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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Spotlight on Small Game in Borneo

The Nanga Sumpa Lodge is a highlight of a visit to Sarawak in northern Borneo. Run by the local Iban community it is relatively basic, but clean and comfortable - I've seen much worse elsewhere - in a remote area accessible only by boat on the edge of the Batang Ai National Park.
Approximate location of Nanga Sumpa in southern Sarawak.
In a future posting I'll talk more about the lodge itself, on the banks of the Delok River, and the forest, but for now I'm going to revisit a delightful night walk we did from the lodge, in the grounds and along the adjacent creek which flows into the Delok, and back through the edge of the nearby village. We had no especial expectations, but despite seeing no large animals at all, enjoyed a very rich nature walk. Sadly I cannot identify most of the animals we saw with any precision, though as ever I'd be grateful for any suggestions you can offer.

The wildlife experiences started before we even left the lovely open-sided dining area, with exquisite little Short-nosed Fruit Bats Cynopterus brachyotis roosting on the ceiling; why they were roosting at night instead of being out earning an honest nocturnal living I couldn't say.
Short-nosed Fruit Bat taking a break from its night-job, which involves eating fruit pulp and nectar,
in the process pollinating and dispersing the seeds of many rainforest trees. It is found throughout southern Asia.
To someone like me used to seeing big fruit bats, this one is tiny -
less than 10cm long and weighing only 30 grams or so.
A couple of their neighbours in the dining room were, by contrast, hard at work hunting insects across the walls and ceiling.
House Gecko Hemidactylus sp.; in case you were wondering, it's on a whiteboard!
Another gecko, which I can't offer a name for, making the most of technology by lurking
inside the open light fitting. Good for it, but a bit tricky for getting the photo.
Outside in the lodge grounds, other hunters were afoot.
This was a very impressive big Wolf Spider Family Lycosidae; if I were smaller, I'd have been very nervous indeed.
Though more spiders awaited us when we took to the creek, not all the lodge inhabitants were carnivores.
This is a big Tractor Millipede, like all of its kind a complete vegetarian, recycling the forest floor litter.
I think the genus is Barydesmus; like every member of its entire Order, Polydesmida, it has entirely dispensed with eyes.
The suggestion that we take to the creek to continue our walk met with some apprehension, but was inspired, with many more animals seen on the banks and in the water itself, including a couple of impressive spiders.
A water spider, spreading its legs so that at least part of the spider's weight is borne by the water surface.
I would surmise that it was hunting tiny fish.
On the bank another impressive hunter, with a reputation.
Tarantula at the mouth of its burrow, awaiting a passing dinner.
I think this is one of the 'earth tigers' of sub-family Ornithoctoninae.
Frogs, perhaps unsurprisingly, featured strongly along the banks, the most dramatic being a huge Giant River Toad Bufo (or Phrynoidis) juxtasper.
The Giant River Toad is found only in Borneo and Sumatra.
This one clearly forgot the mosquito repellant!
White-lipped (or Copper-cheeked) Frog Hylarana raniceps.Two of these inhabited a retired canoe at the water's edge.
Cinnamon Frog Nyctixalus pictus, a climbing shrub frog of the family Rhacophoridae.
Striped (or Spotted) Stream Frog Hylarana signata, another beautiful frog in the same genus
as the White-lipped Frog we saw earlier.
Then we entered the forest at the edge of the village across the stream, where several more tiny delights awaited us on the foliage.
A minute snail with a very strange shell arrangement that I couldn't - and still can't - quite make out.
A very bright green little katydid.
An extremely hairy little caterpillar, which would doubtless be very uncomfortable indeed to encounter.
A nest of tiny ants in a rolled leaf; probably also worth admiring from a respectful distance.
And finally, on our return to the lodge, this very lovely yellow moth awaited us.
Of course I'd have liked to see a mammal or an owl as well, but it was still a night to remember; we must all learn to appreciate the little things.

BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS I'LL BE ON THE WAY TO SOUTH AMERICA, BUT I'VE PREPARED A COUPLE OF POSTINGS FOR YOU IN ADVANCE.
COME BACK ON MONDAY 31 AUGUST

3 comments:

Marita Macrae said...

I was there too. At first I thought this was a crazy escapade, specially when dodging the wolf spider we had to leap over fire ants. An amazing thing to me was that the many frogs sat so quietly as we photographed them. We saw so much along only a few metres of creek.

Paul Taylor said...

Could this be your mystery snail, Ian?

"10 Borneo Hills Ninja Slug

Ibycus rachelae to the fancy folks, this semi-slug (it has a shell, but it’s too small to retract into it) was discovered in a mountain forest in Sabah, Malaysia. One of the distinguishing characteristics that makes it so unique is the fact that it sports a tail three times the length of its body, which it curls around itself when it’s inactive; kind of like a cat you wouldn’t quite want to pet.
Another curious ability: the ninja slug can shoot calcium carbonate ‘love-darts’ into potential mates. These darts are tipped with hormones that are specially designed to get their targets into the mood for love, with the hope that they’ll forget they were just shot with a spike, increasing the chances for successful reproduction."

http://top10.raag.fm/2013/01/10-amazing-animal-abilities.html

Ian Fraser said...

Good memories Marita - I'd forgotten the fire ants!
That looks promising thanks Paul - shall follow up when I get home.