a couple of new areas. Unfortunately one favourite patch in Sydney where I had seen massive amounts of wildlife had been destroyed to make way for some treatment plant of some sort, which was really sad for me as I had some great memories of the place - cant beat progress though eh! My first mini expedition was to the Blue Mountains. I saw a stack of critters including a blotched bluetongue, Cunninghams skinks, brushtail possum, water dragons and a southern leaftail gecko, though didnt manage my main target of Highlands Copperhead. As I have seen many of each of these species previously, I only took photos of a few...



Mountain Heath Dragon (Rankinia diemensis) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


Video link to footage of above lizard: Mountain Heath Dragon (Rankinia diemensis) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!



Yellow-Bellied Water Skink (Eulamprus heatwolei) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Valley of the Waters by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Diamond Python (Morelia spilota) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


Alot of time in Sydney was spent with my sister and her kids, but as I had to share a hotel room with my brother (who is a big snorer) I (a very light sleeper) had plenty of time to take shots of Coogee Bay, where we were staying. Click on the picture below for a slightly funnier story about how the photograph came about.



Coogee Dawn by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


My final excursion while in Sydney was to Newcastle and the areas to the north. I was keen to take a half decent photograph of a red-bellied black snake as this was the first Aussie snake I ever saw (about 12 years ago) and despite seeing quite a few since I have never got any better pictures than a tail disappearing into undergrowth or a blurred headshot. Jordan Mulder, Stephen Mahoney and Daniel Stace were my very able guides for the day and we very quickly found about a dozen red-bellies and a dozen marsh snakes.



Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Red-bellied Black Snake (Pseudechis porphyriacus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


After a successful afternoon we headed north of Newcastle to do a spot of nightcruising. It was extremely windy and stormy and at one point we needed to pull a freshly fallen tree off the road in order to exit the park but before we got hit by torrential rain and called it a night we managed to find one snake - a new species for me - and one very cool marsupial.



Rough-scaled Snake (Tropidechis carinatus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Feathertail Glider (Acrobates pygmaeus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


Our next destination was a 1 night stop in Bali. Some of the guys we were travelling with used to visit Bali every year for many years but hadnt been for a decade or so. They were keen to re-visit to see if the island was still as good as they remembered it - unfortunately it wasnt. The place was a bit of a mess, with rubbish everywhere, a chaotic airport and congested roads. After being on the go non-stop for over a week I decided there was no point trying to hire a scooter for an afternoon so I gave myself the night off from herping.



Bali by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


One other reason for taking the night off was that I was keen to be as rested as possible for our last destination, and the one I was by far looking forward to the most - the island of Langkawi in Malaysia. We stayed at an amazing hotel for 3 nights, though I learned fairly quickly that the hotel was only a few years old and had been delicately put on top of what used to be some lovely rainforest and mangrove habitat. This seemed to be a common story across much of Langkawi, with new developments and forest clearing occurring everywhere. Despite this, the island still has plenty of decent tracts of forest left, and compared to Bali seemed like paradise, with monkeys, birds and water monitors absolutely everywhere we turned to look. My girlfriend (now my fiance by this point in the trip!) and I quickly sorted a hire car and were soon speeding around the island, taking in the sights. The first rains of the season came with a whimper on our first night there, but by the second night we were absolutely deluged. Despite torrential rain (and I have never had much success herping in rain other than occasional Nerodia-filled nights in Florida) we saw a decent number of snakes, including 7 Pope's pit vipers, a green cat snake and Malayan Krait. During the day we took a boat tour in the mangroves and our eagle-eyed guide spotted 3 mangrove pit vipers. My [strike]girlfriend[/strike] sorry fiance, also spotted a cerburus sp. which i hooked out the water and placed on the boat. Having handled a few filesnakes in Australia I was expecting a loose sack of a snake with pretty limited ability to move about on land. Unfortunately I was wrong, and within a split second the snake jumped several times and bounded out the boat, disappearing into the murky water.


These guys were fairly shy
Dusky Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus obscurus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


This species was newly described in about 2008
Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus macrotuberculatus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Popes Pit Viper (Trimeresurus popeorum) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


These guys were everywhere across the island and on several occasions we saw what I presume was a parent monkey sat at the side of the road beside a roadkill juvenile monkey
Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) mother and baby by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


I was blown away by how attractive these snakes were. For some reason photos of these guys dont do the iridescence and colour of them justice
Mangrove Pit Viper (Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


Despite possibly being the most venomous snake in Asia this guy was just about the most innocuous snake i've encountered.

Juvenile Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


....unlike this guy

Green Cat Snake (Boiga cyanea) by Kristian Bell, on Flickr



Black Sand Beach Jetty by Kristian Bell, on Flickr


And that just about wraps up an action-packed 2 weeks and my last herping until sometime in 2014, when I am planning a herping honeymoon in Costa Rica (though I have yet to tell this to my long-suffering partner).


Many thanks to Tom Charlton, Tom Williams, David Nixon, Rupert Lewis, Jordan Mulder, Stephen Mahoney, Daniel Stace and anyone else I may have forgotten that took me out or gave me invaluable advice about where to look for certain critters. The trip was a great success, in no small part due to your willingness to share your knowledge. I owe you all.
 

Bushman

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Great photography Kristian! You have a good eye.
 

bundy07

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Those photos are the most amazing I have ever seen absolutely stunning, makes me want to get into photography beautiful!!!!
 

Bushman

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...
Not sure of the ID on these guys
Unknown frogs in amplexus by Kristian Bell, on Flickr
I think that these frogs could be [FONT=&amp]the Yellow-bellied Puddle Frog ([/FONT][FONT=&amp]Occidozyga sumatrana)[/FONT].
This species often has a pale orange patch behind the head, their body is stocky and their hind legs are muscular with the hind feet fully webbed.
 
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moloch05

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What a fantastic set of photos! You certainly found lots and your shots are superb ... something to aspire to. I think that the Cyrtodactylus was my favourite.

Regards,
David
 

Vikingtimbo

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Fantastic photos as always Kris! Some of the landscape pics like "Valley of the Waters" and "Bali" have a quality that makes them look almost like oil paintings. Hard to believe a camera can capture that beauty in a split second; but I suppose that might not be doing justice to the effort it took the photographer to make the camera do it! Looks like you had a great trip and saw some fantastic herps.

PS Congrats on your engagement!

Cheers,
Tim
 

caliherp

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Wow you capture some jaw dropping photos. I had to save a few of these pictures for my inspiration folder on my laptop. I hope you don't mind.

Regards, Patrick
 

sharky

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To say you are a great photographer would be an understatement....wow!
 
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