China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

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Kevin Messenger
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China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by Kevin Messenger »

A link to the previous report, Qianjiaping (#6): viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1808


More miscellaneous locations
(Dalongtan, Muyu)


Sorry for the delay, my internet access has been fairly sparse recently, and I have been backed up on my writing (ever since meeting Vanessa and Emma, I’ve been doing more hanging out than I have writing in my journal on a boring day).

So last I left off I believe I had just returned from Qianjiaping, and on the 6th the Stanford family, Xue, and Dr. Li all left Muyu. The day was fairly slow, most of my day was spent airing out my sleeping bag and all my clothes that were still damp from the day before. A quick mail check and finishing up the Qianjiaping report, which never got sent out.

Guamenshan

7 July 2006
Today Linsen said we could go to Guanmenshan, the station where the first Rhabdophis nuchalis was found. Vanessa tagged along as well. We took a taxi but were planning on walking back. The location reminded me a lot of Jiuchong, primarily because of the beautiful streams. For some reason I felt like the area screamed Elaphe carinata.

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(ruins of some structures from the 70’s – back when the area was getting logged for rds and such)

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(pheasant? Hen?)

Alas, despite all my “feelings” no snakes were turned up. We found a Sphenomorphus basking on a rock that I was able to photograph,

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(in situ)

and then we heard countless Amolops chunganensis (Frog A) calling from the riverbed down below.

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(re-used pic from Jiuchong, just in case anyone forgot the species)

After a few hours we headed back down to the main road and started our hike into Muyu. As we entered town Vanessa bought some sort of fried dough – Hi Yin had brought me this same dish one morning and I thought it was excellent – the name is something that sounds similar to “Jim Bean,” I think it is jian bien or something. There is another name for it, which is what Vanessa recorded. It is dough, with sesame seeds, onions, and other spices embedded in the dough, and then it is fried right in front of you. It kind of reminded me of pizza dough (minus the cheese and minus the sauce… hmmm, maybe that’s not so much like pizza afterall).

Later that evening, Vanessa, Emma and I sat down for a bit of poker. I could tell Vanessa was fairly new to the game, primarily because she was cleaning house and taking all of Emma’s and my money, around 20 Yuan (so a bit more than $2), but it sure does feel like a lot at the time. While we were playing the game, one of Vanessa’s students called her and told her that there was a dance going on at the upper part of town and wanted to know if we wanted to come. We had nothing better to do so we said we’d come. She was waiting by the gate to let us in, they had locked the gate about 30 minutes prior. As we tried squeezing through, so many other people tried fitting in as well, I couldn’t believe it. After we made it through, Vanessa and her friend literally had to put all their weight against the gate to shut it and prevent more people from coming in. It seemed kind of cruel, but rules were already being broken by letting us in I could tell.

None of us had any idea about what we had in stored for us. The dance was amazing. It was the traditional dance of the people from Shennongjia, performed by locals. The dance team, of about 50 people has won national awards for their performances. Themes ranged from rain-related dances, snow, hunting animals, marrying, and celebration. It was really spectacular, I wished I would have brought my camera but I had no idea what we were going to see.


Dalongtan

8 July 2006
Today Linsen and I headed up to Dalongtan to spend a few days up there. I finally got to set out my tin that I’ve had since coming to Muyu.

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(the field where the tin was placed)

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I also set out the PVC pipe for any anurans that might want to visit. We walked to where we had seen that first Protobothrops, but didn’t find anything.

Our next stop was to walk to Xiaolongtan (the place with the mini-zoo). I told Linsen about the dead snakes I had seen there awhile back. Apparently they were not found in Shennongjia. We looked around Xialongtan for awhile and didn’t find anything there either. Linsen said in many years he has only seen one snake there.

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(one of the birds hanging around Dalongtan and Xiaolongtan, these birds are always found flying in and about the rocks in the streams)

Once we got back to the station, I was doing some work on the computer and one of the officers was looking over my shoulder. So, as usual, I showed him the pics of the snakes of Hubei to see if any rang a bell. When I got to the Pseudoxenodon and Protobothrops he immediately started talking. He said he had seen both species two days before, on the 6th, one in the south garden, and the other in the north garden.

As the sun started to set, I started walking around the encampment. I was actually very surprised, but I basically headed to a patch of woods immediately and found a Pseudoxenodon fleeing among the pine needles. This one was a bit prettier than the one from Qianjiaping, it was more black and white, whereas the Qianjiaping one was more red and brown. I took him back to the station to get some pictures. Of course the snake drew a crowd.

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(black phase)

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I noticed a rather strange observation that night after dinner. It was around 7:30pm and I thought it was fairly cold. I took a temperature and it was 64º! I had considered walking the road earlier in the day. The elevation at Dalongtan is around 2100 – 2300 meters (about 7,500 ft). I am guessing there are very few nocturnal species and everything is either diurnal or crepuscular.

Some of the food that night:

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(our cook, with the typical stove)

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(middle pot is tofu and some kind of noodle)

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(tu do se; pronounced “two doe suh” – basically potatoes in thin slices, almost like noodles – an excellent dish! One of my favorites)

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(chicken [“zhi ro” – pronounced “G-row”], carrots, garlic, red peppers)

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(green beans, garlic, red peppers)

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(beef and red peppers)

9 July 2006
Well the Dalongtan stay was fairly short. Rain was threatening in the clouds overhead so we decided to go ahead and head back. I had gotten five new data sets, so I was fairly happy (one of which was a new species for me and for the reserve – Scincella modesta – a species of skink that looks almost identical to the common ground skink, Scincella lateralis, back home. Convergent evolution at work).

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(Scincella lateralis - for anyone unfamiliar with the species)

The reserve vehicle picked us up around 10:30am and we started our way back to Muyu. Not terribly long after leaving, and entering a closed canopy portion of the road I see a long, green snake in the other lane. I yelled “snake” about five times before switching to “she” (sh-uh). The vehicle came to a halt and I started running. It was a large Protobothrops, and much thicker than any of the others I had seen. I was guessing it was either a gravid female, or a male that had recently eaten. All my gear was tightly packed in the SUV and the only thing I had access to was my camera bag (which had bags inside it). Linsen found a stick and I quickly pinned and bagged the snake.

As we continued along, I saw another snake in the road, a DOR, and before I could even say anything, our driver was slamming on the brakes. I was very happy with this. Walking back up the road to the snake, which was belly up, I couldn’t place the species, even when I was directly on top of it. It was a plain colored belly and I was searching my database for what my possibilities were but was coming up empty.

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(try guessing before continuing to scroll down… or, think of one of the least likely snakes to find)

I flipped the animal over and could not believe my eyes.
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I was looking at a recently hit Azemiops feae (Fea’s Viper) – THE snake in China I wanted to find. The animal was gorgeous, blackish purple dorsum, bright red-orange bands, some going entirely across the body, others alternating up to the spine. The head was kind of crushed, but the color was a mix of white and orange. The Chinese name for the snake is “bai to hue” (bye toe hway) which means “white head snake.” I never really understood why. I suppose if all they saw were museum specimens, then that would make sense, since all the specimens lose their color and they do have a white head, but a live animal has more orange than white.

The snake was killed earlier that morning, within 3 or 4 hours. I was quite pissed. When I flipped the snake over I let out a long string of obscenities - thankfully Linsen probably didn't know most of them or even if he did he wouldn't be able to keep up with how quickly I was letting them fly. But I was also kind of excited. Extremely bittersweet – I found a DOR, but what a DOR to find!! But ultimately, still a DOR. It still gave me hope that the species wasn't completely impossible or out of reach to find.

It was fairly messed up but we still collected it as a specimen. Of course we decided to look around the area for a little bit. We were still a ways from Muyu, but I was willing to walk. The reserve vehicle went on and would drop our gear off later. We didn’t find any evidence of any other snakes in the area and nothing about the habitat stood out, but this was because we were looking on the wrong side of the road…

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(where the snake was heading)

When we got back to the road I looked at the roadkill spot again. The side of the road we were examining was the side that had the two-foot deep drainage system. The other side of the road was completely flush with the ground. So the snake came from this direction (or I should say, it is very likely it came from this direction). The habitat on the sloping hill on this side of the road was none other than another rock fortress. There was no way to dissect this habitat, just photograph it. The only way to find a snake in the pile would be to see one sunning itself or on the move, as the unfortunate fellow was.

We decided to look around the lower side of the road and to take a trail back to Muyu. The trail was very nice for an urban setting. Eventually the trail ended and we had to walk the rest of the way along the road.

At first this didn’t seem too interesting, but we saw a fair amount of life, or at least signs of life.

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(goat standing on the guard rail)

The first species was Eumeces elegans. The next find was a very old DOR Elaphe porphyracea. I am still unclear on the subspecies, I am thinking vaillanti. I do not know if I illuminated everyone on this problem or not. Earlier, Vanessa had found a baby Elaphe porphyracea. The snake is stunningly beautiful – bright yellow with black bands and two faint dorsal stripes running the length of the body.

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Prior to coming to China I was looking up every bit of information I could on every possible species. When I came to Elaphe porphyracea (common name = Bamboo ratsnake), the information listed two subspecies in my region; Elaphe p. vaillanti which lives in Anhui (the province bordering Hubei to the east), and Hunan (the province bordering Hubei to the south); and Elaphe p. pulchra which lives in Sichuan (the province that borders Hubei to the west), and Shaanxi (the province that borders Hubei to the northwest). One of the museum papers had mentioned the scientific name Elaphe p. nigrofasciata, which obviously means “black banded.” This name would fit the baby, but I do not know if there is any sort of ontogenetic change in this species or not. It would seem like there is; there is one juvenile preserved that looks identical to the juvenile Vanessa found, but all of the bands in the adults were not solid black and were somewhat transparent to the underlying pattern. However, when I confronted friends on my predicament, I received several sites with pictures and a bit of information. I could not get a definite answer looking at pictures alone and the tiny bit of information provided said the subspecies was only known by the type specimen and that the origin of the type specimen was unknown – quite helpful. Anyhow, I can do further research on the subspecies when I get back to the states.

Back to the “road trip”: every now and then I would hear the skittering noise of a skink on the rocks on the shoulder. Sometimes the animal was able to escape before I could even get a glimpse, but many times I was able to get a good two or three seconds. The next species of skink was Eumeces chinensis a skink that looks like a bland colored broadhead skink with orange lateral flecking.

On the drive and the subsequent walk back to Muyu, we had seen three species of snakes and two new species of skinks.

I am backed up on reports, so that is about it for the next round of miscellaneous trips. At least this one was a bit shorter.

Kevin

link to the next post, #8 (Bancang): viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2764

bobassetto
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by bobassetto »

how do you get the food to stay on the plate????.......were the obsentities in chinese?????

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Tim Borski
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by Tim Borski »

Kevin, I'm loving these! I'm glad you are being dilligant with re-posts. They're as good (or better) than the first go-round!! Keep'em coming. (Feel free to add inverts)
Are you guys inflicting yourselves on S FL this Dec? If so, I want in. :beer:
Tim

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justinm
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by justinm »

I've been showing these posts to my wife to convince her that we need to do this kind of China trip. I can't decide what I'm the most excited about, the food, scenery, or the snakes.

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Kevin Messenger
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by Kevin Messenger »

no, the obscenities were in English, which is why Linsen had no idea what I was saying. I actually don't know any cuss words in Chinese. Haiyan had taught me some one night, but I never figured out what they were. She just laughed whenever I would say them.

Tim, thanks a bunch. I was trying to put one out once a week but fell behind b/c of so many other things going on. For the most part they are the same but everynow and then I find a few that I re-edit with more text or sometimes I remove some redundant shots of the same head shot (like in this one - I had a ton of head shots of the Pseudoxenodon - too many). Anyway, as far as FL is concerned this Xmas break, of all the years this one is the one that is in the air the most for me. I defend in mid-Dec (usually I am already down there before mid-Dec), and since we herped last Xmas day, I gotta attend Xmas this year with my family. So IF I make it this year I am betting it may be after Xmas and over New Years.

As I re-edit the China posts if I see any invert pics I left out of the originals I will be sure to add them.

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ahockenberry
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by ahockenberry »

Kevin
Amazing post - great shots and experience. Thanks for sharing. Absolutely love the loast shot of the yellow snake !!

Ashley

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) »

How did I miss this the second time around? Thanks for reposting!

The Pseudoxenodon is fantastic.
the obscenities were in English, which is why Linsen had no idea what I was saying.
You wish. They never show what they really know :-)

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monklet
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by monklet »

I'm sitting here wondering what to get for dinner...obviously Chinese I guess. Man those guys eat good (of course I don't have clue what all's in them fixin's).

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Kevin Messenger
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by Kevin Messenger »

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
the obscenities were in English, which is why Linsen had no idea what I was saying.
You wish. They never show what they really know :-)
If we were in a big city or something I would agree. But where I was, if you said an English sentence fast, none of the people (even Vanessa's students that were studying English) could understand us. Prior to me, Linsen basically never spoke English with anyone before. When Emma comes into the situation later on in the summer (she is British) - Linsen can't understand her when she speaks slowly simply do to her accent. After she would talk, he would turn to me and tell me that she speaks funny and that he can't understand her."

Crotalus
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Re: China, miscellaneous - bittersweet - post #7

Post by Crotalus »

I frickin hate this post. The dead Azemiops...again?

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