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 Post subject: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 4th, 2017, 9:40 pm 
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Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers

This is part 1 of a 7-part account of my trip to Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo in January/February, 2017.

Other than one boat-based trip from Bali to Komodo, I had never been to Asia. I have long wanted to visit Borneo, and Hans Breuer's Borneo Dispatches here on FieldHerpForum increased this desire to a nearly unsustainable level. Then the amazing Malaysian photographer known as Kurt Orion G announced that he would start leading herping tours, and I could no longer resist: my next big herping trip would be to Malaysia.

I started in Peninsular Malaysia, with Kurt picking me up from the Kuala Lumpur airport and taking me to a hotel. There I had a few hours to unpack and prepare for our first night of herping. Our destination was a network of lowland forest trails in Semenyih, on the outskirts of KL. It was raining lightly when we arrived at about 8PM, and the rain was on and off all night long. Rain would be a persistent theme of my entire trip. Rain is never surprising in the tropics, but this was an unusually rainy January, and I saw very little sun anywhere in Malaysia. This no doubt depressed the number of snakes we encountered, and severely reduced the number of diurnal herps. But oh, the frogs!

The forest teemed with bugs, because after all the frogs and lizards have to eat something besides each other. When no herps were visible I took photos of a handful of the more interesting invertebrates that would hold still for a few seconds.

The only lepidopteran in that category was this large fake-eyed one, which fluttered about us for quite a while and would occasionally alight on a plant or the ground for a few seconds.
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Walker's Owl (Erebus macrops)


By the way, please let me know if you spot any questionable IDs, or if you have ID suggestions for anything I haven't identified. My confidence in the IDs I settled on varies wildly.

This beautiful katydid has a larval form that looks almost exactly like an ant. I didn't see any of those. Or maybe I saw dozens of them? I didn't check.
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Cone-headed Katydid (Macroxiphus sumatranus)


Nomadic huntsman spiders were everywhere, with their omnipresent eyeshine making it trickier to find the frogs.
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Some kind of large huntsman spider (family Sparassidae), chowing down on another large spider


As everyone who has read a post from this part of the world knows by now, the coolest spider in the area is the David Bowie spider. I was under the impression that this spider was quite rare and only recently discovered, but in fact it is reasonably common and obviously easy to notice. The recency of its description (2008) is due to it being considered just a color variation of another well-known species before that time.
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David Bowie Spider (Heteropoda davidbowie) in defensive crouch


I was looking forward to seeing a bunch of phasmids in Malaysia, and I got off to a decent start on my first night.

There were teeny-tiny ones:
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Hungry (baby, presumably) phasmid, ID unknown


Medium-sized ones:
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Spotted Flying Stick (Necroscia punctata)


And gigantic ones:
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Malayan Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata), considered the world's heaviest stick insect


That's enough bugs for now. I was there to see herps! Because my previous Asian herping had been limited to a few day-active Indonesian species, nearly every species on the trip was a lifer for me. And because this was my first night, nearly every species on this night was a lifer for me. I originally thought that every single species was a lifer, but this perfect record was thwarted by a skink. Curses, common skink! But 22 lifers out of 23 species still makes for a fantastic night of herping.

Smallish toads were the most plentiful herps. Some of them were busy making more smallish toads.
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Lesser Stream Toads (Ingerophrynus parvus). Oddly, there are no Greater Stream Toads.


One of the smallish toads was a little different than the others, with a thin bright vertebral stripe. This is the wonderfully named Gollum Toad (yup, *that* Gollum). If you Google it, you'll see the phrase "It has only been recorded from Endau-Rompin National Park", but Lee Grismer, who described this species, has confirmed with Kurt the ID of the ones Kurt has photographed from Semenyih.
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Gollum Toad (Ingerophrynus gollum)


The only microhylid of the evening was the oxymoronically named Large Pygmy Frog.
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Large Pygmy Frog (Microhyla berdmorei)


Not counting toads, most of the terrestrial/aquatic frogs were in the Dicroglossidae family, split out from Ranidae a while back. Some of these species are challenging to distinguish, so please let me know if you think I got any of them wrong.

I believe this one is the Asian Grass Frog, a common and widespread species.
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Asian Grass Frog (Fejervarya limnocharis).


I think the rest of the Dicroglossidae frogs we saw were Limnonectes species, a large and confusing genus. The dorsal texture of this one makes me think it is a Corrugated Frog. But it also looks a lot like Occidozyga.
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Corrugated Frog (Limnonectes deinodon)


This little frog has a distinctive dorsal pattern and dorsolateral ridges. Also, it was cute.
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Tanah Rata Wart Frog (Limnonectes nitidus)


Another objectively cute species, the Rhinoceros Frog is so named due to a weird bump on its head. But only the males have the weird bump, so the females like the one we saw have to settle for just being cute. And also having many parallel dorsal ridges, and being sorta orangeish.
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Rhinoceros Frog (Limnonectes plicatellus)


A couple of large and common forest-floor frog species were particularly tricky for me to tell apart. Each has diagnostic characteristics that seem good on paper, but are somewhat fuzzy and vague on individual frogs. I have pictures of several individuals of each species identified, with various degrees of certainty, from this night. I tried to pick one of the clearest examples of each. Up first is the Malesian Frog, which features a sharply-angled ridge over the tympanum, particularly prominent tubercles above the eyes, and a "W"-shaped scapular ridge.
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Malesian Frog (Limnonectes malesianus)


Up second is the Malayan Giant Frog, which features a gently-curved ridge over the tympanum, less-prominent tubercles above the eyes, and no "W"-shaped scapular ridge.
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Malayan Giant Frog (Limnonectes blythii)


Not all of the Ranidae in Malaysia have been ferreted off to other families. The ones still in the classic "True Frog" family (what kind of lame-o family name is that?) include a variety of colors and lifestyles. Some of them would be among my favorite frogs of the trip, except that there are so many other types of frogs that are even better. It's frog paradise!

This very widespread and common ranid-that-you-might-almost-think-is-a-treefrog is a White-lipped Frog. This species has a confusing naming history, both for the scientific and common English name, due to various lumps and splits and reclassifications over the decades. But let's just call it a White-lipped Frog and avoid the temptation to call it a Copper-cheeked Frog, OK? Is that too much to ask? This subject will be revisited later, when I make it to Borneo.
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White-lipped Frog (Chalcorana labialis)


This particularly beautiful ranid is a Mahogany Frog. Kurt warned me that they were particularly jumpy as well as particularly beautiful, and worried that I was getting so close before pressing the shutter button that I was likely to end up with no photos at all. But the frog surprised us with its good-natured willingness to pose for exactly three photos. Then it bounded away in an instant.
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Mahogany Frog (Abavorana luctuosa)


The best (objectively speaking, of course) and also most treefrog-like of the ranids was the Cinnamon Frog a.k.a. White-spotted Treefrog. It's so treefrog-like that people couldn't help putting "treefrog" in its name.
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Cinnamon Frog (Theloderma pictum, until recently Nyctixalus pictus)


My introduction to the wonderful frog family Megophryidae was this Spotted Litter Frog. Like many species in this family, they typically sit up in the leaf litter on their humorously thin legs, waiting for some foolhardy creature to get near their freakishly large mouths. They are very reluctant to move, other than by flattening themselves down and playing dead if they get worried.
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Spotted Litter Frog (Leptobrachium hendricksoni)


Even more treefrog-like than the ranids were the actual treefrogs. All of the treefrogs I saw were from the family Rhacophoridae, a.k.a. Asian Treefrogs. Which is not to say that there are no members of Hylidae in Asia, because there are. Also, Rhacophoridae is more closely related to Ranidae than to Hylidae, which is just extra confusing. But at least they look and act like treefrogs.

The treefrog I saw in the most places was the Four-lined Treefrog, also boringly called the Common Treefrog. A fine-looking if non-exceptional treefrog.
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Four-lined Treefrog (Polypedates leucomystax)


OK, here's where the going gets particularly good. As with many other sensible herp-lovers visiting Southeast Asia, the species I most wanted to see on this trip was the legendary Wallace's Flying Frog. It's a frog that flies! It was described by Alfred Russel Wallace! You know how great that is. Don't pretend not to. Kurt didn't want to disappoint, so he found two of these for me on my first night in Malaysia.
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Wallace's Flying Frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)

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Flying frog floats following flight


Just when I thought the frogging situation could not possibly be improved, Kurt heard the call of another species of flying frog, way up high. A few minutes later the frog was on the ground next to us. Did it fly down to Kurt's magical call? Perhaps.
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Norhayati's Flying Frog (Rhacophorus norhayatii)


Shortly before we arrived at the trailhead, someone had come by with a bucket of lizards and tossed handfuls of them into the foliage. Mind you, I didn't actually see this happen, but it seems like the only possible explanation for the positions of the numerous Common Garden Lizards (Calotes versicolor) that we came across.

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Look Ma, no hands!


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This one looks like it had been climbing up from below, but there's nothing below to climb up from


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Now *that* looks comfy


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Oh come on


We saw several geckos, all of the same species. Kurt sees so many of these that they were barely worth a glance to him, but they were my very first Cyrtodactylus so each one made me happy.

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Four-striped Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus)


During a light rain I saw a small copper lizard skulking about in the leaf litter. I recognized it as a skink immediately, but didn't know what my skink options were in this area. And a nocturnal, rain-loving skink seemed potentially interesting! Alas, it was not only the juvenile of an extremely common and widespread species, but in fact a species I had seen before, in Bali. And thus the ruination of my perfect night where every herp species was a lifer. However, if I wait a few years, the species will presumably be split into a dozen or so new species, and then I will be able to look back on this as an all-lifer night. So just forget I mentioned the skink. There was no skink.
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Many-lined Sun Skink (Eutropis multifasciata)


My first Malaysian snake was this beautifully iridescent Blue Bronzeback that Kurt spotted. These snakes are diurnal, but most easily seen sleeping at night. We woke this one up to get some photos before it curled up again.
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Blue Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis cyanochloris)


Kurt also spotted another Bronzeback species later in the evening.
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Striped Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus)


My only contribution to the evening's snake count was this very pretty and very full White-spotted Cat Snake. We pulled aside a couple of leaves for a less obstructed view, but otherwise didn't bother it since it was obviously digesting a huge meal (probably one of those bucket-tossed lizards).
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White-spotted Cat Snake (Boiga drapiezii)


The ophidian highlight of the night was definitely this adult female Wagler's Pit Viper, which Kurt spotted from quite a distance away. Just look at that crazy lipstick!
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Wagler's Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)


We made it back to my Kuala Lumpur hotel at 4:30am in a torrential downpour. That was my first day in Malaysia. Something told me this was going to be a fun trip.

I hope to have part 2 posted in a few days.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 2:42 am 
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Joined: January 25th, 2015, 10:02 am
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A great start to your trip - the Rhacophorus norhayatii is delightful!
Looking forward to the next instalments.
Neil


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 7:43 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
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Well I for one am waiting eagerly for the next installment. I always enjoy your material, John - thanks for taking the time. Bugs included, most definitely. Landscapes & habitats? People? Don't hold back.

Quote:
It's a frog that flies! It was described by Alfred Russel Wallace! You know how great that is. Don't pretend not to.


Oh yeah! ha ha ha. Awesome.

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 9:00 am 
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Joined: November 10th, 2013, 12:14 pm
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Fantastic stuff, John! Kurt is amazing, not only in his skills as a herper but his photography (as is YOURS!) is unreal. We almost overlapped in the field and it was Kurt that also took us out to Semenyih just a few days after you were there. You saw a lot more species than we did. I'll bet he showed you the Cinnamon Frog in the tree hollow, didn't he? He said it lives there all the time and he always find it in the same spot. (By the way, it changed back from Theloderma pictum, to Nyctixalus picutus just recently.) Thanks so much for sharing!
-Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 10:22 am 
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Joined: June 12th, 2010, 9:28 am
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Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
Thanks everyone!

Neiloss: I loved the Rhacophorus norhayatii also. That was a species I had never heard of before that night. Three more Rhacophorus species to come in future installments, I promise!

Jimi: There will be plenty more bugs, no worries there. I'll toss in a few habitat/landscape shots in future installments, but I don't have tons of those since most of our herping was done at night (oh yeah, and also I get caught up in looking for herps even during the day and forget to take them). The same goes for people shots, of which I have very few.

Paul: That was you on Kurt's next trip, wow! We were sending each other progress reports while you were with Kurt and I was on the next parts of my trip, but it didn't occur to me that I might know anyone who was with him. So you must have seen the Ovophis monticola on Fraser's Hill? Interesting to hear that the Cinnamon Frog hopped back into its former genus. That frog just can't sit still. Kurt did show me a tree hollow one on the next night at Ulu Yam (spoiler alert!) but this one from Semenyih was just hopping across the trail.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 5th, 2017, 10:25 am 
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Paul: And oh yes, he is an amazing photographer. He told me that I have a better photo of one particular lizard species than he does, so my life's work has been accomplished and I never need to take another photograph. (I don't really believe him though.)

(I tried to edit my previous post just after I sent it to add this text, but when I hit "Submit" I got a message "You can no longer edit or delete that post", even though it had let me hit the Edit button twenty seconds earlier. The same thing happened yesterday when I tried to delete the redundant initial line of my original post. Something is wonky in post-editing land.)

John


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 6th, 2017, 8:39 am 

Joined: February 28th, 2014, 12:10 am
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Wonderful, love that boiga drapeizii, you don't find them often (at least not where I've been). Looking forward to your next posts


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 6th, 2017, 10:38 am 
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Actually, John I was the one that found the Ovophis convictus (it used to be a subspecies of monticola, but was upgraded to a full species in 2007). We were all looking for a new species of Pseudorhabdion that one of the researchers (Evan) had found earlier that year by raking through some leaf-litter when I found the snake coiled around a small branch buried within the pile of leaves. Everyone just stood around me slack-jawed staring in disbelief at the beautiful viper saying that it was THE find of the trip. After we all regained our composure, we started raking feverishly through every square inch of leaves trying to find additional specimens. None were subsequently found. Fraser's Hill is an amazing place. Too bad we didn't get a chance to meet up in the field, maybe next time.
-Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 6th, 2017, 11:19 am 
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dendrelaphis: Thanks! I love those extra long and thin arboreal snakes. Very similar in lifestyle and shape to Imantodes from Central/South America.

Paul: I heard from Kurt yesterday that he was only with you guys for one night. He found an Ovophis shortly thereafter, and so did you. Nice!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 6th, 2017, 3:28 pm 
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Yeah, it's a shame that we didn't spend more time with Kurt but we had our itinerary worked out months in advance and he only had time to take us out the one night. That's incredible that he also found a convictus, but then again, he's Kurt and he really knows where to look for herps.
-Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 7th, 2017, 5:25 am 
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Lovely pics. I'll second the admiration for the Rhacophorus norhayatii; I'm a sucker for any frog sporting atypical froggy colours (or at least my idea of "atypical", meaning red or blue). I also hadn't heard of it previous to your post, but it's a good 'un! Love the cinnamon frog too. And the mahogany frog. Good stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 7th, 2017, 6:40 am 
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I have a soft spot for arboreal vipers, and that wagleri is gorgeous! Looks like a fun trip!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 7th, 2017, 11:25 am 
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Well, well, well, this brought back some nice memories!!! It's been too long since we had a trip report from you, John, so I am eagerly standing by for the next episode.


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 7th, 2017, 12:49 pm 
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numpty: I'm with you; I value weirdness in any kind of animal. Weird colors, weird shapes, and weird behaviors all earn points in my book.

dwakefield: I was floored by the beauty of that viper. More arboreal vipers to come!

Jeroen: Yours was one of the many accounts I devoured to psych myself up for this trip (not that I needed any extra psyching). So many amazing animals in this part of the world!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 7th, 2017, 12:50 pm 
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Part 2 is now available here: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=24173


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 8th, 2017, 1:19 am 
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Joined: December 26th, 2012, 11:48 pm
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Thanks for the kind words, John, Paul. :oops:

Excellent write-up as always, John!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: March 14th, 2017, 5:00 pm 

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Great post and photos. So much diversity but that Rhacophorus norhayatii is a stunning frog.
Thanks for sharing,
Nick


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 6:19 am 
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Hi John,

No spider expert here but how about Common White-flanked Water Spider (Nilus albocinctus) for your first spider?

"A large waterside spider characterised by a broad brown median band on the carapace and the abdomen, flanked by a pair of narrower lateral white bands."

Also, Gollum Toad (Ingerophrynus gollum) - fine looking amphibian and great find.

Ray.


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: May 17th, 2017, 8:27 am 
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Thanks Ray -- I think you're right about the spider. Somewhere I had written down "Nilus" for this photo, but I think that was after I posted it here (probably Kurt told me that, but I can't find the mention right now). Nilus albocinctus sure looks like a perfect match.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: May 19th, 2017, 11:19 pm 
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Brilliant write-up! Thanks for sharing all these!


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 Post subject: Re: Malaysia 2017, part 1: Semenyih, or, Night of the Lifers
PostPosted: May 22nd, 2017, 1:48 pm 
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Hans, the thanks go to you, along with Kurt, for inspiring me to visit Malaysia!


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