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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 2:21 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Saturday morning, December 4, North Kuching. We're enjoying a humongous English breakfast at Phil & Jani's house next to the Sarawak River, watching the sunbirds buzz the hibiscus bushes, and the water hens stalk the soggy lawn. I'm on my umpteenth slice of juicy bacon, my fifth fried tomato, and even the baked beans taste amazing. I'm about to compliment Jani on her kitchen magic, when Phil suddenly drops a bomb: "You know, we went to that Chinese restaurant on the way to Santubong the other day. It sits on stilts in a mangrove swamp, and we saw three snakes during our last visit. We didn't even have to get up from our meal, they were sitting right there on the mud, stalking the mudskippers." Barely avoiding sudden death by choking on a fried sausage, I eventually regain my color. "Uhh...did you take any pictures?" Phil fires up his laptop and shows us a series of Eden-like scenes: Dog-faced Water Snakes (Cerberus rynchops) sitting on a mud flat in low tide, surrounded by oddly undisturbed-looking mudskippers. "What time of the day was that?", I ask in a pinched voice. "Lunchtime, but I think they're always there", says Phil.

Mental pandemonium ensues, the genial, relaxed atmosphere deteriorates quickly. Hans and I wolf down the rest of what's left on our plates, paying no further heed to the Lucullian experience and Jani's efforts, and bid our puzzled-looking hosts a hasty goodbye. It's only fifteen miles to that restaurant, but I gun the little car's underpowered engine as if chased by a pack of hellhounds. After twenty minutes and a good quantity of abuse hurled at me by other drivers, I screech to a dusty halt in the parking lot of the "Beach Seafood Cafe". Tongs and hooks in hand, we make our way on to the dining platform: we're in luck, it's low tide! Thirty seconds later we spot the first snake. Then a second. Then a third, fourth and fifth. We're delirious. In eighteen weeks, this cursed island has grumpily granted us twenty-one live snakes, and now we find FIVE in TWO MINUTES?? This can't be right. The God of Herpetology is surely mocking us. There must be a cosmic reason for this, and I already fear the karmic price we'll eventually have to pay for this treat.

But in the meantime, there they are. All over the place. Half a platoon of Dog-faced Water Snakes, patiently lying in the muck, watching the mudskippers around them peacefully digging their little foxholes, spitting out little grey blobs to form a little surrounding wall. The snakes are completely oblivious of the noisy Chinese families watching them from eight feet above, and only when I lean down too far with the 300mm lens, one of the snakes slithers under a piece of wood. We can't believe our luck, but curse the fact that there's no access to the mudflats, so I can only take aerial photos. The grey-in-grey palette (mud, snakes, fish, weather - all the same color) is useless for long lens action, so the pix are all a bit, uh, muddy.

We never got to actually see a snake feed or attack. But we'll be back!

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Spot The Snake!
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<sings>...live together in perfect harmony </sings>
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Le Prey
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On a less happy note, later that afternoon we also found a small Bornean Bean Snake (Fabaeformia borneensis). Sadly, DOR :-(

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(Incidentally, that was not the end of that amazing snake day: we found a little Wagler's in a bush an hour later, and cruised a Banded Krait hatchling later that night - and his sister 24 hours later. But that's a story for another post :-))


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 4:33 am 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 6:17 am
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Amazing find on that borneensis! So cool how their recessive eyes and autosomal scalation make their skin so smooth.
No sop to Cerberus, but a Lucullian find for a vegan mind.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 6:33 am 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:17 am
Posts: 136
TEN YEARS :evil: !!!! Ten years of searching, day in, day out, and not a single bean snake!!! I have travelled to borneo and back, yet you take a pleasant drive, and there - in front of your car - a green, bean, seldom-seen beast lies awaiting his prey, the roadworm. Ridiculous, the only beans i ever see are the ones i eat....

But, more honestly - great post! Gotta love them dog-faced, i believe that in australia they are called bockadam - don't ask me why :? ! I remember, when i was small i went for a school camp to tioman island off the east coast of penninsular malaysia. We went for a mangrove walk at night and saw millions of these beasts. They are the only abundant snakes in south east asia :o !

- In case you ever see another bean snake, gimme a call! I'll fly right over!

Cheers,

David G


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 1:01 pm 
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Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 9:48 pm
Posts: 277
Very cool Hans. Not sure I agree with David that they're the only abundant snake in SE Asia, but they're certainly one of the most abundant. That doesn't make them any less cool though!

The Australian "bockadam" is Cerberus australis these days although it used to be C. rhynchops as well. I've also heard rhynchops referred to as the "Asian bockadam", but I'm also not sure where the name "bockadam" comes from.

P.S. Where are my Calliophis pics? You tease you.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 8:29 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
DavidG wrote:
green, bean, seldom-seen

Genius!!!!

Quote:
they are called bockadam - don't ask me why

Yeah, why is that? I tried to google it, nothing doing...

As to the Calliophis pix.....and the Krait pix...and the other 300+ wildlife pix....they're currently buried under a 50.000 word translation (strategy game set in the early Middle Ages ) I have to hand in on 1/15. Until then, my posts may only trickle in tricklishly.....


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 9:59 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
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As usual, Hans, an excellent and oh so readible report. It was a funny one. Those are strange looking snakes. It would be nice to see one of those gobbling up a mudskipper. Your other finds that night sound interesting as well.

Can't say, though, that I have ever been much of a fan for English breakfasts. I always enjoy Nasi Lemak when I am there.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 6th, 2011, 11:06 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
moloch wrote:
Can't say, though, that I have ever been much of a fan for English breakfasts.

You obviously haven't had Jani's :-)

Quote:
I always enjoy Nasi Lemak when I am there.

Few things that can be said for West Malaysia when compared to Sarawak, but I still have to find palatable nasi lemak over here. So far, they've all sucked really bad.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 7th, 2011, 8:40 am 
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Gosh, Hans your restaurant on the water post brings back so many memories for me from working on the banded watersnake project last year. The habitat and the lurking behaviors of those dog-faced watersnakes are so similar to Nerodia; lurking at the shoreline or in weeds along the perimeter of the water to bask or hunt fish and frogs. In my photo, the concrete building in the background is a boat launch with dock and very similar in layout to the railing area you took your photos; complete with thick aquatic plants and mud around the dock. Only in my case, substitute pariah bullfrogs for mudskippers. To say the least, I much prefer mudskippers. I think they're really cool fish!

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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 7th, 2011, 9:22 am 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 10:19 am
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Location: Jyväskylä, Finland
klawnskale wrote:
To say the least, I much prefer mudskippers. I think they're really cool fish!


^ This!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 7th, 2011, 10:03 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:01 am
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I rarely post but always enjoy your posts so much. Thanks again for sharing.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 7th, 2011, 5:38 pm 
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Thanks, guys!

klawnskale, is there a pattern in water snake behavior? Are they all ambushers?


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 8th, 2011, 8:38 am 
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Thanks, guys!

klawnskale, is there a pattern in water snake behavior? Are they all ambushers?

Nerodia display both ambushing and stalking behaviors. They will grab a fish or frog if it happens to pass by them close enough and they're hungry, but they also actively seek out prey items; hence the use of minnow traps and drift fences to coerce their progression
while hunting to the trap array. The traps bait themselves and snakes enter the traps to grab the quarry. I believe Nerodia are more aggressive than the watersnakes of Asia and Europe.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 8th, 2011, 5:23 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 8th, 2011, 8:44 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:14 pm
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Location: San Antonio, TX
I remember observing the same thing in Bali - snakes were hard to find, until you got in to the mangroves and then Cerberus were common.

I lived on the east coast of Borneo for a couple of summers and found a few snakes. But if I wanted a "snake fix" the easiest solution was to hit the water for sea snakes. They were guaranteed although I couldn't identify any of them at the time.

Snorkeling in grassy beds on the leeward side of mangrove islands used to be productive ways to find Acrochordus granulatus. The young seem to hide in these shallow grassy areas. I never found the adults, but I could find 3-4 small ones per hour.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #18: The Snakes of Beach Seafood Cafe
PostPosted: December 8th, 2011, 10:07 pm 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks, Chris! Very valuable tips!


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