Nearly all my herping in Asia has focused on the lowlands in and around megacities (with an occasional Doi Suthep or Khao Yai to get a little higher up). But Asia also has some real elevation in the Himalayan range, and a whole new set of wildlife occupies those heights. I’ve had a couple chances to get up over 2,000 meters high in the mountains near Mussoorie, India. Here are a few pictures from those trips.

The first time I went to Uttarkhand, the first thunderstorm of the monsoon hit on my first day there. That boded well for snake activity, and sure enough, the next morning my friend and I found this beautiful rat snake crawling up a rat-infested wall on our walk to the school:

Hodgson's Ratsnake (Orthriophis hodgsoni) mussoorie india himalayas
Hodgson’s Ratsnake (Orthriophis hodgsoni)
Hodgson's Ratsnake (Orthriophis hodgsoni) mussoorie india himalayas

Habitat shot, with the crowd that gathered afterwards

The most abundant herp in these mountains are a type of ground skink, which were usually sunning near rock piles. I probably saw over 100 of them.

Himalayan Ground Skink (Asymblepharus himalayanus) mussoorie india himalayas
Himalayan Ground Skink (Asymblepharus himalayanus)
Himalayan Ground Skink (Asymblepharus himalayanus) mussoorie india himalayas
Himalayan Ground Skink (Asymblepharus himalayanus)

In more forested areas, often camouflaged into the undergrowth, were these rarely photographed agamids.

juvenile Large Mountain Lizard (Japalura major) mussoorie india himalayas
juvenile Large Mountain Lizard (Japalura major)
juvenile Large Mountain Lizard (Japalura major) mussoorie india himalayas

I tried to flip (and carefully replace) everything I could find. Usually this only landed me scorpions:

scorpion mussoorie india himalayas
scorpion mussoorie india himalayas

But one morning I flipped this little gecko.

Kushmore's House Gecko (Hemidactylus kushmorensis) mussoorie india himalayas
Kushmore’s House Gecko (Hemidactylus kushmorensis)

On the second day after the rain, I found this beautiful cat snake under a rock right next to school. The 2219 meters elevation that the snake was found at is a slight elevation extension for the species, being found nearly a hundred meters higher than any previous record.

Many-banded Cat Snake (Boiga multifasciata) musoorie india himayalas
Many-banded Cat Snake (Boiga multifasciata)

The other time I went to that location, it was a colder time of year and the clouds/fog rarely lifted. However, on one brief sunny moment I went searching and someone taking advantage of the warmth:

Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris) mussoorie india himalayas
Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris)
Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris) mussoorie india himalayas
Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris)
Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris) mussoorie india himalayas
Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris)

I like to do a 25km hike from the language school. After paralleling a ridge I dropped into a lush forested mountain valley. The villagers who farm this valley have to walk anywhere from 3 to 10 kilometers to get to the nearest road. The birds on this route are gorgeous and numerous.

Herps, however, were surprisingly rare. Other than a skink, in three trips into the valley the only reptiles I’ve seen were agamas:

Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor) – at nearly 2000 meters, very high elevation for this species:

Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor) mussoorie india himalayas
Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

While descending down the jungle path in a rainstorm, I found this Large Mountain Lizard nearly drowning in the runoff coming down the trail:

large mountain lizard japalura major mussoorie india himalayas
Large Mountain Lizard (Japalura major)

These beautiful Kashmiri Rock Agamas would sun out on rocky outcroppings:

Kashmiri Rock Agamas (Laudakia tuberculata) mussoorie india himalayas
Kashmiri Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata)
Kashmiri Rock Agamas (Laudakia tuberculata) mussoorie india himalayas
Kashmiri Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata)

I saw a small lizard disappearing in-between two rocks at a distance. I peeked in and saw four cute little juveniles looking up at me! Unfortunately, they dispersed before I could get a picture of them together.

Kashmiri Rock Agamas (Laudakia tuberculata) mussoorie india himalayas
juvenile Kashmiri Rock Agama (Laudakia tuberculata)

Habitat shot

I worked really hard in this same area to try to find any species of stream frog, especially a torrent frog. In some man-made puddles coming off of a mountain stream, I found these tadpoles eating a dead fish.

small nepal paa frog Nanorana minica mussoorie india himalayas tadpoles eating fish

I looked up in the water catchbasin up above it, and found this frog

small nepal paa frog Nanorana minica mussoorie india himalayas
Nepal Paa Frog (Nanorana minica)
small nepal paa frog Nanorana minica mussoorie india himalayas
Nepal Paa Frog (Nanorana minica)

Other herps that I’ve found in Mussoorie or the nearby trails:

brahminy blind snake indotyphlops braminus mussoorie india himalayas
Brahminy Blind Snake (Indotyphlops braminus)
brahminy blind snake indotyphlops braminus mussoorie india himalayas
Brahminy Blind Snake (Indotyphlops braminus)
Indian Rat Snake ptyas muscosa mussoorie india himalayas
Indian Rat Snake (Ptyas muscosa)
himalayan toad Duttaphrynus himalayanus mussoorie india himalayas
Himalayan Toad ( Duttaphrynus himalayanus)

Mammals seen include Himalayan Water Shrew, Asian House Shrew, Giant Red Flying Squirrel, Hanuman Langur, Rhesus Macaque, Yellow-throated Marten, Barking Deer, Horseshoe Bats, and a pair of glowing eyes watching us from a hill slope during a night hike that looked distinctly leopard-like.

Birds in the area are absolutely spectacular. Here is just a small smattering of the dozens of neat bird species we’ve seen

Thanks for taking a look!