Mountains, monsoons and mosquitoes: highlights from amphibian biologist Dr Jodi Rowley's diary of her recent field trip to Central Vietnam.
We photographed, documented and preserved the sample of amphibians collected the night before, which, as usual, took most of the day. After a dinner of green beans, palm heart (delicious! collected from the forest by our guides), dried fish, steamed rice and Banh Da (tasty, thin cakes made of dried rice and black sesame seeds, cooked over an open fire), we headed off to find a stream at a slightly higher elevation. We walked up a faint path to a smallish stream, and sat on the rocks until it was completely dark. We then started climbing up the stream, composed largely rock lose rocks and debris.
At first, there was absolutely no sign of life, and I’d reached the headwaters of the stream before I caught the faint but discernable call of a Leptolalax (my favourite small brown frogs!). So faint and insect-like that most people wouldn’t pick it as a frog call. Crouching, I recorded the feeble call, and then after some time, I found the frog responsible. I repeated this, finding a handful of the tiny (<2 cm long) frogs, hidden in debris on the steep slope. A bunch of the usual suspects (such as the cascade frog, below) were also calling along the stream.
We then began our descent back down the stream- slipping, sliding and surfing on rocks down. It started sprinkling with rain, which rapidly progressed to heavy rain. By the final abseil down a cliff, holding on to roots and vines, it was absolutely pouring.
Upon our return to the hut, I found an enormous leech in my trousers. Completely saturated anyway, I continued upstream and, in the pouring rain, washed away the blood and leech-slime in the stream before heading to my hammock for dry clothes and sleep.