Mountains, monsoons and mosquitoes: highlights from amphibian biologist Dr Jodi Rowley's diary of her recent field trip to Central Vietnam.
At about 1.30pm, we headed back up the first mountain, sticky rice and peanuts packed. We stopped occasionally, waiting for everyone to catch up. The last really steep section was considerably more difficult than I recalled! Eventually we made it to a gap in the forest at the top of the mountain, where we sat and started to eat sticky rice. Our meal was disturbed somewhat by a thunderstorm, and we huddled in our waterproof gear under some small shrubs, eating miserably. The rain cleared after about 20 minutes and we stood around soggily until nightfall, while tiny gnats bit our faces.
Our survey focused on the swamp full of tiny green, spiky frogs (Gracixalus supercornutus). I carefully recorded their calls, took photographs, and documented their behaviour- the little frogs go on jumping around and calling when I watch them with my red LED headlamp. They are certainly one of my favourite frogs (if not my absolute favourite frog). Known only from forests in central Vietnam, very little is known about them (currently they are listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List of threatened species), so all the data we recorded are incredibly valuable.
If not for these tiny green gems, the swamp would have been absolutely hideous. Up to my knees in mud in places, hundreds of tiny gnats bit my hands and face. While I was recording frog calls I was helpless against the swarming mass; my hands are occupied and unable to swipe them away. I noticed that my hands were covered in red blotches and asked Vinh if my face was- he laughed and said I was “very beautiful” (unfortunately, you can't see the red blotches very well in the image below!)!
We left that swamp around 9pm, then surveyed nearby streams and swamps on the mountain. At one point I literally got stuck in the mud up to my knees and had to be pulled out!