China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

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Kevin Messenger
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China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by Kevin Messenger »

A link to the previous post, #40, snake bit: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=13176

Since there are very few herps in these next coming days, I will keep the narrative short during the conference so we can get on to the herps after the conference.

1 June 2012
We arrived in Chengdu around 5am. We took a taxi to hotel/ conference center. Most of the day was napping and relaxing, registering for the conference. No talks going on today. Met up with Todd. He had a little surprise with him:
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(mangshanensis in a bottle)

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2 June 2012
Conference pics:
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Group shot (half of the group, the whole group couldn’t fit):
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conference. Awesome talks, met Bosco, Hey, Zhang Fang, Dr. Shi Haitao, and a lot of others.

I had two goals while in Chengdu – 1) eat some really spicy food, which Sichuan province is famous for, and 2) do some herping. Unfortunately, due to the location of the conference center, I was unable to do either of these. You couldn’t simply walk down the street and experience awesome street cuisine because the conference center was out in the middle of nowhere (but still in an urban setting). And there was no herping to be had either, except for maybe some geckos on the walls and such. Aside from the talks and the new contacts made, my Sichuan experience was quite unimpressive.

3 June 2012
conference. Last few talks.

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(Hey giving a talk about turtle poachers in Hong Kong)

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Cool poster (and accompanying talk) about Burmese pythons in Taiwan

4 June 2012
left conference. Originally, we were going to head to Nanjing, but since the snake bite kind of rerouted our plans, I wanted to get back to Shennongjia. We never even got a chance to photograph the colubrids we had found prior to the viper, so at the very least I wanted to pop back in and at least take pics of the specimens we collected, plus show everyone that I was fine and didn’t lose my hand. Plus I wanted to look for some more salamanders at Pingqian; that was another activity we missed out on due to the bite.

We took a train to Shennongjia. This time we got a hard seat. I knew I hated these, but didn’t remember exactly how much. Well I hate them. A lot. They are fine if it is for 12 hrs or less, but not an overnight train… that just sucks.

5 June 2012
We arrived in Yichang. One of the guys on the train helped us get a taxi from the East Railway Station to the bus station, then helped us get a bus to Muyu. Back in the day there was only one bus to Muyu and that was early in the morning. Now they had two buses to Muyu each day. The bus was only 70 Yuan per person! (~$10). It left around 3pm, 5 hours later we were back in Muyu. Once we arrived I called Xie Dong. Shortly after Mr. Yang (the director) showed up and two girls that could speak English. One called herself “Lucky” – she didn’t tell me her Chinese name. Lucky was from the minority that is originally found in the Shennongjia area - Yujia minority (she is not Han Chinese). The other girl was named Yang Jin. The girls took us around the corner for some dinner.

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(Yang Jin holding one of the napalm hockey pucks they use to cook the dinners)

So far, every day we’ve spent in Shennongjia, the officers have treated us to all of our meals. We had another great dinner. The girls were asking us a lot of questions. Yang Jin had excellent English and was even familiar with the term “Chinglish” (horrible, incorrect combinations of Chinese translated into English).

After dinner Mr. Yang (the director one) asked what I wanted to do. I told Yang Jin that I wanted to go back to Pingqian and look for some more snakes. I thought that due to the bite, they might be apprehensive, thinking I was careless or something, which is far from the truth. But Mr. Yang understood the circumstances and said “no problem.” Awesome. He said that there was no car for tomorrow but for the day after. No worries, I asked if tomorrow we could just photograph the snakes that we had collected back in May.

6 June 2012
Muyu. The day was spent taking photos of all of the specimens we collected (most of the pics from the last post were taken on this day). We drove over to Guamenshan to find some natural areas. Wong Ming and Yang Jin joined us for the photo session. I finally convinced her to hold one of the Sibynophis’ and the Lycodon. Yang Jin was a new intern for the summer. She had only been there for 4 days. She was originally from Changsha, Hunan province. Yang Jin had never held a snake before, so of course this enticed me to make her hold a snake.

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Yang Jin holding a Lycodon liuchengchaoi

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7 June 2012
We left Muyu around 8am. As soon as we cleared the town limits of Muyu I saw a tiny snake on the shoulder of the road. “ting ting ting!” (I was told saying “stop stop stop” was more effective than “snake snake snake”). The driver came to a halt, “there was a small snake, probably dead” I said in broken Chinese. Wong Ming got really excited and ran back to the snake. “Bai tou kai!” he yelled. “WHAT?!?! NO ____ing way!” For those that have forgotten, “bai tou kai” (Chinese for white-headed viper) is the Chinese name for Fea’s Viper (Azemiops feae)! I broke out into a run. There on the shoulder of the road was a freshly hit (last night) juvenile Fea’s viper…. His head was crushed. The body was still limp. I let out a long series of expletives. Wong Ming picked up on the major ones. This was the 4th Azemiops carcass I have held in my hands, all from Shennongjia. And it was along the same ravine as the DOR from 2006 (see post: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... f=2&t=2128;
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On the drive over the mountains to Pingqian, since Yang Jin was also new to Shennongjia, we decided to stop once again on the top of the mountain for photos:

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Once we arrived at Pingqian, I immediately wanted to hit the same hillside as before. Yet again, we found tons of Achalinus spinalis, tons of Rhabdophis nuchalis, and another Sibynophis chinensis.

While waiting for lunch, I decided to whip out one of my favorite magic tricks. Unfortunately, it isn’t recommended to perform magic tricks that require slight of the hand while ones hand is not 100%.
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(basically, after they asked me to “do it again” – they were able to figure out the trick)

Lunch:
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After lunch, Wong Ming, Iwo, one of the officers and I decided to try and find the jerdonii that nailed me (and obviously other species at the same time):

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This hillside:
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Yielded this Rhabdophis nuchalis:
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Later on, we found the earliest “documented” Oligodon ningshaanensis:
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Wong Ming’s friend with the ningshaanensis:
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(he seemed to be really enjoying himself)

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Then another Rhabdophis
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Showing Iwo a Bufo andrewsi:
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We didn’t find the jerdonii that got me (or any jerdonii for that matter. But we ended up with 7 R. nuchalis:

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(Yang Jin, her 2nd time to hold a snake)

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(it’s so nice to share the joy of herping with others, even the non-herpers are having such a good time)

After an afternoon of catching snakes, we headed back to Muyu for dinner:
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Iwo eating a chicken foot:
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After dinner, Lucky brought her daughter over to our hotel. Everyone was saying their goodbyes. Lucky wanted me to show her daughter some of the snakes we had.

At the beginning of the night she was terrified of snakes:
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Now here she was with a handful of Rhabdophis nuchalis

So also LOVED the O. ningshaanensis:
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(she actually started crying when her mom finally pulled the snake away)

Having a hotel lobby full of snakes tends to attract a lot of people from the streets. It’s a good thing the hotel owners really like me:
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It is kind of funny. If not for the jerdonii bite, I wouldn’t have gotten to meet Yang Jin. Nor would we have found the Azemiops feae (albeit, it was a DOR, it was/is still a significant find). (putting a positive spin on the incident)

8 June 2012
We left Shennongjia this afternoon. There are now 2 buses that leave from Muyu to Yichang. Back in the day I always had to get up around 6am to catch the 7am bus. But now they had another bus that left around 2pm, arriving in Yichang. We had an overnight train to Nanjing that left close to 10pm.

We handed Yang Jin all of our specimens from the night before. Her exposure to snakes over these last few days would come in handy, but more on that tomorrow.

9 June 2012
Arrive at Nanjing Forestry University. Not much going on, just catching up on things and resting. Nanjing now has Mtn Dew!!

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(blessed be the mtn dew, especially in a bottle that makes it look like antifreeze)

Dr. Wang would be arriving tomorrow. I got an email from Yang Jin today:


“My dear friend I must tell you what happened in this morning,

8:30am I went to my office 511.When I through the corridor suddenly I saw a snake, I'm afraid and startled, I called Mr. Yang, he told me maybe it ran away from his office [what she means to say is “escaped”], but he’s not here, and WangMing also not here, how I wish you are still here, and you will help me. Unfortunately, you are not here so I must catch it.

When I go to catch it I found that there’s another snake on the stairs ,oh my god~ You can image how difficult for me to catch them. Their so clever when I took something in front of them, they do not move. I spend half an hour to catch them.....

This is an unforgettable experience for me.

Wish you best,
Yangjin”


I was extremely happy to get this email. It tells me she made leaps and bounds over her fear. Had she not met me, and had we not had those snake holding sessions, I seriously doubt she would have tried to catch those snakes on her own.

10 June 2012
Dr. Wang arrived in Nanjing this afternoon. He, the president, and the dean (and lots of other faculty, both from AAMU and Nanjing Forestry University) invited me to join them for dinner. Who would refuse?
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(so if I haven’t explained this in the past, the Chinese love their alcohol. Here they served me pijiu (beer), hongjiu (red wine), mijiu (rice wine), baijiu (liquor), and a local made alcohol (I forget the name).

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A scared fish:
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11 – 15 June 2012
My stay in Nanjing was not long. I had to fly up to Beijing for 5-6 days to attend the orientation session of the EAPSI grant. While I was in Beijing, Iwo stayed in Nanjing to do more REU stuff and interact with the other REU students. All of the REU students (except Iwo) would be staying in the Nanjing area.

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An oddly clear day, and very little traffic

Overall the program wasn’t that interesting (most of the talks and presentations they presented I already knew – but to someone that had never been to China before, I’m sure they were very interesting). What was fun, however, was meeting all the other NSF fellows. They also handed us 5,600 Yuan in cash, so that was nice. I don’t see any reason why I will need to pull out any more money, unless I get another snake bite…. (kidding for those that can’t take a joke).

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“God save the streaking”

Taking a taxi to dinner:
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Me, Graham, and Lu – oh, and as a positive aside, drinking in cars is perfectly legal in China (except for the driver of course)

We wandered around looking for a good place to eat (that was also cheap). We finalized on “Yellow River Tasty”

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The majority of my time in Beijing was spent going to interesting dining locales. The two best were “Yellow River Tasty” – which we stumbled upon randomly,



and then a Yunnan style restaurant – some of the highlights of that meal were the fact that there was a rice dish that is served in pineapples.

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This is a pork dish that is reminiscent of meat loaf

Some incredible potato balls that you dunk in the sauce:
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Here’s the rice stuffed in the pineapple:
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Beef jerky:
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(another group shot of some of the other fellows)

For the official program, we had talks on the political and economic system in China. We had an afternoon at the US embassy (we all got an official invite to attend a 4th of July celebration there).
We visited some universities (not relevant to me), we ate some Peking duck at the same place that Vanessa and I (and her cousin) ate in 2006 – apparently it is a very famous (and very expensive) place to eat Peking duck.

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(this mushroom looking food item, which was awesome, was actually duck heart)

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Turkey (the country) burger:
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The wonderful Beijing subway (sarcasm. It actually is nice, just not during rush hour):
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I met up with my Beijing Normal University advisor – Dr. Zhang Zhengwang. He is an ornithologist and Dr. Wang knows him well. My advisors at Hainan Normal University were also students of his (one, Dr. Liang Wei is an ornithologist, the other Dr. Shi Haitao, is the herpetologist here) – so lots of connections, that’s the point.

Dinner with Scott and his girlfriend that evening:
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16 June 2012
After the program ended, I met up with Scott and one of the other NSF fellows (David Moscato, a paleoherpetologst) to go hike the Great Wall. We arrived at the site around 9am and very quickly I spotted a Coluber spinalis (“Striped Racer?”) slithering in front of me – along the most popular stretch of the wall (from the trail head to the first guard tower).

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He went into a pile of rocks and with Scott’s help we were able to catch him. This was a species I definitely wanted to find ever since the one got away from us in 2008. It was also a species I never thought I’d get to photograph, simply because it’s a racer. I figured if I ever saw one again, it would be another fleeting half second of the snake before it disappeared. I was VERY thankful that this wasn’t the case this time.

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We hiked about 50% of the hike that mom, dad, and I did with Scott back in 2008:
http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... f=2&t=8242

I was impressed with mom’s efforts back then (at 60 yrs of age with a busted/ recuperating knee operation), but after doing this hike a second time, and not even the whole thing, I was far more impressed. We hiked about 4 hours worth and dropped down at a half way point. David, the other fellow that was with me (26 yrs of age), said it was the most intense hike he had ever done in his life and he definitely would not have been able to go on for an additional 4 hours (our hike in 2008 lasted 8 hrs). When we reached the halfway point, I looked up the next hill and more of those steps and was thankful we were only going as far as we were going. It was hard to believe we all did that back in 2008. Scott also made references about how much of a “trooper” mom was on that day.

We went the whole day without seeing the most common species, Gloydius brevicaudus, a species David really wanted to see. Conditions were extremely dry. Hopefully I’d get another shot at herping the wall and we’d have better luck.

I took an overnight train to Nanjing. Originally it was a bullet train (4 hrs), but I missed the train due to traffic, so they gave me an overnight train instead.

17 June 2012
I arrived back in Nanjing around 6:30am. I headed over to my dorm, bought some mtn dew, and passed out. My primary goal for the day was to get my gear in order for Hainan.

18 June 2012
Iwo and I grabbed a taxi around 6am to take to the airport.

A link to the next post, #42: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=13316

Jimi
Posts: 1938
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by Jimi »

Cool post, thanks for keeping them coming.
drinking in cars is perfectly legal in China (except for the driver of course)
Now that is practical. Interesting cultural observation, thanks.

Sorry you missed your Gloydius (I miss them too).

Cheers,
Jimi

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scottriv
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by scottriv »

Great stuff!

Thanks for sharing.

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kkchome
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by kkchome »

great stuff.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) »

Another day, another awesome KevMess post! Did you meet Indraneil Das at the conference?

The A. fea is still one of the most inexplicably colored reptiles I've ever seen. What's the "skull" head for? And why bright red stripes? Warning? They seem to thin to do the job, but they can't be camouflage either.

Bummer you didn't get to eat Sichuan food. They really know how to cook not only spicy, but also tasty. The other dishes you show here are nothing short of amazing. Damn shame you can't get them anywhere else in the world (or anywhere else in China, for that matter). Maybe I'll join one of those Taiwan-organized "China Culinary Highlights In Twelve Days" group tours when I'm old.
Lucky was from the minority that is originally found in the Shennongjia area
What minority is that?

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Kevin Messenger
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by Kevin Messenger »

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:Did you meet Indraneil Das at the conference?

The A. fea is still one of the most inexplicably colored reptiles I've ever seen. What's the "skull" head for? And why bright red stripes? Warning? They seem to thin to do the job, but they can't be camouflage either.

What minority is that?
Tujia minority - I meant to include that in the original write up.

Not quite sure why juveniles have white heads and adults have orange heads. They are quite bizarre. As for the stripes, I don't think it is meant for a warning. They spend most of their time underground.

No, I didn't see Indraneil Das. Do you know if he was there or not?

iwo gross
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by iwo gross »

Nothing really important to note, but when "Lucky" gave me her contact information, she wrote her name as: Weigun Lucky.

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justinm
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by justinm »

Kevin,

You keep giving me some amazing stories to dream of doing. Thanks for keeping this going.

TimCO
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by TimCO »

Love the herps, and look at that food!

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Mike Pingleton
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Re: China post #41, conference, Shennongjia, and Beijing

Post by Mike Pingleton »

now I'm hungry!

Coluber spinalis is spectacular.

-Mike

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