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 Post subject: Field Work - August 2017.
PostPosted: August 23rd, 2017, 10:52 am 
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Joined: April 8th, 2012, 11:54 am
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Over the last 9 days a friend (who's working on his Masters studies) and I ventured into some of Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa's lesser explored Nature Reserves and historical records looking for two specific species.

Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko
Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake.

The major issue is some records were over 35years old and landscapes change, developments occur and species move in and out of areas. Not to mention new fences and unwilling landowners - regardless we had good success.

Here are most of the animals we encountered in over 6 localities and an around 1200kms later. Two new species of reptiles I'd never seen in my home ground is always great.

Afroedura nivaria - Drakensberg Flat Gecko.
Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko.
Agama aculeata distanti - Eastern Ground Agama
Arthroleptis wahlbergii - Bush Squeaker.
Bradypodion caeruleogula - uMlalazi Dwarf Chameleon.
Bradypodion melanocephalum - Kwa-Zulu Dwarf Chameleon.
Bradypodion nemorale - Qudeni Dwarf Chameleon
Boaedon capensis - Brown House Snake
Cacosternum nanum - Bronze Caco.
Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia - Herald Snake.
Scelotes inornatus - Durban Dwarf Burrowing Skink.
Scelotes mossambicus - Mozambique Dwarf Burrowing Skink.
Schismaderma carens - Red Toad.
Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake.
Phrynobatrachus mababiensis - Dwarf Puddle Frog

We first set out to a historic point to look for Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Geckos but immediately I took one look at the habitat and knew we were not going to find any of these geckos. Historic records where no voucher specimens exist are always touch and go and it seems this was a misidentified animal or perhaps back when both species were classified as the same animal.

In a small rock crevice, I spotted around eight geckos and after a little persuasion managed to retrieve 5 or so Afroedura nivaria - Drakensberg Flat Gecko which look similar but a few obvious differences.

Adult:
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Juvenile Afroedura nivaria - Drakensberg Flat Gecko
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Soon after we looked at another location some 200kms away but was unsuitable but managed to see a single Arthroleptis wahlbergii - Bush Squeaker which would soon become a regular sighting at all the sights we visited.

A common frog favouring the damp dense leaf litter of the forests.
Arthroleptis wahlbergii - Bush Squeaker
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Another known sight we ventured to for Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko produced.

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Another site we looked into from historical records was reduced to ruin and we managed a single specimen under some old plastered walls Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko

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Being in a few area (somewhere I don't usually herp) we scratched around on a hunch I had about and it paid off! Scelotes inornatus - Durban Dwarf Burrowing Skink. Is a critically endangered species threatened mainly by urban developed and habitat fragmentation. Occurring in a narrow strip along the coast this was a welcomed sight.

Scelotes inornatus - Durban Dwarf Burrowing Skink.
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Back to on the geckos, we searched a new area know to have the Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko. But was not on our records and we found several.

Specimen with some interesting discoluration/scarring.
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Female with large calcium deposits on either side of the neck.
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Another Arthroleptis wahlbergii - Bush Squeaker
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Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko.
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A species not uncommon in my own garden at home.
Bradypodion melanocephalum - Kwa-Zulu Dwarf Chameleon.
[img]http://www.tyroneping.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Bradypodion_melanocephalum-_©_Tyrone_Ping_2017.jpg[/img]

[img]http://www.tyroneping.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Bradypodion-melanocephalum_Tyrone_Ping2WM.jpg
[/img]

Our efforts now moved 200kms North in search of yet again more
Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Gecko and Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake. But with a severe storm front moving in our plans to camp had to change. We made some last minute calls and found some "backpacking" accommodation which turned out to be an outside shed with no windows/lights or bedding so we made a swift exit! Only to find a more than suitable bed and breakfast just up from the town - good life choices!

We searched for a few hours at this new location but found no signs of reptiles in this usual great herping spot. We then decided to drive inland some 50kms to search in the forests for the Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake - this after hours again failed miserably without seeing a single specimen.

Habitat
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By nightfall I had decided we shall find some Bradypodion (which i saw some years back) where they're known from only a few small forests.

Bradypodion caeruleogula - uMlalazi Dwarf Chameleon.
A stunning chameleon occupying dense forests and often high up in the tree canopy.

Juvenile:
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Another young Bradypodion caeruleogula - uMlalazi Dwarf Chameleon.
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Finally a gorgeous adult Bradypodion caeruleogula - uMlalazi Dwarf Chameleon.
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Then the rains came and we proceeded to get back to our rather plush accommodation (we were grateful for in the bad weather).

With time now running out we ventured to yet another forest in search for Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake hoping not to dip out on them again!

We searched the forest for a few hours and found no Leptotyphlops sylvicolus! But again found plenty of Arthroleptis wahlbergii - Bush Squeakers

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Some Arthroleptis wahlbergii - Bush Squeakers
dorsal shots:
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Where you'll find an abundance of frogs you'll find these:
Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia - Herald Snake busy shedding.
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Crotaphopeltis hotamboeia - Herald Snake
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Still no Forest Thread Snakes but a few of the Afroedura pondolia - Pondo Flat Geckos made up for it (slightly)
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But first so much needed tea time.
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A HUGE animal for me that I've been waiting to see for years, and end my quest to see ALL of the chameleons in Southern Africa.
Bradypodion nemorale - Qudeni Dwarf Chameleon (unfortunately no pictures...yet)

We back tracked slightly heading 60kms south determined to find at least a handful of samples of these damned Forest thread Snakes.

We had a quiet start at the new location finding a few frogs.
Schismaderma carens - Red Toad.
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Phrynobatrachus mababiensis Dwarf Puddle Frog
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Phrynobatrachus mababiensis Dwarf Puddle Frog
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Cacosternum nanum - Bronze Caco
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Kassina senegalensis - Bubbling kassina.
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This got me all sorts of excited thinking it was one of our Forest thread Snakes...
Scelotes mossambicus[/img] - Mozambique Dwarf Burrowing Skink.
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Similar looking to the [i]Scelotes inornatus
but has minute remnants of hind limbs
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Agama aculeata distanti - Eastern Ground Agama
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FINALLY we had success!
Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake.

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Leptotyphlops sylvicolus - Southern Forest Thread Snake.
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Processing samples:
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Thanks for looking!

For Size compairon Bradypodion caeruleogula - uMlalazi Dwarf Chameleon.
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http://www.tyronping.co.za


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 Post subject: Re: Field Work - August 2017.
PostPosted: August 23rd, 2017, 10:53 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
Posts: 475
Location: Ohio, then Arizona, now South Australia
Always enjoy your posts! Critters which I doubt I shall ever get to observe in the wild, and your photos are always great. Congrats to you guys on finding your two target species!


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