Tag Archives: Animals

Chilling up on Yang-Ming-Shan 陽明山: 🐍 Taiwan Habu / Brown Spotted Pit Viper / 龜殼花蛇!🐍 Or is it?

It’s high summer in Taiwan, exhaustively hot and humid, and the best outdoor place to escape the heat is up in the mountains, where there’s a breeze and some shade. So, up to Yang-ming-shan National Park 陽明山 (the mountains above Taipei) we all go ~ there’s a range of 10 mountains up there to choose from, and endless trails and places to walk, meet, chill, relax and enjoy the breeze.

And today on Mian-tian-shan 面天山 (Mt Mian-tian: 977 m) there was a s.n.a.k.e.😨 🐍🐍 😨 Snakes are common in Taiwan, but they usually move very fast, and, well, nobody hangs around long when a snake is on the move. This one was a very cool, calm and collected snake, all chilled out and all coiled up by the side of the path. So cool, calm and collected that I’d passed it by before the gathered crowd told me to look.

This could be a Brown Spotted Pit Viper, known locally as a Taiwan Habu, and in Chinese as 龜殼花蛇 (translates as ‘turtle shell pattern’), and in Latin as Protobothrops mucrosquamatus. Turns out to be highly venomous, and is the same species of snake as appeared on a Taiwan TV News report recently when one was spotted among the drinks on a delivery man’s motorbike in Taipei City. Certainly caused a stir!

So, things I have learnt today about the Taiwan Habu: it’s very common throughout Taiwan up to 1,000 m in altitude, occurs all over Asia, belongs to the same family as rattlesnakes (now there’s a thought!), mostly nocturnal, the most fearless of the common venomous snakes in Taiwan, can be aggressive – attacking shadows and moving objects, and especially in rural areas – even the smallest medical facilities carry Habu antivenom.

But since then, someone has told me that this might not in fact be a Taiwan Habu, it might be a False Taiwan Habu / False Viper 擬龜殼花 Macropisthodon rudis because its head is not as triangular as it should be. If so, it is only (!) mildly venomous, occurs only in south China and Taiwan, mimics the real Taiwan Habu in colours and patterns, and “when irritated and excited, it may make every effort to act or appear as a venomous snake: the head and neck, or the entire body, may be flattened as the snake coils up in defense; when flattened, the oval head may take on a strong, definite triangular shape in an attempt to mimic vipers.”

Isn’t nature amazing?

😉 Good job I didn’t know all that when I took the photograph! 😉

The Cattle of YangMingShan 陽明山, Taipei

Yes, at last, I’ve found them!  The cattle of YangMingShan are smelt long before they are seen ~ the smell of ‘cow’ is everywhere in Qingtiangang especially on the grasslands, and there’s cowpats and muddy trails and hoof-prints all over.  But often the cattle themselves are nowhere to be found.  I’ve been up there twice recently and not a cow in sight.  But yesterday, there they all were, taking it easy – with the egrets perched on their backs, chewing the cud, yes!

YangMingShan is the mountain range on the northern side of Taipei City, highest point 1,120m above sea level, all volcanic in origin, with lots of sulfur deposits, fumaroles, hot springs, and in spring, cherry blossom.  From 1895-1945, Taiwan was under Japanese rule, and in 1937, the Japanese government declared the western part of YangMingShan around the Datun Mountain area as a national park. Much of the area was already being reforested, and the trails that we all use today were established at that time running along in-between the firebreaks.  And beautiful trails they are too!

The eastern part of YangMingShan, around Qingtiangang and further east to Fenggueikou, was used for tea-growing and grazing cattle.  In 1934, the Farmer’s Association of Taipei established a cattle ranch there, covering about 2,000 hectares, with about 1,600 cattle. This was disrupted during World War II, and even though farming was continued under the Chinese government after the war, it continued to decline. In 1985, Qingtiangang became part of the national park.  This was the site of the old farm office, near the Juansi Waterfall (‘Silk Waterfall’, because the water looks like spun silk) now derelict….

The cattle of YangMingShan today are of 2 types, Taiwan Water Buffalo and Tajima Cattle (a strain of Japanese Black).  In January 2017, former president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-Hui, who has a PhD in Agricultural Economics, announced a project to produce Japanese-style beef using Taiwanese cattle through experimental breeding techniques, using Tajima cattle from YangMingShan – though the report says the Tajima were underweight when they arrived at the research station.  No wonder, living up there, especially in winter! There’s one Tajima in the centre of this group….

The water buffalo are black in colour with large curved horns, in a crescent shape. The horns of the Tajima are smaller and shorter and straighter.  They all hang out together, and due to the heat can often be found sitting around taking it easy, chewing the cud or indulging in a bit of mud-bath therapy, keeping cool.  This is how they were yesterday!

The cattle area and grasslands extend for miles all the way along the ridge to Fengguikou. Beautiful scenery all the way and glorious views!

And how’s this for the view north towards the coast…. that’s the sea in the distance!

Great place, and those cows are something else – the ones in the mud-bath could be heard long before I could see them, wallowing and blowing bubbles.  Just like hippos in the Serengeti!

Beauty of a Beast…

wpid-img_20150908_082828_1441693643031.jpgThought you might to see what I found chilling today at St. John’s University ~ a Batocera rubus albofasciata, otherwise known as a Mango Longhorn Beetle ~ looks kinda handsome but turns out to be a pest, as it bores into trees and munches its way through them….

Turns out to be quite common in Taiwan, but if even one turns up in Europe, it’s a mega-crisis, with special monitoring in place…..

Beauty ‘n the Beast? Here they’re combined in one ~ ah, the Beauty of a Beast!

Mainsgill Farm, N. Yorkshire

Crossing the A66 yesterday on my way from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire to West Kilbride, on Scotland’s west coast ~ and called in at Mainsgill Farm.  Been past this place many times in the last few months and noticed camels and llamas in the front field ~ kinda seems strange for the Pennines!  But hey, it’s a great place with lots of farm animals, many with babies on show or eating away, and ignoring the visitors!

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Great place for a coffee break, and to say hi to the animals!

Pandas World Tour hits Taipei!

Yep, there’s currently 1,600 of them right there in central Taipei – and only a few minutes walk from where the the student protesters are occupying the Legislature.  Such contrasting scenes – but all involve large numbers and a lot of sitting around, which is what both the students and the pandas are doing…

Pandas World Tour started with the World Wildlife Fund and the number 1,600 is reckoned to be how many real live pandas there are, 3 of which are in Taipei Zoo – baby panda Yuan-Zai is Taiwan’s latest ‘cute’ obsession.  So this world tour comes at a good time, and quite the best article about it is in UK’s Daily Mail here, surprise….

Happened to pass by Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial and Freedom Plaza yesterday, amazed to see so many people and pandas (and 200 Formosan Black Bears in there too)….

And today it’s pouring with rain, and all the pandas are dressed up in plastic raincoats….

Amazing eh?  Well, no-one could ever say that Taipei is a boring city!

Yuan Zai 圓仔 Baby Panda ~ so gorgeous (and awake!)

Taipei Zoo’s baby panda Yuan Zai 圓仔 is charming the whole country, but she doesn’t half like to sleep ha ha!  Queues and queues of people (limited to 19,200 per day) have lined up to see her for 10 minutes of viewing time during the Chinese New Year holiday as she made her public debut, and there she is (or not, if she’s often hiding) fast asleep….

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Taipei Metro kindly shows the current panda viewing times and available tickets on electronic noticeboards on some of its platforms around the city – and so there it was that I came to be in the zoo on Saturday afternoon especially to see the baby panda, and with only 5 minutes to wait to see her…. (unlike morning visitors who had to wait 2 hours!)

Zoo entrance fee is only NT$ 60 (about £1.20), well worth it to see a baby panda, who people say, wakes up in the afternoons – and YES she was wide awake and sitting on the top of a tall branch smiling at us all and moving around, while mother was wandering around below…

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Not easy to get a decent photo, but she is just sooooooo cute and gorgeous – if you have a chance, you just MUST go and see her!