Friday, January 24, 2014

Sarawak: Around the Frog Pond

File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
The frog pond in Kubah National Park deserves its name about as well as any other landmark on the planet.  At night, it positively drips with frogs, of a variety of species, all looking for mates.  It's a great place even for rank amateur frog-finders like me, and to prove it here are some images of five species that I found (admittedly with help) over the course of two nights during our birding guide training workshop in October 2012.

File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
First up is the most startling-looking of the lot, the File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus).  Its large size, the tiger-like striping on its legs and sides, and the pronounced ridges behind its eyes make it unmistakeable (and more than a bit awe-inspiring).

File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
The File-eared Tree Frog is a member of the largely Asian family Rhacophoridae, and is confined to Sumatra and Borneo.  Apparently its preferred activity is loitering around the margins of stagnant forest ponds, a few metres off the ground - pretty much exactly what these individuals were doing.

File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
File-eared Tree Frog (Polypedates otilophus)
Anyway, they make ideal photographic subjects.  The upper individual is sitting right on the guardrail of the boardwalk that runs around the pond, and you can't get more cooperative than that.

Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
The Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax), a less spectacular (but still attractive) cousin of the File-Eared, is, according to the excellent website Frogs of Borneo, "closely follows human activities: it is found around villages, artificial forest edges, and along roads where it breeds in ditches and puddles."

Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
Four-lined Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax)
It apparently stays out of primary forest, so it may have reached the frog pond along the road edge into the park.

Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
The most remarkable of the rhacophorids may well be the "flying" frogs of the genus Rhacophorus, famed for their ability to glide on the parachute-like webbing between their outstretched toes.  This is the commonest of them, the Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis), easily identified by its red gliding webs.

Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
These frogs lay their eggs in a foam nest hanging over the water; this is probably a male, keeping an eye on his brood.  When the tadpoles hatch, they will drop into the pond to continue their development.

Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Away from the breeding pond, these frogs spend their lives high in the trees, and like so many canopy animals - even common ones like these - we know little about their daily lives.

Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
Harlequin Flying Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
That's the nice thing about the frog pond - it gives you a chance to get up close and personal with creatures that othewise might remain well out of sight.

White-lipped Frog (Hylarana raniceps)
White-lipped Frog (Hylarana raniceps)
The attractive White-lipped Frog (Hylarana raniceps) is not a rhacophorid, but a member of the "true" frog family Ranidae.  Recently the Ranidae have been broken up into a number of smaller families, but Hylarana has yet to be moved elsewhere.  

White-lipped Frog (Hylarana raniceps)
To a North American this may seem odd, as the expanded toe pads make it look more like one of the "typical" tree frogs of the Hylidae (a family missing in Borneo) than a ranid; our ranids are pond frogs that, by and large, wouldn't be caught dead in a tree.  It just goes to show how diverse frogs are.

Giant River Frog (Limnonectes leporinus)
Giant River Frog (Limnonectes leporinus)
Not all the frogs around the pond are tree-dwellers.  The Giant River Frog (Limnonectes leporinus) prefers the vicinity of forest streams.  Males can get quite large - up to 175 cm. - and are sought by locals as food.  This frog is now placed in the family Dicroglossidae, one of the shards of the breakup of the Ranidae.

Sarawak Slender Litter Frog (Leptolalax gracilis)
Sarawak Slender Litter Frog (Leptolalax gracilis)
Sarawak Slender Litter Frog (Leptolalax gracilis)
Litter frogs, as the name implies, are very much animals of the forest floor.  They belong to the family Megophryidae, another split from the Ranidae.  They may not look it, but that makes them cousins of the obese Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta).  This strikingly un-obese little animal is a Sarawak Slender Litter Frog (Leptolalax gracilis).  Even its tadpoles are skinny-looking.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sarawak: Kubah By Night

Banded Marquis (Euthalia [Bassarona] teuta bellata)
When night fell during our October 2012 course for birding guides at Kubah National Park, we were free to don our headlamps and scout around for the nocturnal inhabitants of the forest (not, I fear, including night birds).  Our chief target was the frog pond and the boardwalk around it, but the frogs themselves deserve their own post and will get it (well, two posts, actually, as you will see).  Here I will concentrate on the non-frogs,some of which were day-flying insects simply trying to get a night's sleep. This is one of them, a Banded Marquis (Euthalia [or Bassarona] teuta bellata), a butterfly I have never been sure of seeing by day.  Here it is, though.

We were more likely to turn up genuine night-haunters, like this katydid nymph....

...or one of Borneo's spectacular stick insects.

This peculiar object appears to be an ant colony (or, at least, it has attracted one).

Moths were conspicuous (thanks to their particularly bright eyeshine), abundant, and diverse.

I would love to be able to tell you what these are, but my attempts at identification have proved sorry failures.  Can anyone help?

It is particularly galling not to be able to name a moth as large and spectacular (even if damaged) as this one, though I suspect it is some sort of silk moth (Saturniidae).

I feel less guilty about something like this nicely-camouflaged moth (well, it would be nicely camouflaged on a tree) on the wall of the park headquarters.

This little green moth is quite common, but once again all I have been able to find are photographs of, presumably, the same species on the internet, unhelpfully labelled "green moth".

Spotted House Gecko (Gekko monarchus)
As happens almost everywhere in the humid tropics, lit-up walls attracted geckos (or, perhaps better, it attracted insects which the geckos ate).  This one is a Spotted House Gecko (Gekko monarchus).

Leptopoma undatum
 Back in the forest near the frog pond, I came across this extremely attractive snail navigating through the shrubbery at, fortunately, eye level. 

Leptopoma undatum
Leptopoma undatum
My thanks to Gary Rosenberg for identifying this little beauty as as Leptopoma undatumLeptopoma is an operculate snail, meaning it has an operculum, a horny plate it can use to seal off the opening of its shell (it's the object resembling a large fingernail sticking out of the back of the shell).  The species is endemic to northern Borneo.

Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse (Chiropodomys sp)
Nocturnal mammals are not easy to come across in Borneo.  I was delighted when we came across this one on the roadside just across from the frog pond, even if it was only a mouse.

Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse (Chiropodomys sp)
Mind you, when I say "only" I am being rather facetious.  It is, in fact, not just any mouse but a Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse, one of three very similar Bornean rainforest mice in the south-east Asian genus Chiropodomys.  Notice the brush-like (or "pencil-like") tip to the tail.  Also notice the very long tail and immense faceful of whiskers, both presumably adaptations for balancing and feeling one's way through the trees.

Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse (Chiropodomys sp)
Of course I wanted to know which of the three Bornean species this one might be, so I wrote Quentin and Karen Phillips.  Their view is that, of the three Bornean species, this is either the Small (or Common, or Lesser) Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse (Chiropodomys pusillus) or the Large (or Greater) Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse (Chiropodomys major) (the third species is known only from Mount Kinabalu in Sabah).  The two differ mostly by size, and you can't tell that from a photo (except that the Lesser prefers bamboo, and this one isn't in bamboo, so the Greater may be the more likely).  Not surprisingly, not much seems to be known about either of them.

Pencil-tailed Tree Mouse (Chiropodomys sp)
 Anyway, it was a delightful little animal, and a highlight of our weekend in Kubah.