Bicycling in Pha Yao

01 Dec

Soon after the end of rainy season I got to take a trip to visit some friends in Pha Yao. Pha Yao is a nondescript little town on a lakeside in rural northern Thailand. I had a great time with my friends there…but as always, found a little time to look for reptiles and amphibians in the area.

The huge lake that dwarfs the city had some interesting Chinese Edible Frogs.

Chinese Edible Frog Hoplobatrachus rugulosus

My friends’ home had some nice treats. Several Tokay Geckos called unseen from the ceilings, and these frogs and lizards were right there in their yard.

Speckled Forest Skink

Bronze Grass Skink Eutropis macularia

Stump-toed Gecko

Stub-toed Gecko Gehyra mutilata

Four-lined Treefrog

Four-lined Treefrog Polypedates leucomystax

At this time of year, Pha Yao was cold enough that snake activity was reduced to daytime and dusk. I borrowed my friends’ bicycle and pedaled over to a series of ponds where my friend had often seen snakes while on evening walks. The area wasn’t gorgeous, but the fish ponds had a bit of charm.


Right off the bat I saw several species of frogs:

Common Indian Toad


Green Paddy Frog

Green Paddy Frog Hylarana erythraea

Asian Grass Frog

And just before the sun set I saw my first snake!

Yellow-bellied Water Snake

Yellow-bellied Water Snake Enhydris plumbea

Rice Paddy Snake Enhydris plumbea

Head shot of Yellow-bellied Water Snake

Soon there was another…and another.

Yellow-bellied Water 11-25-10 in Payao Province, 2nd specimen

Yellow-bellied Water 11-25-10 in Payao Province, 3rd specimen

Yellow-bellied Water 11-25-10 in Payao Province

This was my first look at this species, and they were interesting in how they reared up in striking position, and then flipped around and tried to flee wildly. They gave the impression of a snake that wasn’t quite fully comfortable on land. In fact, most Asian Water Snakes will spend 90+% of their time in the water. The Yellow-bellied Water Snake is a bit of an exception to that rule, hunting on land much more often than the other species, but it still is only going to be found in close proximity to water.

The last find of the night, less than an hour after the sun had set, was another lifer for me…a Checkered Keelback.

Checkered Keelback

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

The next night I came back to the same area, and just before dusk I found a closely-related Yellow-spotted Keelback catching the last rays of sunlight just outside of some brush.

Yellow-spotted Keelback

Yellow-spotted Keelback 11-26-10 in Payao Province (3)

During the day I rode around on the bicycle a little bit, and found a number of road-killed snakes that had been killed by passing vehicles. Many snakes are killed by cars as they try to cross roads to get from one bit of habitat to the next, or as they sun on roads to gain warmth. Sadly, some drivers even veer to kill the snakes, despite the fact that the snakes pose no danger to them at all. I found dead yellow-bellied water snakes, oriental rat snakes, long-nosed whip snakes, checkered keelbacks, and yellow-bellied keelbacks all on Pha Yao’s roads.

But one dead snake looked a bit odd to me. I picked it up and realized…it wasn’t a snake! In fact, it was a caecilian, a kind of legless amphibian. The combination of the cars and the sun had flattened it against the road.

dead Yellow-striped Caecilian

Soon I found more and more of them on the road. It was interesting to see how much they looked like snakes…can you tell which of these is a caecilian and which is a yellow-bellied water snake?

Yellow-striped Caecilians Ichthyophis kohtaoensis

Unfortunately, I was not able to find any live caecilians that year.

A couple years later I went back to the same place at about the same time of year, and once again had some success. In the same marshy area where I had visited before, I found another couple of yellow-bellied water snakes.

I also saw this unusual Green Paddy Frog, which appeared to have some sort of lip deformity but had still managed to grow to adulthood.


In the hills, I found a neat scorpion.


And then, finally, a live caecilian! Sadly, you can see several wounds on the caecilian’s body, possibly from being attacked by a house cat or hit by a bicycle. I am not sure whether the caecilian would be able to survive or not.

Yellow-striped Caecilian

Yellow-striped Caecilian Ichthyophis kohtaoensis

The next day I went biking around at night. I turned a corner in a rural residential area…and saw a beautiful snake crossing the road. An adult Long-nosed Whip Snake! It truly was a sight, a full meter and a half long but barely thicker than a pencil.

Green Vine Snake Ahaetulla nasuta

Green Vine Snake Ahaetulla nasuta head front

Long-nosed Whip Snake Ahaetulla nasuta head

After carefully taking it off the road, I placed it in a nearby sapling and snapped another photo:

Long-nosed Whip Snake Ahaetulla nasuta

The whip snake was a wonderful way to cap off my time in this little city.


Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Herping adventures


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2 responses to “Bicycling in Pha Yao

  1. Eric Wayne

    December 2, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Wow. The Whip Snake pics are great! And that’s a beautiful snake. Also, I like Pha Yao. When I was there I sw some of those Speckled Forest Skinks as well.

    • Asian Herp Blogs

      December 2, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      Thank you! Whip snakes rely on their camouflage, not their speed or aggressiveness, so he sort of sat still and posed very nicely. Plus, it was extremely photogenic with that deep green color and long slender snout. I really like that snake.


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