Philippine Spiny Stream Skink

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.

Tropidophorus grayi philippines spiny stream skink rizal tanay waterside skink

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. 🙂

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Asian Painted Frog

asian painted frog Kaloula pulchra banded bullfrog chubby frog la union tony gerard philippines
Asian Painted Frogs in La Union (© Tony Gerard)

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.

asian painted frog Kaloula pulchra banded bullfrog chubby frog lilok farm tanay rizal philippines near manila
Asian Painted Frog found near Lilok Farm

A few days later I was looking around the same spot and found another one. This one had much brighter coloration.

asian painted frog Kaloula pulchra banded bullfrog chubby frog lilok farm tanay rizal philippines near manila
Another Asian Painted Frog found near Lilok Farm

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.

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Moths (gamu-gamo, mariposa)

emerald moth Agathia liloc tanay rizal philippines
Emerald Moth species found at Liloc Farm

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.

owl moth Erebus nyctaculis liloc tanay rizal philippines
Owl Moth species (Erebus macrops) found at Lilok Farm

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.

Oleander Hawkmoth Daphnis nerii Paolo Co in Manila larvae
Oleander Hawkmoth caterpillar, or “higad” (© Paolo Co)

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).

Oleander Hawkmoth Daphnis nerii pupae cocoon from pune Sindhu Ramchandran
Oleander Hawkmoth pupa, or “tilas” (Sindhu Ramchandran / CC BY-SA)

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?

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Emerald Tree Skink

Emerald Tree Skink in Mindanao, ZooKeys 624, (Rafe Brown / CC BY)

My wife and I were hiking through the jungle adjacent to Sakahang Lilok when our little baby Sophia decided to take a nap. To make her as comfortable as possible I found a shady spot with a good view of the massive trees above, and laid down for her to sleep.

looking for herps with my baby in rizal tanay phillippines

For the first 45 minutes, I didn’t see anything to note. With the pleasant sounds of the waterfall and birds around me, I slowly scanned the branches of the trees with my eyes. Sometimes I just rested and enjoyed being in nature. It was a really calm, pleasant way to sit in the forest.

Then I saw it. An Emerald Tree Skink, making its way around a branch about 20 meters above the ground, inspecting the airplants for bugs to eat.

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