Observation of the Week, 12/2/17

Our Observation of the Week is this North Philippine temple pitviper, seen in Malaysia by @nakarb!

While this blog post is about his beautiful snake photo, Nikolay Vladimirov (nakarb) is, first and foremost, an insect enthusiast and photographer. Inspired by his grandmother, who was an agronomist, Nikolay “walked around the garden, collected insects, and my grandmother told me about them. Later, already at school, I began to collect a collection of insects; I had a lot of books about insects, it was interesting for me to learn something new about them.”

He later became and aquarist, but in 2007 he obtained his first camera, a Canon S3IS, and “ interest in insects resumed on a new level: I began to photograph them.” He eventually upgraded to a DSLR with a macro lens and for eight years has been photographing wildlife.

During this time I already have photos of the most frequent and large species, so now I have to use different methods of collecting and catching insects used in entomology: ground traps, food and light baits, nets, shaking of bushes, search in rotten logs and under bark of trees, collecting of caterpillars, etc. This turned out to be a very interesting activity, and now my photo collection is much larger than the one I collected as a child. Experts from forums molbiol.ru, diptera.info, and now also inaturalist.org help me to determine the photographed species.

He photographed the pitviper while on a trip to Borneo with his wife. They spent several days in Bako National Park, “[where] I brought back several thousand photos of insects, spiders, frogs and reptiles.”

[The North Philippine temple pitviper] I noticed quite by accident about in the middle of the 6-km-long ring track Lintang. This was the first snake found by me in the day, before that they were shown us by guides on night excursions around Bako. The snake was very small, about 20 cm, and was sitting on a tree just above eye level, comfortably leaning on a branch. For all the time of photographing (we walked around it for about 20 minutes) the snake behaved completely non-aggressive and did not even change its position.

This behavior is typical for snakes in the temple pitviper (Tropidolaemus) genus. Skilled ambush predators, they are known to stay motionless for long periods of time - allowing them to quickly ambush prey such as rodents, birds, frogs, and lizards, that might pass by. Like other vipers they are venomous and their venom mainly consists of hemotoxins (flesh and blood destroying toxins) rather than neurotoxins. While a fatal envenomation is unlikely, it can’t be excluded as a possibility. And as Nikolay observed, this is not an aggressive snake.

“iNaturalist is a very interesting project,” says Nikolay, above, at Bako National Park. “It makes it very convenient to organize your observations, analyze the distribution of flora and fauna in different geographical areas and communicate with nature lovers around the world. In addition, there is a large number of experts in different groups of animals and plants who are happy to help in determining the results of observations.”


Nikolay has also shared some tips for macrophotography:


  • Do not be afraid to experiment; macrophotography, like photography in general - a very creative process. Learn the experience of other photographers.


  • Do more frames, slightly changing the camera angle. Among them, for sure, there will be good shots. Unnecessary or unsuccessful frames can always be deleted.


  • Photograph an insect from different sides (from above, from the side, a portrait, some characteristic fragments). This will help in determining it.


  • Objects for macro photography are everywhere and always, sometimes in the most unexpected places.


  • Learn the biology and behavior of insects, this will help in their search and photography.


- by Tony Iwane


- You can see Nikolay’s awesome photos on this site.

- Check out these two videos that show off these snakes’ impressive camouflage and zen-like stillness. 

- There are nearly 500 observations from Bako National Park on iNat, take a look at them here.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, December 02, 2017 08:43 PM

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