South Thailand, December 2018

This is a short report broken into four parts, the first a combined family trip to Khao Sok National Park with wildlife watching, the second a more intense field herping trip with friends visiting from Belgium in Phuket, then Nakhon Si Thammarat and finally Krabi province.

Part 1: Khao Sok National Park

Having already visited the area many times to look for amphibians and reptiles, I wanted to dedicate more time and effort to seeing birds and mammals in this pristine area of evergreen rainforest. To do so I recruited help of Rung Selim (Aka Khao Sok Local Guide) who would guide us around the Ratchaprapa lake to try and spot birds and mammals from the boat. Before this we had a night searching in the National Park with ranger friend Deng. Not too much activity but we saw Small-tooth palm civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata), a male Wagler’s pit viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri), a female Siamese peninsula pit viper (Trimeresurus fucatus), a Green cat snake (Boiga cyanea) and a group of Asian brush-tailed porcupines (Atherurus macrourus). The next morning I caught a Red-necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) as it basked outside my accommodation and found a Collared reed snake (Calamaria pavimentata). After this I drove to the dam and we spent the next two nights on raft houses at the edge of some of the most remote forest in Thailand. For two days we explored the edges of the forests by boat and visited a cave. The main highlight species seen for me were: Grey-headed fish eagle (Haliaeetus ichthyaetus), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) (Very common), White-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar), Crested snake eagle (Spilornis cheela), Spectacled langur (Trachypithecus obscurus), Great hornbill (Buceros bicornis), Bat hawk (Macheiramphus alcinus) White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster), Lesser fish eagle (Haliaeetus humilis) and a Buffy fish owl (Ketupa ketupu) which flew away just as I prepared to take a photo! Also some Asian water monitors (Varanus salvator) swimming across the lake from time to time.

Part 2: Phuket

Amigo Peter Engelen got in touch a few months ago saying he would be doing a Thailand road trip in December. He managed to arrange to visit Phuket while I had some free days so after I returned from Khao Sok I showed Peter, Anniek and Patrick around some of my favourite places on the island.  I last saw these guys on the island of Menorca in 2011! The main attraction was of course the endemic Phuket pit viper (Trimeresurus phuketensis) and I know some places where they are quite easy to find. We set off to some nice habitat where a large population of these vipers can be found. After nightfall it did not take us long to find two individuals of the desired viper, a large male and a female. As well as this we spotted numerous Asian vine snakes (Ahaetulla prasina), three Triangle keelbacks (Xenochrophis trianguligerus), a Speckle-bellied keelback (Rhabdophis chrysargos), a Malayan banded wolf snake (Lycodon subcinctus) and a Slug-eating snake (Pareas carinatus). I was also pleased to find two individuals of the Tasan frog (Alcalus tasanae) which is a rare species on Phuket. Furthermore Patrick made me even happier when he spotted a sleeping Oriental dwarf kingfisher (Ceyx erithaca), a bird I had wanted to see for ages! So cute!

Our second night I took the guys to a different spot and found a young Green cat snake (Boiga cyanea) crossing the road on the way. We were very lucky to find both a male and female Wagler’s pit viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) in less than five minutes and both were close to the ground. A second female was seen sitting around 15 metres up in the tree canopy. Other finds included the usual Vine snakes (Ahaetulla prasina), including a giant specimen of nearly 2 metres, a White-bellied rat snake (Ptyas fusca), possibly a new record for Phuket, a Mock viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus), several Oldham’s forest geckos (Cyrtodactylus oldhammi), Phuket tree agamas (Acanthosaura phuketensis) and then a rare Cinnamon frog (Nyctixalus pictus), only the second one I have ever seen. I always seem to find more interesting species than usual when I go out with these guys!

Part 3: Nakhon Si Thammarat

I had a few more free days so I decided to tag along with the Belgians and we drove four hours north-east of Phuket to Nakhon Si Thammarat province. Shani Cohen and Tom Charlton had given me some hints of places to look for snakes in this very nice area. Thanks chaps! Like in Khao Sok, there did not seem to be a lot of activity with no nocturnal snakes found dead on the road as we drove across, although we did find numerous Indochinese ratsnakes (Ptyas korros) killed on the roads. Our first evening we explored some coastal brooks and it did not take long to find three individuals of the Beautiful pit viper (Trimeresurus venustus) together with a Spotted slug snake (Pareas macularius). After ascending another brook with only a Banded forest gecko found we decided to call it a night and go to bed. The following day we decided to check out some local caves. I have never experienced humidity quite like this before and after a while I was struggling to see properly because of all of the sweat in my eyes (attractive I know..). In the third cave we explored we found a large Ridley’s cave racer (Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi) which is always a delightful bonus. Our second night search was less productive than the night before with only one snake found, a Pipe snake (Cylindrophis jodiae). At least I didn’t have to burn any of my clothes when we went back to the hotel this time as exploring agricultural areas is a far ‘fresher’ experience than being inside the humid forest or a cave.

Part 4: Krabi

We drove to Krabi, an area I know quite well after several visits previously. As always we stayed at the Phanom Bencha Mountain resort where Son and Ma Ma looked after us very well as always, bringing me my ice coffee at the exact right moment. Peter, Anniek and Patrick had already visited Krabi a week previously and had seen some nice species as well as making a new friend in Swiss chef Mathias Lange who kindly showed them his local forest trail. We decided to meet Mathias again at his trail for the first evening. The surrounding forest was great but very dry. However, we found four Vine snakes, a Slug-eating snake, some sleeping lizards, two David Bowie spiders (Heteropoda davidbowie) (a first for me in Thailand) and several calling Oriental bay owls (Phodius badius). We could not find the desired Malayan pit viper which eluded us on this trip, with some rain it is very common in this area. After hiking this trail we had more luck with snakes at a second location. We found 1 male Beautiful pit viper, a small Reticulated python (Python reticulatus), a large Green cat snake (Boiga cyanea) crossing the road and just when we started driving back to the resort, a big 3.5 metre Reticulated python was crossing the road. Back at the resort just before going to sleep we did a quick walk around and I found a Laotian wolf snake (Lycodon laoensis) hunting next to a pond.

The next day we took things a bit easier in the morning and then headed to a new location for me, a rather steep hill which we explored for a few hours after dark. On the way a large Copperhead racer (Coelognathus radiata) was crossing the road, despite running as fast as I could, I couldn’t get to it in time to catch it for photos. After reaching our location, sweating a lot, drinking several large bottles of water and a eating the pack lunch Ma Ma had prepared for us we started our search. On the hike up we had a Kukri snake (Oligodon sp) crossing our path but I have yet to establish which species it was. Peter spotted a Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) foraging in some low vegetation followed by several Asian vine snakes and another Green cat snake. I eventually spotted two female Wagler’s pit vipers (Tropidolaemus wagleri) high in the tree canopy where they usually spend most of their time.

The following day we thanked Son and Ma Ma for their hospitality and headed back to Phuket. Just before this we photographed a Paradise flying snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) which we had previously seen sitting in the roof which looked different to us so we decided to get it down to check. Several Ornate flying snakes (Chrysopelea ornata) were also seen. Back in Phuket, friend Paul Carter had caught a Monocled cobra (Naja kaouthia) and we went with him to release the cobra and take some photos. After lunch I said goodbye to the Belgians as they headed north once more and I went home for some much needed rest! Thanks for a great guys and see you again!

Snake species seen over the holidays:

Pipe snake (Cylindrophis jodiae) 1

Asian vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina) Very common

Ridley’s cave racer (Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi) 1

Copperhead racer (Coelognathus radiatus) 1 live, not caught

Indochinese rat snake (Ptyas korros) several DOR

White-bellied rat snake (Ptyas fusca) 1 juvenile

Malayan banded wolf snake (Lycodon subcinctus) 1 juvenile

Laotian wolf snake (Lycodon laoensis) 1

Kukri snake (Oligodon sp) 1

Collared reed snake (Calamaria pavimentata) 1

Green cat snake (Boiga cyanea) 1 juvenile, 2 adults

Reticulated python (Python reticulatus) 1 sub-adult, 1 large adult

Slug-eating snake (Pareas carinatus) 2

Spotted slug snake (Pareas macularius) 1

Triangle keelback (Xenochrophis trianguligerus) 4 adults

Red-necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) 1

Speckle-bellied keelback (Rhabdophis chrysargos) 1 juvenile

Paradise flying snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) 1 juvenile

Ornate flying snake (Chrysopelea ornata) several adults, 1 juvenile

Mock viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus) 1

Beautiful pit viper (Trimeresurus venustus) 4

Siamese peninsula pit viper (Trimeresurus fucatus) 1 female

Phuket pit viper (Trimeresurus phuketensis) 1 male, 1 female

Wagler’s pit viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri), 2 males, 4 females

Monocled cobra (Naja kaouthia) 1 caught by Paul

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