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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 5:27 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
One of the creatures we've been lusting after since our arrival last summer was the Long-Nosed Horn Frog aka Malaysian Leaf Frog aka Megophrys nasuta. Not only do these critters look like something straight out of a pulpy sci-fi novel, but they're also quite massive, as frogs go. Statistically, they should be as easy to find as sparrows: they're very common in Borneo, and when it's raining or about to rain, they advertise their presence with a "loud, resonating, metallic "honk" or "henk"" (Wikipedia). Ch'ien Lee advised me once "when you hear that sound, run, don't walk, to the nearest rain shelter." Horn Frog ears are very sensitive to barometric changes, and approaching rain will automatically trigger their call, even if the frog doesn't feel like honking at all. (Now there's a serious tic.) We had heard them on many rainy days and nights, had also learned that Mr. Lee had been spot-on with his warning, but not once did we actually see one, because their camouflage is absolutely perfect for the forest floor. I'm sure we must have walked past dozens of them over the months, completely oblivious to their presence.

But, as my man Clint E. is fond of saying, you can't hide forever, punk. Last Saturday we decided that our new herpmobile needed a couple hundred more miles on the odometer and a couple more gallons of mud on the fenders and went cruising along the Indonesian border. We set out early in the afternoon to explore a few roads during daylight before hitting them again later that night, and the weather was just perfect: it rained and rained and rained, and then it rained some more. Shortly before dusk we were driving along a narrow feeder road to a small village, when Hans and I suddenly spotted something on the white gravel, something that triggered an entire fire station worth of alarms in our heads. We looked at each other with gaping mouths, yelled "HORNED FROG!!!!!" in unison, and I slammed the brakes in a fashion that would have spelled sure structural death for any lesser vehicle. Gravel sprayed everywhere like claymores unloading, car doors flew open, people scrambled, first for herping tools, then out of the truck, and in all that excitement I almost forgot to pull the hand brake - steep as the road was, that would have been a very costly error and an even longer walk home. But eventually we managed to meet up by our quarry in one piece.

The frog, of course, couldn't have cared less about the bipedal clown number. He sat there like a little multi-angular Buddha, peered at us from satanic rectangular pupils set in deep burgundy eyes under a cubistic scowl, and let us pick him up without showing any reaction whatsoever. He was about three inches long, khaki-colored, and, like a true master of vegetation mimicry (something Borneo is incredibly rich in), was not only shaped like a leaf, but also sported fake mold spots and little ragged bits, which in combination with the outline-distorting "horns" and the ridiculous, but equally effective pencil nose gave him the perfect appearance of a bunch of dead leaves.

The rain was still coming down hard, in-situ photography therefore impossible, and we decided to take the frog home for a short holiday of store-bought mealworms and true zoo experience. We put him in a snake bag and placed that on the truck bed where it soaked through within seconds. Giddy with adrenaline and joy, we piled back into the car and drove on, high-fiving each other as we went. "Can you believe it? Eight months of unsuccessfully trawling the forests for this thing, and here it was, sitting right the *&^%$# middle of the *&^%$# road!!" "Yeah, man, talk about insane luck! Awesomissimo!" And thus we babbled on, sky-high on the experience and thinking that nothing we would see for the rest of the night could top this crazy find...

...until exactly eight minutes later, when we found another Horned Frog sitting in the *&^%$# middle of the *&^%$# road. This one twice as big as the first one.

After a rousing encore to the "Two Scramblin' Yahoos" bit, we picked up the frog, who was just as inert and evil-eyed as his buddy, but chocolate-colored instead of tan. Into a bag and onto the wet truck bed he went, and we tried to recover from the shock. Not only one, but TWO. And in DIFFERENT colors. And one of them HYOOGE. We thought not to tempt the gods of fate and statistics any longer and headed straight for home. But said gods must have been on vacation, because half an hour later, when we already were no longer in true hunting mood (too stoned on our good luck), we saw another very big frog on the road. We had seen hundreds of frogs on the road over the course of the rainy evening, but this one was a bright green giant, so we stopped to have at least a look at what that might be. And whaddaya know... it was a Wallace's Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus). Another not-too-rare-but-frickin'-hard-to-find species; if for different reasons - high mobility being one of them. The one we had found before had been in a more appropriate environment, a forest pond. Flying frogs are truly arboreal, and their huge feet make hopping and life on the ground difficult, so it was hard to even imagine one of these guys sitting on a road. But there it was, grass-green and speckled with chalk-white blotches that made us suspect he might've just finished painting his kitchen and was now showering in the rain. But they sometimes just look like that, as we learned later. And off it went into our third and last bag (I'm having additional ones made as we speak. Ain't taking no more chances with those vacationin' gods...)

Back home, we researched care sheets for both species and accordingly placed the frogs in separate terrariums - the Horned Frogs seem to be "ferocious eaters", and we didn't want the two smaller frogs end up as a late-night snack for Big Mama (the large one was a female, judging by her size). We also placed a few juicy mealworms and two roaches into their new abodes, but those remained untouched until we released them 36 hours later. Incidentally, Big Mama had now changed color and matched her buddy's desert cammo hues, probably because of the beige snake bag we used to transport her. But she put her chocolate dress back on just in time for the photo gig.

The next night, a few friends came over for a photo session, and here are the results.
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This is our kitchen door onto which he briefly escaped, showing off his gliding pose very nicely.
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The banana leaves we had used for the in-house session hadn't really worked as a "natural" background, so we were looking forward to take more photos in Kubah National Park where we were to release the frogs the following morning. As luck would have it, that was also the morning when David Fischer (moloch) arrived in Kuching with three friends as part of their Greater Malaysia Natural History Holiday Extravaganza. I picked them up at the airport and properly welcomed them to Sarawak with a few local amphibian specialties. Then we drove to Kubah, where I installed them in one of the guesthouses, and then we had ourselves a little frogging action. We took the pix in the roadside leaf litter, and the two hornies were as docile as ever. Only once did one of them hop forward a foot or so, and then it took us a surprisingly long time to find the little bugger again - it was sitting right there in front of us, but that mimicry is just out of this world!
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David shooting the invisible
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And lastly, here's David and another big frog, clearly also a ferocious eater. (Megaventer germanicus, an invasive species from Central Europe)
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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 5:54 am 
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Joined: March 22nd, 2012, 6:19 pm
Posts: 467
Wow! amazing post, and quite funny. Must be a new country record for Megaventer germanicus :lol: . Beautiful frogs as well. Wish I was in Sarawak with you and Bjorn.

tepuk tangan,

Justin


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 5:59 am 
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Joined: January 8th, 2011, 5:51 am
Posts: 380
Location: NY
Nice post Hans! Some wild camou on those horned frogs!

Love the flying frog as well! Some really nice photography - thanks for postin!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 6:44 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:08 pm
Posts: 542
Location: Montana
Fantastic!!!

Those are three incredible looking finds. Congratulations on your hard work, and thanks for posting them up with your wonderful narrative. I felt like I was in the car with you.

-Dell


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 7:19 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 5:27 am
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Wow--you'd be hard-pressed to find a cooler combination of frogs than those two. Awesome stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 11:30 am 
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Joined: March 18th, 2012, 6:34 pm
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Location: Houston, Texas
Haha, Megaventer germanicus.

Quite the frogs you've got there, and lots of little Nepenthes! It must be nice living in Borneo.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 12:35 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
Great post as per usual, Hans!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 4:39 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks for the enthusiasm, guys! A little addendum: - here's why advanced cammo garb isn't just for hunters and birders anymore: you can trick arboreal species into feeling right at home :-)

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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 4:44 pm 
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Joined: March 22nd, 2012, 6:19 pm
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Thanks for the enthusiasm, guys! A little addendum: - here's why advanced cammo garb isn't just for hunters and birders anymore: you can trick arboreal species into feeling right at home :-)

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:lol:. What a beautiful flying frog Hans. Keep up the good work.

Justin :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 4:58 pm 
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Joined: February 6th, 2011, 9:09 pm
Posts: 466
Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
I really like the second photo, Hans. It has such a Clint Eastwood attitude. "Go ahead. Make my day." I was surprised at how big it got. You've inspired me to look for Megophrys this year (but not in that genus - we have Xenophrys)!

Love the feet on the Rhacophorus as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 27th, 2012, 5:43 pm 
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Joined: December 8th, 2011, 2:40 pm
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Location: Tucson, AZ
Awesome post! Those are really interesting frogs!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 28th, 2012, 8:34 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:38 am
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Love the flyer, thanks for the post.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 28th, 2012, 11:35 am 

Joined: March 7th, 2012, 10:35 pm
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Great! finding Horned Frogs are No1 on my amphibian to do list when I'm there :P


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 28th, 2012, 8:55 pm 
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Joined: June 19th, 2010, 6:42 pm
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I hate you.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: March 28th, 2012, 9:05 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
John Vanek wrote:
I hate you.

Mission accomplished.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: April 1st, 2012, 9:11 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 4:31 pm
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Aaaaaaaaand... when will your book be available? ;)


-Brandon


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: April 1st, 2012, 3:46 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
May/June, if everything goes well.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: April 1st, 2012, 4:09 pm 
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:shock: Rhacophorus ......

The Megophrys are awesome too :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: April 5th, 2012, 2:12 am 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
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Hello Hans,

I am settling back into work again after a wonderful month in Malaysia. Thanks so much, Hans, for holding the frogs for us. They were one of the highlights of the trip. It also was great to meet you and your son. Wow, Kubah is such a wonderful national park and so close to your home. You are so lucky! I am looking forward to steady stream of posts from you in your new home.

I am working on a post now and will submit before too long. Fraser's Hill turned out to be the best site for snakes and we found several lovely species.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #30: Two Horned, One Flying
PostPosted: April 5th, 2012, 7:20 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Hi David,

moloch wrote:
I am settling back into work again

My heartfelt condolences :-)

Quote:
Thanks so much, Hans, for holding the frogs for us. They were one of the highlights of the trip. It also was great to meet you and your son.

De nada - the pleasure was all ours! It was a great experience to meet and learn from you and your birder friends. You guys made me appreciate the much-maligned sport of birding a lot more.

Quote:
Wow, Kubah is such a wonderful national park and so close to your home. You are so lucky!

That's what I keep hearing :-) Seriously, I'm really lucky to live so close to Kubah. It's one of the last true and largely intact rainforest tracts in the entire area, and the most accessible, too.

Quote:
I am looking forward to steady stream of posts from you in your new home.

Thank you - me too :-) Wonders never cease around here....we went cruising last night and found a number of interesting DORs, one of them a freshly dead Red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus). What a creature!!! I'd never thought I'd ever get to see one of those strange and beautiful subfossorial dwellers.

Quote:
I am working on a post now and will submit before too long. Fraser's Hill turned out to be the best site for snakes and we found several lovely species.

Can't wait!!


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