Archive for August 2014

Qinghai tour highlights and need help with Pika/Vole/Hamster IDs

August 31, 2014


My wife and I returned from a 4-week trip to Qinghai including a 2-day Tangjiahe add-on. August is not an ideal month to travel in Qinghai but we still scored a lot of amazing mammals (and the scenery is sensational and very lush and green). Thanks is due to Coke Smith whose wonderful Qinghai/Kekexili report inspired me to do this trip (and it was very useful for trip planning).


Mammal highlights:

Pallas’s Cat (prolonged views of a female with two kittens!!! But I messed up the photos (aaargh), but will include the record shots in the trip report)

Argali (superb males, scope only) and Wild Yaks in Yeniugou (Wild Yak Valley), mammals (except Tibetan gazelles) in Yeniugou were far from the road at this time of year.

White-lipped Deer including some stunning males

Gansu and McNeill’s Red Deer


Alpine Musk Deer!!

Wolf (2 sightings)

Przwalski’s Gazelle

Tibetan Antelope

In Tangjiahe we got: tufted deer, takin, Chinese serow, Chinese goral, and wild boar

Only disappointment was not seeing any mustelids alive (only roadkills).

Full trip report will folllow (and the Sichuan report from April is almost ready).


I have also attached some photos of a dead pika and mystery voles/hamsters.

The roadkill pika appears to be a Chinese red pika. Can anyone shed a light on this? Photo from the Huzhu Beishan north of Xining. There was a rocky area with cavities in the rocks where we saw the dead pika.


The vole/hamster photos

These animals lived together with plateau pikas but were much smaller. The area was a depression/valley with a mosaic of moist grassland, proper wetland areas and drier grassland. They lived one the edge of the valley so not in the lowest/wettest parts, but it was still quite muddy. Initially we even thought they might be juvenile plateau pikas but studying the pictures I noticed they actually have tails! Animals were seen between Qumarleb/Qumalai and Budongquan (about 120 km east of Budongquan). The ones that seem to fit best are Smokey Vole, Irene’s Mountain Vole and Blyth’s Mountain Vole.

For the first two the habitat and the pelage colour fits quite well, but they were seen a little outside the range of the IUCN maps but that may reflect a lack of data. Blyth’s Mountain Vole is the only one for which Mammals of China mentions it lives in colonies. I saw at least 5 different animals together, but maybe it was just a family group. However, the colour of the dorsal pelage should be pale yellowish brown for Blyth’s?

Other options in this region are Stoliczka’s Mountain Vole (seems to like more arid areas) and Lacustrine Vole (dorsal pelage should be “distinctly yellow”). I don’t think it is a hamster but maybe I am wrong.

Thanks for any help on the IDs!




DSC_2257 vole DSC_2256 Mountain Vole DSC_3754 dead pika DSC_2261 voles DSC_2260 vole DSC_2259 vole DSC_2258 vole

South Florida & St. Croix

August 27, 2014

I’ll be in South Florida and St. Croix in mid-October. I’ve read all the trip reports and previous blogs on this and there’s a lot of good information. Some follow-up questions:

Can the Florida mastiff bat be seen over the Coral Gables golf courses in October?

I have seen some mentions of a spotted skunk spot near Miami, perhaps that a field herper takes people to? Is that still an option, or is it a secret spot?

Any reliable place to see manatees at this time of year?

I know this is a long shot, but it looks like St. Croix has some interesting bats. Anyone know of any bat biologists on that island?

Any other news tips or spots greatly appreciated. Thanks!


Paying communities per mammal seen in Laos….

August 23, 2014

I’ve just heard that the WCS Laos program and several partners have set up a great project that takes people on night boat rides and then pays the community according the number of mammals seen. Sounds like a brilliant idea to me – lets hope it catches on. I’m attaching the blurb that came with the email. The species list is a bit generic, but it gives a sense of what can be seen. I’ll try to find out more about current sighting success from the project members.


‘WCS’s Nam Nern Night Safari has been short-listed for the People’s Choice World Responsible Tourism Award this year. The Night Safari is an innovative community-based ecotour developed by the WCS in cooperation with the Government of Lao PDR and 14 partner communities. Longtail river boats take guests upstream in the afternoon, and after a riverside dinner, the boats float downstream at night without engines to spot wildlife including sambar deer and various species of civets. Other species seen include barking deer, otter, tiger tracks, Asian golden cat, dhole, sun bear, python, loris, Chinese serow, hog badger, porcupine, spotted Linsang, wild pig, and macaques. This is perhaps the only place in the country where tourists can see these species in the wild.

The tour provides direct incentives for wildlife conservation by linking the revenue earned by the 14 partner communities with the numbers of wildlife seen and recorded by tourists during each tour. The proceeds directly fund forest patrols, conservation education, schools, and small village-based economic development programs. As wildlife sightings increase, more locals view conservation as an active and profitable partnership. Local villagers also work as guides, boatmen, cooks, and handicraft producers.

The project with the most votes wins, so please vote and spread the word:’

New trip reports – Alaska & Uganda

August 21, 2014

A couple of excellent reports just added to, both featuring a bunch of stuff I’ve not seen and some nice photos too.

Alaska, 2014: Stefan Lithner, 3 weeks & 29 species including Largha Seal, Northern Bog and Brown Lemmings, and Water, Tundra and Dusky Shrews.

Uganda, 2014: Peregrine Rowse, 17 days & 42 species including Ruwenzori Sun and Carruthers’ Mountain Squirrels, Ruwenzori Red Duiker, L’Hoest’s & De Brazza’s Monkeys and Central African Red Colobus. Thanks to Richard Webb for sending this to me.


Revision to Humpback Dolphin taxonomy

August 19, 2014

A good deal of work has gone into this study to sort out the genetics of the Sousa genus

In a nutshell S.chinesis has been split into 3 species.

S. Chinensis remains off of SE Asia, Hong Kong etc;

S. Sahulensis is a new species off the coast of Australia and New Guinea; and

S. Plumbea in the Indian Ocean from Southern Africa through to somewhere around Laos.

All of which I have seen, though I have yet to see the West African species, Sousa teuszi (the West African species)


New trip report – Poland

August 17, 2014

Poland, 2014: Mark Hows, 4 days & 18 species including Spotted Souslik, Pine Marten and Racoon Dog.


Serval photographed in Morocco

August 17, 2014

This is interesting. I had no idea Servals came so far north

Many thanks to Mohamed from Moroccan Birds for sending this through