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)
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)
In more forested areas, often camouflaged into the undergrowth, were these rarely photographed agamids.
juvenile Large Mountain Lizard (Japalura major)
I tried to flip (and carefully replace) everything I could find. Usually this only landed me scorpions:
But one morning I flipped this little gecko. While the species used to be known as Brook’s Gecko (Hemidactylus brookii), it has now been subdivided into a large number of separate species, with this one in Mussoorie falling under 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. This is a slight elevation extension, being found about a hundred meters or so higher than any previous record.
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 found this Collared Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis collaris) taking advantage of the warmth:
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:
While descending down the jungle path in a rainstorm, I found this Large Mountain Lizard (Japalura major) nearly drowning in the runoff coming down the trail:
These beautiful Kashmiri Rock Agamas (Laudakia tuberculata) would sun out on rocky outcroppings:
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.
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.
I looked up in the water catchbasin up above it, and found this frog – the mountain stream frog Nanorana minica:
Other herps that I’ve found in Mussoorie or the nearby trails include Himalayan Toads, Yellow-Green House Geckos, Brahminy Blind Snakes, and an Indian Rat Snake.
Mammals 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.
Thanks for taking a look!