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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.