Monday, 25 July 2016

Night Walks - where magic happens

Summer is the best time to look for wildlife in Hong Kong - except for birds, and a lot of interesting creatures are in fact nocturnal in nature and are usually not seen throughout the day. Therefore, I spent a few evenings with various friends to look for wildlife around woodlands in Hong Kong. Here are some of the "collections" from the few outings.

You will expect to find Owls when you go into the forest at night, but the truth is Owls are usually very difficult to find at night. You may however sometimes bump into sleeping birds, perched on a thin branch to keep themselves out of danger of predators such as snakes. Here, a Common Tailorbird was obviously alarmed by our presence but did not really move despite us being just a few feet away.

Common Tailorbird - just incase you wondering how birds sleep at night

Amphibians are one of the top category of animals that truly comes to life at night! Hidden away in crevices during the day, frogs can become very vocal in the safety of the night, mainly to keep away from the scorching heat but also to stay clear of potential predators. Asian Common Toads are the most abundant on almost all outings, they are pretty large and can easily be seen hopping along the roadside clumsily.

Asian Common Toad - you have to watch where you are stepping with them...

The Gunther's Frog is one of the most common frog species in Hong Kong, where they can be found along streams or ponds in wooded areas, where the males can be seen calling through the night (and a lot of the time through the day!) to females, they are pretty large frogs, too.

Gunther's Frog - you can see two colour variations here

Paddy Frogs are also quite common in Hong Kong, they can be found in various habitats from woodlands to agricultural land. They may look similar to the Asian Bullfrog, but the line that runs through their snout to vent is the key diagnostic feature of this species.

Paddy Frog

A species more closely related to hill streams, the Green Cascade Frog is the only frog that is actually green in Hong Kong, they have similar structural built to Gunther's Frogs but is different in having a green back and have different preference to habitats. Their calls are quite distinctive, like a bird chirping. They are not rare and many can be seen perched along rocks next to the stream at night.

Green Cascade Frog

Another extremely widespread frog is the Brown Tree Frog also known as Hong Kong Whipping Frog, it is our only arboreal frog species. They are quite common and can be found in a wide range of habitats, they can even be found far away from water source.

Brown Tree Frog

A less common of the common species, the Lesser Spiny Frog have a more specific habitat requirement, they are usually found in fast flowing hill streams, hidden away in crevices during the day and only emerges at night, but they are still not easy to spot amongst rocks as they are very well camouflaged.

Lesser Spiny Frog

One of our most interesting frog species, the Hong Kong Cascade Frog is a near endemic amphibian that is not uncommon in suitable habitats, they prefers fast flowing rapids where you will usually see them clinging onto the slippery rocks with their specialised digits which acts like a suction disk. Due to the limited range, it's considered an endangered species.

Hong Kong Cascade Frog - perfectly adapted to live in fast flowing streams

A lot of reptiles found in Hong Kong are also nocturnal, many snakes for example are more active in the night time. Geckos especially are one of the most common creatures that you will encounter at night. The Chinese Gecko is a very common and widespread species in Hong Kong, although they are not the most common gecko species found inside houses, they are the most common in woodlands and more rural areas.

Chinese Gecko

The Mock Viper is a small to medium species that is quite common in Hong Kong, I usually sees them during the day but it seems this one was also active at night! Although they may look a bit like a viper, they are in fact not a true viper and do not have venom that is dangerous to men. Most of the time they are quite docile and rarely will they strike in defence. They are such beautiful creatures that I enjoy seeing them every time!

Mock Viper

A large amount of insects are of course nocturnal. I am never very good with insects, so a lot of the time I cannot ID them. Here, two stick insects of the Neohirasea sp. mating, they male on top is nearly half the size of the female!

Neohirasea sp.

The Nyctalemon menoetius is a common and very large species in Hong Kong, they are so large that many people may mistaken it as a bat when it's flying! Moths pretty much take over what the butterflies do during the day and do them secretly at night, here you see the Nyctalemon menoetius drinking water to absorb minerals.

Nyctalemon menoetius

Another large moth species is the Erebus ephesperis, they have quite impressive markings on their wings. Here is one sucking on the sap of a tangerine tree.

Erebus ephesperis

Mammals are of course one of the most difficult genre of animals to observe in the wild, this is especially true in the dense woodlands in Hong Kong. We were very fortunate to bump into this Masked Palm Civet one night, munching away on a fruiting tree! I am not entirely sure about the plant species but the Civet concentrated on the fruits for as long as we wanted. After getting some satisfying views, we left the beautiful creature to do it's own thing.

Masked Palm Civet - one of the largest Civets in the region.


  1. Very nice pictures, congratulations!
    The Nyctalemon species is more likely N. zampa - known from India to Indo China and S. China
    N. menoetius is recorded from Celebes, Philippine Is., Borneo.

    1. Thank you! indeed after looking at comparisons I will agree, we are lacking a moth field guide in HK, have to do more homework!


  3. Wonderful series of images of nocturnal creatures - obviously not the easiest shots to get.

    1. Thanks David, I think the creatures were quite kind to me on that day, allowing very prolonged views for each species! Not always the case...