Tete , Northern Mozambique

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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Sico » Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:14 pm

Thanks Wes, the checklist I am using for Moz is rather outdated and they still have them as a sub-species (the only one found in this country, so I presume you are right there)
Back at the same watercourse this afternoon I found the following:
Same Tomopterna sp as yesterday, just much easier to ID if anyone can confirm one…
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What I think is Amietophrynus garmani, really nicely coloured specimen.
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Afroedura loveridgei ??
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And I see about 3-4 of these a week on the road we travel to the site everyday..
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I saw one of the spotters that was finding me snakes on my previous trip today and when I asked him where all my snakes were he told me that they had killed one with the bulldozer this morning further back on the line, and showed me a pic on his cellphone. It wasn't the best pic and the screen was somewhat scratched, but it appeared to be a N. mossambica. I went back to where he explained it was, but by then the grader had done a few passes and everything was covered in spoil, and not knowing exactly where to start digging I just left it. I'll try get him to show me exactly where it was tomorrow.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Bushviper » Thu Jul 04, 2013 11:26 am

The Portuguese were not known for their civil engineering skills but I think if a driver can tip an truck like that then nothing would have prevented that.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Sico » Sat Jul 06, 2013 12:33 am

The last two days we have been clearing and area of 200mx200m to make a borrow pit. The area is extremely sandy, almost like dune sand, covered with some low bushes and thick grass and scrub, as you can see from the before and after pics below. There is about 1-1.5m of sand on top of a granite base (which is what we are after).
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The area is absolutely teeming with lizards, amphibians and rodents, as well as a large variety of inverts, yet I have found only two snakes so far, which is strange considering the amount and variety of prey items available.
The first snake I found yesterday morning was a small C. hotamboeia, and although it appeared to be injured I released it off the work area as it may survive if left alone. It wasn’t anything spectacular so I have not bothered posting pics. Today I found one Pacydactylus sp, somewhat injured but still possible to ID, which I have taken the whole specimen, one Lygodactylus sp,
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one Nucras sp
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and plenty Lygosoma sundevalli.
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I also found hundreds of P. edulis, as well as two of Chiromantis xerampolina,
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and one other unknown tiny frog which may be a juvenile of something else, but I have the whole specimen as well.
Scolopendra sp were numerous and varied. The first one is similar (if not the same) as one that I photographed in Guinea earlier this year
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This one was just over 20cm in length, I wanted to capture it as a specimen, but unfortunately the dozer buried it in sand before I could capture it, I reckon this one eats Apparalactus sp for breakfast!
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Two of the 5 rodent species I found (the rest were a bit mushed to take pics of)
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As well as quite a large Shrew
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If none of you have seen what the fungus garden inside a termite/ant nest looks like, this one was about the size of a human brain…
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And lastly to make my week, this R. rostratus poked it’s head out of the sand where the dozer had just been about 5 minutes before we knocked off for the day. It was around a metre long, and unfortunately I think that it was fatally injured. I dug it out of the sand, and it began gaping and trying to bite me, and then went rather limp. I placed it under some bushes well away from the work site, but a few minutes later it was still in the same position, and then twisted and rolled onto its back, which aren’t particularly good signs. I will check again in the morning if it is still there (even dead it may have been scavenged during the night). A really stunning snake nonetheless, and a first for me.
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I’ll be spending another two days at least in this area finishing the site clearing, and then I am going to move roughly 2km away to clear another borrow pit, this one bordering a small wooded area and incorporating part of a rocky ridge, so it too should turn up some interesting finds.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Eyelash » Sat Jul 06, 2013 2:54 pm

Some very cool finds man !

I bet you can't wait to find a life rostratus ! They are awesome snakes to photograph and work with. Just a note of caution, DO NOT get bitten by one. Even though the books indicate that their venom has no effect on humans there has been a case where a reputable keeper got tagged and described the bite to be worse than that of a stiletto snake.

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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Sico » Sat Jul 06, 2013 8:31 pm

Louis, I'll have to find an unwilling volunteer and put that theory to the test...
Today I arrived on site fairly late in the morning, as I had ACTUAL work to do for a change (the stuff I get paid for, not the stuff I do for fun), and whilst I was walking over to where the machine was working I saw a movement on the sand not far from me. When I got closer I found this stunning Pachydactylus bibroni. which was fairly calm and happy to be handled (did try and bite me once though, but I've bled like that before and moved a little too fast for it). It posed quite nicely for a few shots before I took it and released it on a large termite mound full of holes.
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Shortly after that the spotter came over with his cell phone with a picutre of a dead snake on it. He told me it was about 100m away from where we currently were. I found a rather rank carcass of a really BIG Naja mossambica that had been driven over by a loader 4 days ago when the loader was clearing the perimeter of the pit. there was around 2 ft of the snake protruding out of the ground, and when I gave it a gentle tug (wearing latex gloves) to see if I could pull the whole body out of the sand it pretty much fell apart in my hands. Pity, as the head was about 5cm across the skull and would have made a good specimen if it wasn't so decomposed.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Sico » Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:58 pm

Back at the pit this morning the machine went through a disused termite mound, and turned up a small colony (6 that I found) of P. bibroni, which I relocated to the same termite mound that I stuck the last one on. All of them had stumpy tails, some nice colour variations in them as well.
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Further up in the sand what I think is a Pachydactylus punctatus punctatus
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I’ve been keeping an eye out for these in the sand, especially after finding so many P. edulis, and today finally found this tiny Breviceps adspersus adspersus, and I’m quite chuffed about it. It didn’t have the best colouring on it, and I will most definitely be looking out for more of these over the next couple of weeks.
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And another P. subtaeniatus that was cut up by the blade.
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All in all this 40 000m² area has turned up a huge variety of herps, still hoping to find more snakes, especially Bitis sp
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby RJG » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:47 am

That gabar goshawk is actually a lizzard Buzzard and the "large brown job" is a brown snake eagle.
Thanks for posting the bird pics for the falconers and birders in the group. :-)
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby froot » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:03 am

I don't think P. bibroni occur that far north, they must be P. turneri according to a comparison I did years ago.

I know they've been reclassified, just cannot remember the new classification so used the old one.

Keep the pics coming, do you know if you'll be there during the rainy season?
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Sico » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:11 pm

Thanks for that Tipan. I find quite a few raptors here, especially the smaller kinds, and not having a field guide with me makes things a bit tricky. I have pics of Bataleur, Black Eagle (or whatever it’s called these days) and several others all in flight, and several of the smaller ones perched in trees, they seem to be very secretive though and are always in the shade, or behind a thousand twigs, and flit off as soon as you get near enough to make any decent identification shots.

Froot… yeah… Confuses the hell out of me how to tell the difference between them all, and the pics available on the net are generally cr@p, or they don’t come with proper names, no proper distribution maps… someone needs to compile a proper ID key for all the reptiles in Africa, so you can tell which gecko is which and what skink is where etc. I’ll take your word for it that they are P. turneri (Getting DNA samples off all of these so I am sure it will all be worked out in the end). I am here on a 28 day rotation, which means that for 28 days I am on site, followed by 28 off (incl travel), so yeah I am pretty sure at some point or two in the rainy season I will be here. I am hoping we will be in our construction camp by then, which is around 25km out of town, in the middle of the project, and there are a LOT of seasonal water courses and wetlands around there. Catching malaria (again) aside, I cannot wait to see what amphibs come hopping out of the woodwork (as well as what comes looking to eat them!)

Back to the brush clearing, still in the same area, and found yet more goodies today…
A nice little Harpactira sp
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Another Lygodactylus sp that I have not yet seen before (IDea’s ?)
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Nucras sp, I think N. ornata
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Another, different Tomopterna sp, I think possibly T. cryptotis
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A solitary Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat, Epomophorus wahlbergi that I found hanging in a small mango tree near the middle of the clearing. It didn’t seem at all flustered by the dozer working so close by and pushing just about every other bush down, and just hung there moving its head around to watch me trying to get a decent position to shoot from.
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The machine also left a decent sized (1m) B. arietans lying in the sand in its wake. Unfortunately the snake was fatally wounded and on its way out when I saw it. I managed to grab it and pull it out from behind the dozer before it got reversed over and totally destroyed. Fangs were just at the 2cm mark. Although the mandible feels broken on one side, the main bony (and other) structures of the head should be alright for BV’s connection’s project and the head is currently sitting in my freezer.
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I should be finishing up in this area before lunch tomorrow, and if the surveyors have finished marking it out, will be taking the machine across the other side of the railway reservation to a second borrow pit area, with completely different flora to this one, but only roughly 800m away in a straight line and I am very interested to see the difference in what there is living there.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Creator » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:43 am

Hi Sico

Awesome thread, been following it religiously.

The Harpactira sp you found is not of the genus Hapactira but rather Ceratogyrus ;)

The species I'm not sure of...
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Bushviper » Thu Jul 11, 2013 11:29 am

Very interesting however it is sad that so many are dead. I then start to wonder how many died when all the roads, railways and bridges were built across Southern Africa? The numbers must be staggering.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Chameleon Company » Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:22 pm

As an environmental manager we conduct specialist biodiversity reports in herpetofauna, avifauna, mammals etc. to minimize the extent of human impacts on the environment during pre-construction. However, one can never fully minimize animal deaths even with collecting, relocating and best practice techniques.

Sometimes though the specialist reports note relic populations or species of conservation concern and construction is refused by the DEA. I was on a project where the avifauna was at high risk due to electric grid connections and the construction of high electrical facilities. The result was that 'a company' which wont be mentioned had to spend large sums of money to restrict bird access to the power grid facilities. So with proper planning and skilled environmental studies impacts can be minimised.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Sico » Sun Jul 14, 2013 2:08 pm

Thursday morning the machine turned over a disused termite mound in the borrow pit (one of many, mostly filled to over flowing with rodents – they exit it like a volcano going off when the machine hits one – and the P. turneri) and pulled out quite a large A. bibroni. Unfortunatley it wasn’t going to live, so I killed it, and got some specimens.
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Just before lunch I was standing next to one of the spoil heaps to see what had been piled up with all the brush and sand, and noticed some movement in the sand a few feet away from me. Out crawled a stunningly marked B. arietans, I’d guess about 2.5ft in length. It was a healthy specimen, and considerably well behaved considering that it had just been covered with sand by a noisy machine. I took some pics and got one of the spotters to bring me some stout sticks which I used to pick it up and take it off site and back into the bushes.
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We also turned up another nice N. ornata (this time uninjured)
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As well as what I think is Trachylepis striata (a nice large one which gave me an uncomfortable bite on the finger)
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And T. lacertiformis
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And another one of Pachydactylus (not sure if this is a slightly different colour variation of one of the others I found, or if this is a different species)
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Friday morning whilst opening the road into the new borrow pit on the other side of the railway reservation (roughly 900m from the first one as the crow flies) I found a beautifully marked B. fuliginosus crawling on the spoil pile. It was also badly injured, but it may just recover, so I left it alive after taking some pics and DNA samples. As you can see, it was almost orange in colour. Sorry for the poor image quality, it was terribly overcast and under the trees and lighting was not the best
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As well as another species of Lygodactylus
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This borrow pit has a totally different Flora than the first one, and on the northern side is mostly grassland with proper hard soil, whilst towards the southern end it goes back into almost pure sand like the first pit, but with a lot less grass and a lot more bushes. There appears to be a healthy rodent population there as well, so there should be plenty to eat them too. I’m looking forward to getting into it this week…
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Yesterday shortly before we left site, one of the spotters walked into the site office we were busy constructing with this Pelusios sinuatus, which he said they turned up in the borrow pit. He was apparently of the intention of taking it home to experiment food wise. I explained that eating any animal found on site would cost him and his mates their jobs, and stuck the terrapin under the desk in an upturned dustbin lid full of water. It was a healthy size and in really good condition. When we knocked off for the day I took it to another construction site where they are building a large bridge next to a stream and wetland that I know has a lot of water still in it and released it there, a suitable environment as I know that local human activity is pretty much minimal in that area.
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I think this week's excavations may reveal some interesting finds, as we have had two continuous days of good soaking rain on site, which may bring some of the critters out.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby Mitton » Sun Jul 14, 2013 6:45 pm

That Puff Adder will be awesome after a shed!
Nice finds.
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Re: Tete , Northern Mozambique

Postby RJG » Sun Jul 14, 2013 8:17 pm

I agree with mitton. One of the nicest puffies I've seen.
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