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City Herping in Kolkata

07 Feb

Not all of my adventures outside of Thailand are in the jungle. In India I’ve been able to do some of the same “city herping” that I got so good at in Bangkok. In fact, next to Bangkok, Kolkata has become my favorite city in Asia for city herping.

Of course, like any city, the geckos and frogs can manage to survive in any niche they find. Huge house geckos were on the walls everywhere.

Yellow-Green House Gecko (Hemidactylus flaviviridis)

On occasion I also found a smaller house gecko species on the walls, as well as under rocks and artificial cover in the parks:

Brook’s House Gecko (Hemidactylus brookii)

Some alleyways had moister stone piles that revealed toads:

Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

I don’t post too many birds, but these were beautiful:

One night I wandered around the city a little in the dark, and found a few frogs out and about:

Common Indian Toad

Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)

Indian Cricket Frog (Fejervaya syhadrensis?):

The cooler stuff came when I visited the Maidan, the huge open space in the middle of Kolkata.

First I found an above-ground outlet with bullfrogs on the surface

Early in the morning a resident was basking beautifully in a decorative pond.

Checkered Keelback (Xenochrophis piscator)

A gardened area of the park had a young juvenile of the same species that I found under a board:

One less-frequented edge of the park had a basking lizard:

Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

My favorite find came as I was looking under rocks in front of a goat herder when I lucked upon a wolf snake!

Indian Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicus)

Habitat shot

In another part of the city I found a few more lizard species:

Bark Gecko? (Hemidactulus leschenaulti)

Spiny-tail House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)

Many-lined Sun Skink? (Mabuya multifasciata)

The hotel had a little garden about 40’ by 6’. The garden was the most butterfly-filled place I’d ever seen. I took way too many pictures to show, so I picked about a quarter of them and made a collage:

The next two times I went to Kolkata, I stayed in a little ashram on the outskirts of the city. The landscape of the ashram was nothing special – just some large fishponds with a few trees and flower/vegetable plantings on less than 10 total acres of land – but the snake diversity there was incredible. A lot of it looked like this:

I’ve talked too much already, so here are a few pictures of the herps I saw there:

Oriental Garden Lizards (Calotes versicolor)

Keeled Indian Mabuyas? (Eutropis carinata)

These were seen by the dozens. Common Indian Supple Skink? (Lygosoma punctata?)

Brooke’s House Gecko (Hemidactylus brookii)

Juvenile Bengal Monitor (Varanus bengalensis)

A big Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) running away from me:

Skittering Frogs (Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis)

probably Terai Cricket Frogs Fejervaya teraiensis

Common Indian Toads

Ornate Chorus Frog (Microhyla ornata)

Indian Treefrog – Polypedates maculatus (unless its Polypedates leucomystax?)

This was a beauty – and he hid in the same place all week, so I could watch him without moving any of his cover.

Common Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis tristis)

Checkered Keelbacks (Xenochrophis piscator)

Buff-striped Keelbacks (Amphiesma stolata)

Brahminy Blind Snakes (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

Indian Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicus)

Oriental Rat Snakes (Ptyas mucosa)

Sadly, I only found these dead. Rainbow Water Snakes (Enhydris enhydris)

Okay, just one more story. On the third day I was poking around this area:

when I heard the sound of a snake moving about in the vegetation on the bamboo lattice structure. Knowing that cobras could be about, I was a little bit careful trying to poke around and find it. I eventually saw the end of a tail disappear, and that was it.

The rest of that day I checked back multiple times, stomping around the cauliflowers, but I didn’t find it. The next day I checked again. As I peaked my head under the structure, a snake halfway dropped down, hanging with its belly facing me. I was confused. It wasn’t a cobra…wasn’t a rat snake….I thought about grabbing it as it was only 3 feet in front of my face, but I was still confused about what it was. Then it dropped into the water and I saw. Russell’s Viper!

After recovering from the shock of almost having grabbed a viper, I went looking for it. Here’s a photo in this location:

Russell’s Viper (Daboia russelli)

The viper decided to take off across the pond. I removed my sandals and ran around to the other side to meet him. This is him cruising over to the other side:

When he saw me on the other side and got startled, he kind of freaked out and looked for a place to hide, but ended up stopping on the surface of the water and waiting to catch his breath.

After another five minutes it recovered and slowly crossed the pond and returned to its original spot. I left it alone except to check it out a week later, and found that it was still hanging out in the bamboo lattice. I told the priest who ran the ashram about it (he’s knowledgeable about some of the different species on the property and knows the good they do), and we warned the brothers to be careful around the cauliflowers.

Okay, so many birds at the ashram that I have to post just a few of them:

Thanks for taking a look!

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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Herping adventures

 

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