One day late in my stay in Tanay I took a rare excursion off the trail and went looking for wildlife in one of the deepest, wildest areas, down near the stream where vegetation was relatively thick and the debris of the forest settled around the ground.
Hunting in that area I came across one of the neatest reptiles I’ve ever seen – the Philippines Spiny Stream Skink!
The Philippines Spiny Stream Skink is part of a unique group of lizards called “stream skinks” which like to spend time in water as well as land. But the Spiny Stream Skink is doubly unique due to the hard spiky scales that line its body as a defense against predators.
I let the lizard go and continued searching the forest, and just a few minutes later came across a second one. Look at those spikes! If you were a small animal searching for a lizard meal you wouldn’t want to mess with those. 🙂
One of the wonderful staff at Sakahang Lilok shared that she occasionally saw a coral snake while she worked in the farm’s vegetable garden. I had shown her pictures of the snakes in the area and she confirmed that what she saw was a Barred Coral Snake.
Though it rarely bites, the Barred Coral Snake is a venomous species and one needs to exert caution when around them. I came to Lilok back in 2017 to give a talk on snakes and how we can coexist with them on the farm, as well as what to do in the unlikely event that someone gets bit by a venomous snake. This staff member took in all of that and I can trust that she will do the right thing when she sees such snakes.
I walked down to the stream near Lilok Farm and began turning over rocks to see what might be under them. Under one I was surprised to find an Asian Painted Frog (also known as the “Banded Bullfrog” or “Chubby Frog”), a species from Thailand and other countries in southeast Asia.
A few days later I was looking around the same spot and found another one. This one had much brighter coloration.
What a funky frog! With its fat body, tiny head, long toes, and bright stripes, you’d have trouble finding a more unusual-looking amphibian in our area.
Unfortunately, the Asian Painted Frog is not from our area.
If you leave a light on and watch the moths, pretty soon some geckos, or “butiki”, will end up creeping up near the light to snatch some of the moths flying around it. These gobbling geckos help control insects in the farm.
Geckos are great friends with which to share our homes and forests. Despite some silly rumors, geckos are completely harmless to people – they’re only dangerous to those insect guests that we sometimes wish would stay outside! In our area we have many different kinds of geckos. I’m going to focus on the four small ones, the little butiki, that you’ll see on the walls of buildings in Lilok and other homes. (I already talked about the big one, the tuko, in an earlier post.)
The Four-clawed Gecko, also known as the Stump-toed Gecko, is the most common gecko at Lilok Farm. You can see them running around the dining hall, sometimes on the walls and sometimes on the ground.
Leave a light on outside and soon you’ll have moths, the butterflies of the night, fluttering all around it. “Gamu-gamo” as the little ones are called, “mariposa” for the big ones. Sometimes drab, sometimes beautiful, sometimes with the most interesting markings.
Besides being active at night (nocturnal), you can tell a moth from a butterfly because they have thick or hairy bodies and don’t hold their wings together and straight up like butterflies often do. There antennae are often different as well. But moths are a very large and diverse group so there are many exceptions.
Just like butterflies, moths begin their lives as caterpillars (“higad” or “simutsang”). Caterpillars are a larval stage that is meant to do one thing: eat! They eat and and eat and eat until they grow large enough to have all the energy needed to form an adult moth.
From early in its life the caterpillar begins forming the organs and structures it needs for life as a moth. If you dissected a caterpillar, you would find the beginnings of legs and wings inside of its own body. But when it is ready for the full transformation, it will find a place to hide, stop moving, and slowly harden into a pupa (tilas).
Inside that protective covering the pupa is transforming into an adult moth. In warm regions it might happen within a month, but in cold regions the moth will often wait all the way until the next year to emerge.
The adult moth that comes out of the pupa is so different from the larva that created it you might think they were different animals. Sometimes they keep some of their old traits though. Do you see any family resemblance between the Oleander Hawkmoth caterpillar above and the adult moth that it will become below?