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City Herping in Kolkata – updated

02 Mar
City Herping in Kolkata – updated

In India I’ve been able to do some of the same urban herping that I developed into an art in Bangkok. In fact, next to Bangkok, Kolkata has become my favorite place in Asia for city herping.

Like any city, some geckos and frogs can survive in any niche they find. Huge house geckos were on the walls everywhere.

Yellow-Green House Gecko (Hemidactylus flaviviridis)

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On occasion I found a smaller house gecko species on the walls, as well as under rocks and artificial cover in the parks. This used to be known as “Brooke’s House Gecko”, but a recent study revealed them to be a complex of different species. In the Kolkata area, the species is the Kushmore House Gecko.

Kushmore House Gecko (Hemidactylus kushmorensis)

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You would think the water might be too polluted for amphibians, but there are hardy frogs that can be found even in the middle of the city. Some alleyways had moister stone piles that revealed toads:

Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

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A drainage area had Indian Bullfrogs at night.

Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)

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And these cricket frogs were breeding in rain puddles.

Indian Cricket Frog? (Fejervaya syhadrensis?):

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More diversity 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

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And then a pond where early in the morning, a resident snake lay basking.

Checkered Keelback (Xenochrophis piscator)

Checkered Keelback Xenochrophis piscator

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

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

Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

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

Indian Wolf Snake (Lycodon aulicus)

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Habitat shot

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At a guesthouse in another part of the city I found a few more lizard species:

Bark Gecko? (Hemidactulus leschenaulti)

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Spiny-tail House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)

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Keeled Indian Sun Skink? (Eutropis carinata)

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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 few 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 five acres of land – but the herp diversity there was incredible.

A lot of the ashram looked like this:

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And every niche seems to have a snake.

Common Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis tristis) found under roofing material about 3′ off the ground.

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Another couple of bronzebacks appeared to have made a permanent home in metal piping, once again about 3′ above ground level. I was able to show a new young herper this snake and he was fascinated, going back to visit it over and over during multiple days. Credit to him for getting so many photos.

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Checkered Keelbacks (Xenochrophis piscator) could be found under cover near water as well as on the crawl in evening and night, often in the water. they are far more prevalent during rainy season than during hot or cold seasons.

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This huge individual was found by the same new herper I mentioned earlier.

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Buff-striped Keelbacks (Amphiesma stolata) were usually found under cover at the edge of one particular pond, though I twice found them on the crawl in midday.

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Brahminy Blind Snakes (Indotyphlops braminus) are subterranean, and thus were only found in the dirt under well-seated objects, usually when significant moisture was present but not flooding.

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Indian Wolf Snakes (Lycodon aulicus) are nocturnal and here I have only found them under cover in one particular wooded portion of the ashram.

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Oriental Rat Snakes (Ptyas mucosa) are usually found crawling near waterways in the morning as they hunt diurnally, though I have also found them under cover near those same waterways.

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Sadly, I only found these water snakes dead. Their 99% aquatic lifestyle makes them difficult to encounter except in fishermen’s nets.

Rainbow Water Snake (Enhydris enhydris)

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On one trip I was poking around this area:

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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)

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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:

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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.

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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.

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

Oriental Garden Lizards (Calotes versicolor)

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Keeled Indian Sun Skink? (Eutropis carinata)

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White-spotted Supple Skink (Lygosoma albopunctata) were seen by the dozens. This was the very first herp that my protege and I flipped together.

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Kushmore House Gecko (Hemidactylus kushmorensis)

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Spiny-tail House Gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus)

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Yellow-Green House Gecko (Hemidactylus flaviviridis)

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Tokay Geckos (Gekko gecko) were heard, but  I never managed to get a photograph.

Juvenile Bengal Monitor (Varanus bengalensis)

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Water Monitors (Varanus salvator)

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Skittering Frog (Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis)

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Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus)

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possibly Terai Cricket Frog (Fejervaya teraiensis)

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Common Indian Toad

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other Cricket Frog (Fejervarya sp.)

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Ornate Chorus Frog (Microhyla ornata)

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

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There are a few mammals at the ashram too.

Rat (possibly Black Rat?)

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Five-lined Palm Squirrel

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Indian Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsi)

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Jungle Cat (Felis chaus) was spotted by its eyeshine, early in the night near a pond. the fact that these can hold on so close to the city is remarkable.

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The incredible mosquito load of Kolkata is great for spiders

kolkata spiders

And finally, a few representative birds

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Thanks for taking a look!

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2 Comments

Posted by on March 2, 2018 in Herping adventures

 

Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “City Herping in Kolkata – updated

  1. Eric Wayne

    March 4, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Another great post. Your knowledge about animals and reptiles in particular is very impressive. I love your enthusiasm, partly because I am a lizard enthusiast. But, while I think I know my lizards, you know the subtle differences between the more difficult to classify skinks and geckos.

    Yesterday, over lunch, I was telling my girlfriend about you post, and how a landscape that is nothing to others, or of no real interest or beauty, is a whole universe for you, teaming with discovery.

    Also love the spiders. I still keep spiders as pets on occasion, particularly jumping spiders.

    Best wishes

     
    • Asian Herp Blogs

      March 5, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Thank you enormously Eric, that’s very kind of you to share.

      Jonathan

       

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