For a while now I have been loooking at the hills behind my house wandering what it would be like to wander up them at night, and what I might see up there. I had been up the hill at night briefly once before but not really seen much and I had always wanted to return for a more thorough look to see what wildlife called it home.
I had mulled over the idea for quite some time and eventually dedcided that this would be the week that I went back up there at night. I invited some friends to come along with me, after all more sets of eyes should make for more animal finds and some company walking up the eerily quiet hill would help too.
My expectations for spotting wildlife weren’t very high as it is the dry season and the wildlife has become more and more scarce as the season has progressed. Still in the back of my head I couldn’t help hoping that we’d get to see a snake, a new species of gecko or some other nocturnal animal that I hadn’t seen yet.
At first as we slowly made our way up the hill we didn’t see much wildlife but as we continued we began to see more and more moths. I guess four people all with headlamps or flashlights walking in the dark were quite a beacon for the moths, much to the dismay of one of the crew who didn’t particularly like them. The ‘moth problem’ was compounded for her by their tendancy to fly towards headtorches (which as you know are usualy nestled just above your face). Terrifying for her but rather comical for the rest of us especially when out of nowhere her torch would be turned off and she’d take of running into the night screaming. The moths that weren’t flying at us or whirling uncontrollably through the air were quite beautiful to look at and we spotted quite a few that night.
A night walk in Thailand wouldn’t be complete without seeing atleast one Tokay Gecko and this night was no exception. We had heard their distinctive calls off in the distance and quite early in the walk we managed to spot a couple of them. This juvenile (below) was the first to catch my eye when I mistook its colourful tail for a snake, until I spotted the rest of its body.
Being so dry on the hill I was quite shocked to see frogs, but every now and again we would hear a frog leap off the road and into the leaf litter landing with a delicate thud. After hearing one of these thuds it was just a matter of trying to locate the well camouflaged and very small frog. As an added bonus the frog, a Dark-sided Chorus Frog (Microhyla heymonsi ) turned out to be a species that I haven’t seen yet and will be a welcome addition to my amphibians photo gallery.
Frogs weren’t the only creatures on the leaf litter that night, we also spotted quite a few spiders on our walk. The spiders ranged in size from the small delicate harvestman spiders that effortless crossed the carpet of dead leaves with their stilt like legs to the mammoth bird eating tarantula (Haplopelma minax) waiting to ambush any unsuspecting prey walking past the entrance to its burrow.I enjoy spotting any type of wild organism, but I was a little dissapointed that we hadn’t seen any snakes that evening and we were already on our way back to the car. I’ve always been fascinated by snakes and considered seeing one as a rarity and count myself lucky when I do. I always have the same intense level of excitement when I spot a snake no matter what species it is, even if its one I’ve seen a hundred times.
You can imagine my excitement when as we were walking back to the car I spotted a small Slug-eating Snake perched on a dead branch on the side of the road. I couldn’t beleive my eyes, it was an absolute beauty and it wasn’t skittish at all. It stayed with its dainty body delicately draped over a dead branch trying to ignore us with its gaze still fixed on the ground waiting for passing snails or slugs to eat.
I noticed that the branch it was perched on was not attached to anything which allowed me to pick it up on the branch for a closer look.
It looked almost cartoony with its blunt head large eyes and slender gun metal grey tongue, and I yearned to pick it up. I was almost certain it was a slug-eating snake which are non-venomous but the voice of reason in the back of my head over took my thoughts reminding me not to pick it up. Why risk a snake bite in a country that has snakes with extremely potent venoms that could kill or seriously injure you. I have lived in Thailand a long time and enjoy researching and reading about snakes, but I am by no means a snake expert and if I’m not 100% sure, its not worth the risk for me. I never want to be “that farang” (westener) who picked up a snake and ended up in hospital or worse as a consequence.
After we had all got had a good look at the snake and everyone had taken photos I carried it back over to where I found it and carefully placed the branch back down and we continued our walk back to the car. I was ecstatic at having seen a snake and I couldnt wait to get home to look at my pictures and try to identify it.
This was a great first proper night walk up the hill and I am really excited to go up again and even more excited to return in the rainy season when there should be far more wildlife around (expect an update when i do, hopefuly with loads of snake pics).