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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snake Talks in Schools: Media Update

The media are taking note. Two cable news stations have reported so far, one more to come tomorrow, and the second-largest newspaper ran a piece on my snake classes today.

Here's one of the TV news reports online:

Part One

Part Two

Happy Christmas from (relatively) Christmas-free Taiwan!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Approach to Fear of Snakes

I talk about ophidiophobia during my snake lectures in elementary schools (there are always some kids who display it). I tell them I know some of them fear snakes, and that it's OK, because phobias are normal. I tell them I'm not afraid of having any "disgusting" animal walk all over my body, including tarantulas, cockroaches and millipedes. I ramp up the excitement listing these eeew-y animals that I don't fear at all, eeeew-ing the students out to the max....and then I put the needle to the balloon: "But you know what I really AM afraid of? Flying. I become a pant-wetting wreck as soon as the plane takes off." (Well, it's not THAT bad, but "Chief Whiteknuckle" is one of my nicknames). That results in much head-shaking and giggling, because for most kids, sitting in an airplane is boring at best, not a cause for utter terror. Then I continue "And you know why? No? Me neither. It's all in the head, and it's something you need to identify as irrational and then fight it, because phobias mess up your lives"

That usually makes them think . "Wow, that big man with the six-foot snake around his neck, the guy who seeks out kraits and pitvipers in the dark of night, and takes close-up photos of them.....he actually FEARS something, and something that silly at that?"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

FHF Posts so Far

Here are the links to all the photo threads I've started so far on

Howdy from Taiwan

First Photo Encounter with a Bamboo Viper

Herping Taiwan on Jason Voorhees Night (DUW)

Daytime Chinese Soft-shell Turtle

Taiwan Slug Snake (Pareas formosensis)

Taiwan Habu, Chinese Tree Toad, and other ugly pix

Thar's Snakes In Them Thar Sakuras! (Pareas formosensis)

Bankoro Toad and Swinhoe's Frog

Bugs & Flowers

More crawlies from the Taiwanese woods

Tree Snake Babies, Walking Sticks and Fishing Spiders

TwoTon's Terror Tooth, Tree Toad & Takydromus Trifecta

JACKPOT - Taiwan's prettiest and rarest pitviper!

Snakes on a Scooter, or Boigas on a Bike

My First Live Krait!

CruisinArt....or is it?

The Hundred-Pacer That Wasn't - A Tale from Taiwan

Formosan Dino Sex Show

Beautiful Taiwan Kukri Snake

MacClelland’s (Asian) Coral Snake

Two Taiwan Habus

Bamboo Viper vs. Tree Frog

Finally, an adult Habu in the open

Dinodon eating Toad

Water Wall Krait

DOR Chinese Cobra

Another Day, Another Green Tree Viper

Lots of Sundry Taiwan Snakes & Frogs & Stuff & Such

High Noon at the (Asian) Rat Snake Corral

Red Bamboo Rat Snakes

Big Habu

Nother Krait and a few photo tech questions

Whole Bunch of Taiwan Herps & Inverts

Big Fat Stinking Goddess (Elaphe carinata)

Another Stinking Goddess…in my backpack!

Green Tree Viper Potpourri

THE PEASANTS ARE REVOLTING! and other Taiwan Snake Sightings

Snake & Turtle Temple

Tree viper – actually IN A TREE this time!

Bunker-Guarding Pitviper

Close Encounter of the Third Krait

White Plum Blossom Snake

False Taiwan Habu

Two more False Taiwan Habus

Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pulverulentus)

King of the Ditch - Sauter's Water/Grass Snake

Asiatic Many-toothed Snake (Sybinophis chinensis chinensis)

Northern Taiwan - Huge Habitat Post

Where's Waldo (the Pitviper)?

The Fastest Snake in the East (Zaocys dhumnades)

Green Tree Viper Potpourri, Part Deux

Wild Taiwan - Herps, Inverts and Monkeys, oh my!

Taiwan's Prettiest Pitviper - The Second Coming!

Monster Taiwan Beauty Snake

Saturday Night Kraitapalooza

Taiwan Habitat, Part Two

Boiga kraepelini - Rare Coloration Pattern

Taiwan Herpers Association - 2009 Meeting & Show

FULL REPORT: Taiwan Herpers Association - 2009 Meeting & Show

Snakes of Borneo - need material for new website!

Record Hundred Pacer (graphic images!)

King of Taiwan's Aboriginal Culture - The Hundred-Pace Viper

Winter's here! All snakes are gone! (just kidding, see post)

Fighting Kraits

Fastest Snake in Asia - FINALLY BAGGED!

Snake Shows in Taiwan Grade Schools - a few photos

Taiwan Turtles

Taiwan Red Bamboo Ratsnake (O. p. kawakamii)

Juvenile Sinonatrix percarinata suriki

The Viper and the Walrus

Large Taiwan Beauty Snakes doing the Nasty

Sunday Night in the Taiwan Mountains - more pix

Taiwan (Herpeto)Fauna Potpourri

Huge Knife Crossing The Mountain

Three-Ring King Rat Circus

Viridovipera stejnegeri - a selection

Borneo Dispatches - The Inaugural Issue

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Family Outing

For the first time I've been able to see and observe wild monkeys in Yangmingshan National Park behind our house: Formosa macaques (Macaca cyclopis), the only monkey species on the island. The group consisted of one boss male, an adult female, a younger male and two kids. All of them were just as curious about me as I was about them, in particular the juvies, who kept trying to intimidate me with furious branch-shaking. They often came closer to get a better look at me, but never closer than six, seven meters. Of course, the light was completely useless - I was standing on the road in the blazing midday sun, and the monkeys were sitting under the murky light of the roadside canopy. Still, a very impressive encounter - at least half an hour went by before they took their show back on the road....

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Graveyard Cobra

This morning I searched a dilapidated and heavily overgrown cemetery for basking reptiles. The individual plots in Chinese graveyards are often quite large, covered with bricks or concrete and surrounded by low walls. I was sitting on one of those low walls eating a rice dumpling when I noticed a faint rustling behind the tombstone three feet away, and got to witness an almost seven foot long Chinese cobra (Naja naja atra) slinking off into the undergrowth without much apparent haste. I was too gobsmacked to take a picture (never saw his head anyway), and kept sitting there for at least another twenty minutes, savoring the privileged experience of having lunch at arm's length from one of the most awe-inspiring predators on this island.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wild taro seed pod

(Colocasia esculenta)


I've been meaning to post this since I took it last July....Japalura polygonata xanthostoma is one of the more common lizards in Taiwan. He didn't mind me getting as close as two feet, not even when I set up the tripod and took a huge series of shots from various positions (there was also a baby mantis next to him on the fence)

Mossy Dragon

A stone dragon guarding a small pond that's part of a luxuriously designed, but now dilapidated private grave in the Sanchih hills.

Bamboo Viper, Update

The night of Friday the 13th (always my lucky day!) of February I went herping with a few friends, and on the way home I decided to show them the spot where I had discovered the wee tree viper in January - and would you believe our luck!?! Not only did we find it again, but it was actually perching on the very same twig as four weeks before!! Dig the infrared sensor pits between eyes and nostrils...

Buffalo at Work

This is one of the last working water buffaloes in Taipei County (and Taipei City, I would presume). The gentleman behind the harrow (if that's what it is) was quite aware and proud of this fact, too: "Bet you haven't seen one of these in a long time, eh?" he beamed.

Fern Frond

Late Thursday afternoon, in a neighboring forest.

Tree. Doves. Mountain.

Not necessarily in that order. Red-collared Doves (Streptopelia tranquebarica ), Guandu Nature Park, early February.

Adieu, cherry season

The red cherry blossom season is drawing to an end here in North Taiwan, the blossoms are littering the ground, and the canopy's hot pink is slowly being replaced by the tender green of the new leaves. These trees nicely represent the time before and after the change.

Monday, March 2, 2009

(Biological) Treasure Island

I found these four signs at the Taipei Zoo's Taiwan Animal Area. They show in nice detail the wondrous biodiversity and immense endemism this little island has to offer.

The foremost reason for such bounty is the Central Mountain Range which, topping out at almost 4000 meters (13000+ ft), provides La Ilha Formosa with a large variety of biotopes at various elevations, from tropical beaches to alpine meadows. Being an island, endemism just thrives in such surroundings.

Out of every 120 known animal, plant, fungus etc. species in Taiwan, one is endemic: 12333 out of 1450832.

One in forty known animal, plant etc. etc. species on the planet lives in Taiwan - 36880 out of 1450832.

For a better understanding of the next two signs, which elaborate on the numbers for various plant and animal groups, check out this chart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Misty Hills

Sanchih County's Longyan Columbarium, nestled in the surrounding hills. The tall ridge in the back is Little Guanyinshan, the northernmost finger of the Yangmingshan range.

Cherry Blossom Season 09, Part 1

Cherry blossom season is again upon us in Sanchih County, home of the finest sakura trees in all of Taiwan, so here's a selection of the hot pink ones adorning the countryside around these parts. The soft pink and white ones to follow soon (usually about a month later)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting Lost in the Woods

During a recent hike, I got lost in a dense, pathless jungle. It was an unsettling experience, but this is what my good friend Chris Logan had to say about it:

"It seems dreadfully serious when you're tired and scratched up, watching the sun drop. But when you get home it has invigorated you by insisting that there really is a mysterious forest out there with no taxis, signs or crazy humans to draw you into the machine. It's a great luxury to get lost in the woods. Most people will never enjoy that."

Couldn't agree more.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mean Green Killin' Masheen

Crab spider (Oxytate striatipes): mean, green, and a formidable body size of seven millimeters! :-)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bamboo Viper

This was my first photographic encounter with a venomous snake ever. The ones I met since I bought my DSLR last March were either roadkill, or I didn’t have my camera with me.

But during my walk through the woods last night, I finally met a very nice and beautiful venomous snake I could actually photograph – and my absolute favorite species among the 53 on the island. Not only was this the first time I’ve seen a live Taiwan Bamboo Viper (Trimeresurus stejnegeri stejnegeri), but it was also a juvenile (about six inches), and thus the perfect training partner for photographing any venomous serpents I hopefully will meet later in life: as long as I kept a six-inch distance, I didn’t have to worry about how to explain to the nice 911 lady how to get the ambulance to that remote spot in the boonies where the encounter took place. Also, it was a pretty chilly night (ca. 57 degrees F), so the viper was too sluggish to run off, but not too inert to change positions all the time. In short, the perfect model!

Black-naped Monarch

Yesterday, I finally saw and photographed my first Taiwan Black-naped Monarch (Hypothymis azurea oberholseri). Not the best composition, I know, but I'm so stoked about nailing him, I just had to post it....

Hasselblad Kingfisher

I put my Dad's Hasselblad/Zeiss 500mm Tele-Tessar to the test today, and I'm very impressed. The colors and sharpness are definitively worth the hassle (the lens weighs five pounds and cannot be handheld). Here's a nice kingfisher I shot with my weird Pentax K10D/TeleTessar rig this morning.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sparkling Dropscapes

A few more sundew macros:

Drosera intermedia
Drosera nitidula x pulchella
Drosera spathulataDrosera dielsiana
Drosera intermedia
Drosera intermedia

Gastric Greetings

This is the last thing you'll ever see, should you be swallowed alive by a tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthes sp.)

Happy New Year of the Ox!

(N. khasiana x ventricosa)