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:
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.
In more forested areas, often camouflaged into the undergrowth, were these rarely photographed agamids.
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.
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.
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:
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 nearly drowning in the runoff coming down the trail:
These beautiful Kashmiri Rock Agamas 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
Other herps that I’ve found in Mussoorie or the nearby trails:
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!