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 Post subject: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 25th, 2017, 5:41 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Posts: 608
Location: Albuquerque, NM
So my last post, (viewtopic.php?f=19&t=24163), ended with the departing of the Sandhill Cranes and light geese that signal the end of winter and a hopeful forecast for finding the first snake of the year at a den.

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https://500px.com/photo/201460529/eastern-black-tailed-rattlesnake-basking-at-a-den-by-bill-gorum

I love it when things work out like I planned, (happens so seldom)!

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https://500px.com/photo/201727867/mule-deer-jumping-a-ditch-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/201727869/great-blue-heron-by-bill-gorum

Of course, just because the herps have put in an appearance doesn’t mean I abandon the mammals and birds...

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https://500px.com/photo/201792827/rio-grande-cottonwood-at-sunset-by-bill-gorum

…or the landscapes!

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https://500px.com/photo/203043859/western-painted-turtles-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/203043897/sandhill-cranes-by-bill-gorum
On March 11th I was surprised to see a small group of Sandhill Cranes coming in to roost at the now almost completely dry Crane Ponds beside NM Highway 1 at Bosque del Apache.

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https://500px.com/photo/205138551/hawk-moth-caterpillar-on-a-dune-evening-primrose-by-bill-gorum
For spring break I decided to head west to check out the super bloom that was occurring at Anza-borrego Desert State Park, California. On the way I stopped by the North Algadones Dunes Wilderness Area.

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https://500px.com/photo/205138553/sidewinder-tracks-by-bill-gorum

My main goals for Algadones was to photograph Fringe-toed lizards and Sidewinders. I struck out on both! I saw plenty of Fringe-toed Lizards, but they were too wary for me to get good photos. And the above is as close as I came to finding a Sidewinder. Go figure, seems to me that this is equivalent to being back home and striking out on Prairie Rattlesnakes and Side-blotched Lizards! How does that even happen?

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https://500px.com/photo/205199591/dune-evening-primrose-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/205294147/western-zebra-tailed-lizard-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/205294149/western-zebra-tailed-lizard-by-bill-gorum

My first morning at Algadones, I found this Zebra-tailed lizard. I wasn’t thrilled with the pictures I got, but figured it’s a Zebra-tailed Lizard, I’ll see many more. Wrong! This was the first, last, and only Zebra-tailed Lizard of the trip. Again, how does that even happen?

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https://500px.com/photo/205294181/northern-desert-iguana-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/205351501/northern-desert-iguana-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/205351603/northern-desert-iguana-by-bill-gorum

I guess I don’t completely suck at finding the common species. I did ok on Desert Iguanas!

Before I continue I need to thank some forum members that provided suggestions and advice that made my trip much more successful than it otherwise would have been. John Sullivan (Ribbit), Jeremy Wright, Jimi, (who introduced me to a new area of the State Park, that I will definitely be re-visiting), and especially Jeff Nordland (SurfinHerp) who gave me advise and joined me in the field a couple times during the trip.

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https://500px.com/photo/205431751/southwestern-speckled-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

The first night that Jeff and I went out herping together we went to a volcanic hill not too far from Algadones. First snake of the night was this Speckled Rattlesnake.

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https://500px.com/photo/205431753/northern-three-lined-boa-by-bill-gorum

Another group of herpers were on the hill that night and they walked this Rosy Boa.

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https://500px.com/photo/205501913/southwestern-speckled-rattlesnake-in-ambush-coil-by-bill-gorum

Jeff and I did a short night hike in a wash that night and Jeff spotted this Spec waiting in ambush. Jeff left for home after this and I just spent the night in the wash. These pictures were actually taken the next morning with the snake still in the exact same spot where we found it the night before.

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https://500px.com/photo/205501915/southwestern-speckled-rattlesnake-in-ambush-coil-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/205501975/white-tailed-antelope-squirrel-by-bill-gorum

The next morning I hiked along the wash and saw some of the things that the Spec might have been hoping would come along.

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https://500px.com/photo/205576143/great-basin-whiptail-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/205576145/male-western-side-blotched-lizard-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206246209/great-basin-collared-lizard-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/206246271/common-chuckwalla-by-bill-gorum

As I was leaving the area I found this Patch-nosed Snake

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https://500px.com/photo/206399171/desert-patch-nosed-snake-by-bill-gorum

Shortly after the Patch-nosed Snake I thought I saw something unusual about a rock a few meters off on the side of the road. I backed up, and sure enough there was a small Desert Horned Lizard on the rock. I stopped the car, grabbed the camera and long lens, exited the car, and it was gone! I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find it. I was cursing myself, since horned lizards are always high on my list of things I want to see and people had told me, (and I know from my own experience, back home), that horned lizards are not something you are ever guaranteed to see. I figured I’d missed my opportunity. However, sometimes you get lucky twice!

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https://500px.com/photo/206399305/southern-desert-horned-lizard-by-bill-gorum

Just down the road from the first was a larger, lighter, and all around better specimen right on the edge of the dirt road!

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https://500px.com/photo/206539269/southern-desert-horned-lizard-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206539303/wind-turbines-near-ocotillo-california-by-bill-gorum

Then I was off towards Anza-borrego!

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https://500px.com/photo/206607507/brittlebush-anza-borrego-desert-state-park-ca-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206607517/chuparosa-anza-borrego-desert-state-park-ca-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206675631/mearn-s-rock-lizard-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206739045/granite-spiny-lizard-sceloporus-orcutti-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206739047/red-diamond-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

The first morning in the park I found some of the usual lizard suspects and this Red-diamond Rattlesnake. When I first saw it, it was out on the crawl and I could see most of its body and tail, but its head and first few inches of its body were in between two boulders and I was afraid it was going to crawl under one of them. When I peaked around the rocks though, I saw that was not a possibility, but unfortunately the snake saw me and assumed a defensive coil and attitude that would shame any New Mexico atrox I’ve seen. It actually took a shot at me at one point while I was photographing it! This struck, (no pun intended), me as strange, since I’d always read that ruber were pretty placid snakes. I wonder if I interrupted something? Was it trailing a female, prey, etc? Had it just had a confrontation with another male? This is one of the downsides of going to a new area. You get to see new species, but had this been an atrox back home in a similar situation I’d have just held back and watched. Here in Anza-borrego my first thought was not to let my lifer Crotalus ruber get under a boulder before I got a picture!

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https://500px.com/photo/206809173/western-side-blotched-lizard-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/206809175/desert-agave-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207252953/desert-agave-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207252955/brittlebush-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207252999/beavertail-cactus-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207390589/palm-oasis-at-anza-borrego-desert-state-park-ca-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207529987/ocotillos-and-brittlebush-by-bill-gorum


Lots of obligatory landscape shots. And then the weather decided to suck for a few days! Cooler than normal, windy, small amounts of rain, (sounds great as I type this in mid June, but believe me, in March, this was not the weather I wanted!).

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https://500px.com/photo/207654087/orange-crowned-warbler-on-chuparosa-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207654089/palm-oasis-borrego-palm-canyon-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/207654141/dune-evening-primrose-and-desert-sand-verbena-by-bill-gorum

Since I had struck out on Fringe-toed lizards and Sidewinders at Algadones I spent some time hiking the Old Spring Preserve outside of Borrego Springs to look for them. I didn’t do much better there!

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https://500px.com/photo/207799043/a-photographer-in-a-sea-of-desert-sunflowers-by-bill-gorum

The super bloom had brought tons of people out to Anza-borrego. At first I was kind of bugged, especially when I couldn’t get a camping spot at Borrego Palm Canyon and I desperately needed a shower! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was really a good thing. That a natural event like this can still attract large crowds of people to see it bodes well for the future. I still secretly laughed at all the people photographing flowers with their cell phones at midday though!

In this picture a photographer is shooting the Desert Sunflowers on Henderson Canyon road, (in the early morning, not midday).

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https://500px.com/photo/207799221/scorpion-weed-by-bill-gorum

My nemesis, this plant causes the same reaction in me as poison ivy, but even worse. I swear all I have to do is look at Scorpion Weed and I’ll get a rash. I still think it’s beautiful though!


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https://500px.com/photo/207943359/great-basin-whiptail-by-bill-gorum

Hey a herp! They were few and far between for a few days in a row.

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https://500px.com/photo/207943361/colorado-desert-fringe-toed-lizard-by-bill-gorum

So this is the only picture of a Fringe-toed Lizard I didn’t delete, and honestly under most circumstances I wouldn’t consider this to be a keeper. My previous experience with this species had been in the Gran Desierto de Altar in Sonora where I found them to be much more approachable. I still want to get good Fringe-toed Lizard pictures one of these days. I’m open to suggestions if anybody knows of any populations in the US that are relatively non-wary. One thing I wonder about, and wish I’d tested, is whether they might have been less wary in the more barren parts of Algadones, (towards the middle of the dunes). That’s something I was taught a few years ago about the lizards at White Sands New Mexico. They are less wary in the more barren areas, probably because of lower predator density. The Fringe-toed Lizards I had seen decades ago in Sonora were on some pretty barren dunes too.

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https://500px.com/photo/208257357/white-lined-sphinx-moth-caterpillar-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/208257437/desert-willow-in-a-dry-wash-by-bill-gorum

I love how you can camp almost anywhere in large portions of Anza-borrego. One night my home was right behind this big Desert Willow.

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https://500px.com/photo/208553607/desert-lily-by-bill-gorum

Believe it or not I’m actually sparing you guys most of the landscape and flower pictures I took during the three days of poor weather.

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https://500px.com/photo/208814597/calling-california-chorus-frog-by-bill-gorum

One evening when I was camping at Borrego Palm Canyon I went up to the little man made pond at the trailhead to photograph calling California Chorus Frogs. Actually, I had tried the previous evening too, but it was way too cold and windy. Not for the frogs, they were still calling the that night, but for me! I went into Borrego Springs and ate a pizza and drank a couple beers instead that night. The fact that I was able to photograph them the second night was indicative of a change in the weather. It was warming up again!

For my last full day in the park the forecast high was 83 degrees. Once again I headed to Old Springs Preserve to try to photograph Fringe-toed Lizards, and once again I struck out. I got back to my car around noon, the sun felt good, but I was feeling defeated. Almost half-heartedly I decided to do one pass on the paved road. I was watching the rocks on the shoulder of the road when in near disbelief I saw an unusually spiny looking one.

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https://500px.com/photo/208814635/flat-tailed-horned-lizard-by-bill-gorum

Phrynosoma macallii!

This was a species I really wanted to see, but didn’t dare hope for, lest I be disappointed. And there it was, just sitting on a rock. Of course it would have been even cooler to hike it out in the sand, but I’ll take it anyway!

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https://500px.com/photo/208970689/flat-tailed-horned-lizard-by-bill-gorum

I gently coaxed the lizard off of the rock to get some pictures that illustrated its remarkable camouflage. I had read that this species was wary and fast, but this individual seemed pretty content to stay put- at first. It finally sprinted a short distance away and I completely lost sight of it, but I was very happy nonetheless.
In New Mexico when someone has a lucky break like that we will often say, “You should to go buy a lottery ticket”. I don’t know if California has a lottery, but I figured the next best thing was to take one last hike up Borrego Palm Canyon, during the heat of the day to look for Baja California Collared Lizards. I knew 83 degrees was probably not warm enough for the species, but I was hoping, just maybe, in some sheltered, south facing nook, I might find one. I’ll cut to the chase- Crotaphytus vestigium was not in the cards for me this trip. Come to think about it, those lottery tickets don’t usually pan out either. But it turned out to be a fun hike anyhow.

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https://500px.com/photo/208970691/desert-blister-beetle-by-bill-gorum

The first really cool thing about that hike were the Desert Blister Beetles, also sometimes called Master Blister beetles, which I just think is a bad ass name!

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https://500px.com/photo/208970795/desert-blister-beetle-by-bill-gorum

They were buzzing all around the Brittlebush like little bio-helicopters.

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https://500px.com/photo/209107701/male-california-quail-by-bill-gorum

Also got my lifer California Quail on that hike, which was pretty cool even though they pretty much look like a Gambel’s Quail back home, but with a Scaled Quail’s breast.

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https://500px.com/photo/209254429/male-and-female-common-chuckwalla-by-bill-gorum

The coolest thing on that hike though was this pair of Chuckwallas that had there own little cozy rock crack together. I sat down on a rock fairly close to them, and the male ended up getting pretty comfortable with me being there. Every time another hiker or group of hikers would pass he would duck into his crevice, but as soon as they would pass he would come back out and do a series of head bobs.

Imagechuckwalla3 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

So I was trying to come up with a way of showing the motion in the head bobs. If you look at any one frame I took of this male head-bobbing, (taken at a fast shutter speed), you really can’t tell the lizard was moving. So I tried blending several consecutive frames to illustrate the movement. I’m not really sure I like the result as well as I thought I would though. I think a slow shutter speed combined with a burst of flash at the end might have conveyed the motion better. But you have to try new stuff, and you have to get results that suck sometimes, in order to learn anything. Otherwise you just end up taking the same old crap over and over again.

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https://500px.com/photo/209254431/male-and-female-common-chuckwalla-by-bill-gorum

The female never did seem to get comfortable with me being there though, and I never saw more than just her head and front feet sticking out of the crevice.

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https://500px.com/photo/209254467/female-common-chuckwalla-by-bill-gorum

This is a different female, which seemed quite comfortable with me watching and photographing her. So there, I don’t strike out with all the girls!

After I finished hiking the canyon and ate some dinner I got a text from Jeff asking if I wanted to night hike for Night Lizards and leaf-toed Geckos. Naturally I said yes! On the way to the location where we were going to hike Jeff saw this Banded Gecko on the road.

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https://500px.com/photo/209400825/desert-banded-gecko-by-bill-gorum


Once we got to the spot the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped noticeably. The first herp we saw was a small Leaf-nosed Snake.

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https://500px.com/photo/209400827/spotted-leaf-nosed-snake-by-bill-gorum

When we first saw the snake it was just emerging from a burrow. I missed that shot and am still kicking myself! Jeff took the temperature of the ground next to the snake, and if I recall correctly, it was only 63 degrees.

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https://500px.com/photo/209400869/peninsula-leaf-toed-gecko-by-bill-gorum

No Night Lizards were seen, but we did get a couple Leaf-toed Geckos, which was pretty cool.

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https://500px.com/photo/209533791/northern-desert-nightsnake-by-bill-gorum

And a Night Snake hunting back in a crack.

That was my last night in the park unfortunately. On the way home I watched the world’s luckiest Diamond-back cross the road between cars speeding in both directions.

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https://500px.com/photo/209533873/western-diamond-backed-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/209657663/male-twin-spotted-spiny-lizard-by-bill-gorum

Back home. They always say its good to get back home. I suppose its true. I was certainly tired of cold hot dogs on tortillas!

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https://500px.com/photo/209785581/basking-big-bend-slider-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/209785583/great-egret-gulping-down-a-crayfish-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/209785693/male-great-tailed-grackle-rough-out-display-by-bill-gorum

Nothing says Bosque del Apache like a swarm of mosquitos!

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https://500px.com/photo/209926059/black-tailed-and-diamond-backed-rattlesnakes-by-bill-gorum

Late season den visit at the end of April.

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https://500px.com/photo/210060541/western-diamond-backed-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/210060543/western-diamond-backed-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/210216249/american-bittern-by-bill-gorum

I was driving the tour loop at Bosque del Apache one afternoon when this Bittern came walking up onto the levee road from one of the marshes. As soon as it saw me it assumed the position and froze. I didn’t bother telling the bird that this really doesn’t work when you’re in the open on a road instead of a cattail thicket.

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https://500px.com/photo/210216251/canada-goose-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/210216297/calling-male-red-winged-blackbird-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/210362723/calling-male-red-winged-blackbird-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/210362727/black-chinned-hummingbird-visiting-a-penstemon-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/210362771/mourning-cloak-butterfly-caterpillars-on-a-willow-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/210501167/black-phoebe-sayornis-nigricans-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/210501247/male-great-tailed-grackle-rough-out-display-by-bill-gorum

One thing that I am keenly aware that I do, (and I think other photographers do too), is I get stuck in the same way of doing things. Sometimes accidents can help me break out of that a little bit. The above Grackle picture is a small example of this. Typically my M.O. when confronted with a moving bird would be to set a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement and get a nice sharp picture. And that’s exactly what I did when I first started shooting this Grackle. I started shooting with my dx format camera, but soon realized the bird was close enough for me to fill the frame even with my fx camera, so I switched to it, but forgot to check the exposure settings. The fx camera was set to a relatively slow shutter speed, which was fast enough to freeze the bird’s head, (their heads are pretty much still at the peak of the display), but it blurred the fluttering wings. I definitely prefer the pictures with the motion blur!

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https://500px.com/photo/210634033/striped-skunk-by-bill-gorum

Business end of a skunk!

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https://500px.com/photo/210634035/striped-skunk-by-bill-gorum

Curious end!

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https://500px.com/photo/211222995/wasp-with-drowned-moths-by-bill-gorum

Cattle tank that was a death trap for moths, but apparently not for this wasp.

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https://500px.com/photo/211223057/eastern-collared-lizard-by-bill-gorum

On May 10th my friend john and I took a trip down to Sierra county. We started out hiking up one of my favorite canyons where we found this Collared Lizard.

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https://500px.com/photo/211298421/in-memoriam-by-bill-gorum

One of the things that I really like about this canyon is that it contains some pools of permanent water and has a population of Plains Leopard Frogs. On this day the only adult we saw was one lying dead on the bottom of a pool. I always worry when I find dead Leopard Frogs, because of the fact that chytrid fungus has wiped out many populations in New Mexico. I wanted to get a picture of the frog for documentary purposes, but the wind constantly buffeting the surface of the water would not allow for a clear shot. However, I liked the stained glass appearance produced by the refraction in the choppy surface. It seemed oddly appropriate.

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https://500px.com/photo/211298423/western-diamond-backed-rattlesnke-by-bill-gorum

As we were hiking out I saw this Diamondback drinking from the stream. Unfortunately, I saw the snake just about the same time as I saw John’s right foot go down onto the gravel a half meter away. This caused the snake to stop drinking, though it otherwise seemed unperturbed. John would have walked right passed it, (he was looking elsewhere), which makes me wonder how many snakes I’ve walked past without ever even knowing they were there.

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https://500px.com/photo/211365287/desert-striped-whipsnake-being-photographed-by-bill-gorum

When we were almost back to the car I saw this large Striped Whipsnake make a dash. I thought it was fleeing, but it didn’t go very far. When I came around to where it was I saw that it had captured a Checkered Whiptail. Unfortunately as soon as the snake saw John and I it let the Whiptail go and fled under a rock, from which John retrieved it for some pictures.

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https://500px.com/photo/211365285/eastern-black-tailed-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

We then started cruising for snakes and first up was this nice little Blacktail.

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https://500px.com/photo/211365343/chihuahuan-lyre-snake-by-bill-gorum

Once darkness fell we began cruising the pavement and we only got one snake, but it was a good one!

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https://500px.com/photo/211495939/common-checkered-whiptail-on-hot-ground-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/211496401/young-prairie-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/211562085/sonoran-gopher-snake-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/212179277/courting-black-necked-stilts-by-bill-gorum

A courting pair of Black-necked Stilts

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https://500px.com/photo/212246703/mating-black-necked-stilts-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/212307831/courting-black-necked-stilts-by-bill-gorum

Snuggling afterwards.

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https://500px.com/photo/212441085/desert-kingsnake-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/212503135/parent-pied-billed-grebe-feeding-chicks-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/212503141/canada-goose-family-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/212833111/pied-billed-grebes-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/212833113/american-bullfrog-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/212833189/american-coots-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/212973367/baby-american-coot-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/213108403/american-coot-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/213253093/mourning-dove-zenaida-macroura-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/213253095/female-twin-spotted-spiny-lizard-by-bill-gorum

On May 19th I stopped to watch this female Twin-spotted Spiny Lizard for a while. She would hang out in the shade next to a hiking trail where there were a bunch of Ground Bees nesting.

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https://500px.com/photo/213253153/female-twin-spotted-spiny-lizard-by-bill-gorum

Then she would periodically rush out onto the trail and pluck a larval Ground Bee from its burrow. I never did get the shot I wanted though, (the lizard with a larvae in her mouth being pulled from the burrow). That one’s been added to my “to shoot” list for future opportunities.

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https://500px.com/photo/213377483/american-bullfrog-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/213502323/female-long-nosed-leopard-lizard-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/213502327/western-painted-turtle-by-bill-gorum

Turtles can be frustrating to photograph. When you encounter them on land they invariably retreat into their shells. I have waited patiently for dozens of turtles in such situation to come out of their shells, only to have them stick one leg out, do a 180-degree turn, and walk away. In this case though I saw the turtle walking near the edge of a dried up marsh. About 10 meters ahead of it was a small stand of cottonwoods and willows. So I went around to the other side of the trees and lay down on the ground. It worked! Once the turtle cleared the trees it just continued ambling along straight towards me as if I wasn’t even there.

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https://500px.com/photo/214325015/greater-roadrunner-drinking-water-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/214325017/western-kingbird-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/214325507/western-meadowhawk-dragonflies-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/214430751/female-phainopepla-with-a-meal-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/214430783/soaptree-yucca-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/214430781/darkling-beetle-at-white-sands-national-monument-by-bill-gorum

At the end of May I made a trip to White Sands National Monument.

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https://500px.com/photo/214623603/bleached-earless-lizard-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/214681121/bleached-earless-lizard-by-bill-gorum

You know the animals you are watching are comfortable when they are just as likely to run towards you as away.

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https://500px.com/photo/214681123/bleached-earless-lizard-by-bill-gorum

A female Bleached Earless Lizard beginning to show her breeding coloration. You can also see a pretty clear bite mark from a male behind her left shoulder.

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https://500px.com/photo/214681157/bleached-earless-lizard-by-bill-gorum

A male checking out his territory.

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https://500px.com/photo/214822999/little-white-whiptail-by-bill-gorum

Male Little White Whiptail

The next series of pictures I wrote up for the Southwest Center for Herpetological Research Bulletin. Since its pretty time consuming to write these things up I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote for them here.

On the morning of May 30th 2017 I was hiking in the Alkali Flats area of White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. My goal for the morning was to find and photograph the endemic lizards that occur on the gypsum sand dunes.

At 11:10 am I observed a male and female Bleached Earless Lizard, (Holbrookia maculate ruthveni), in close proximity, (approximately .5 meters), to one another, near the edge of one of the vegetated inter-dune flats. The female had the orange and pink dorsal coloration that is typically developed in females of this species during the breeding season. According to Hager, (2001), low intensity coloration in females of this species indicate that the female is ovulating and is receptive to mating, while high intensity coloration indicates that she is already gravid and is not receptive to males. While I am unable to quantify the intensity of the coloration in the observed female, based on what I’ve seen previously in females of this species, I would say her color was of relatively low intensity. Also the time of year, (end of May), corresponds well with the time of year, (early June), when Hager found most females to contain unfertilized oviductal eggs and to posses what he described as low intensity coloration.

ImageGorum_170530_3612 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

Almost immediately after I first sighted the lizards the female began to display. This consisted of turning her body sidewise towards the male, raising her body high off of the ground, and raising her tail. I did not see the male display any head bobbing or pushups prior to the female’s display, but it is possible that he initiated the interaction before I observed them. The male appeared moderately interested in the female. First he approached her from behind, and then followed along side of her as she walked, stiff legged with tail up. After a short distance, (2-3 meters), the male moved outside of my field of view and the female continued to walk in the same manner and same posture for an additional 2 or 3 meters.

ImageGorum_170530_3631 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

I was watching all of this through a 500mm lens, so it is entirely possible that the male was still following her outside of my field of view. Once the female stopped the male soon reappeared in close proximity to her.

ImageGorum_170530_3648 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

At this point the female ran quickly and I lost sight of her in the camera. When I regained sight of the female she had captured a wasp, likely of the family Pompilidae, (Spider Wasps). She had the wasp only by a couple of its legs and it was clearly still alive and was observed to both sting and bite the female.

ImageGorum_170530_3652 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

At one point while the female Earless Lizard was shaking the wasp, (apparently in an effort to kill/dismember it), she lost grip of the wasp and threw it forward, again outside of my field of view through the camera. The female Earless Lizard then ran towards the wasp and the male with the male running right behind her.

ImageGorum_170530_3656 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

The female retrieved the wasp and the male, which was c.a. 20 cm behind her, began doing pushups.

ImageGorum_170530_3683 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

The female ran a short distance, (2-3 meters), and when I regained her location the male was biting her near her right shoulder and attempting to move into position for copulation. The female retained the wasp in her mouth. The male was able to get his right hind leg beneath the female’s tail but I am unsure whether or not intromission was achieved.

ImageGorum_170530_3782 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

Only seconds later the female arched the posterior part of her body upwards, throwing the male off. The male’s right hempene was at least partially everted.

ImageGorum_170530_3786 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

ImageGorum_170530_3788 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

The female moved about 30 cm away and continued trying to swallow the wasp. It appeared that the wasp was folded in her mouth in such a way that both its head and abdomen were facing anteriorly. I am unsure whether this made it difficult for the female to swallow the wasp, or whether perhaps the wasp was able to sting the female on the inside of the mouth, but after a couple minutes of attempting to swallow the wasp the female spit it out.

ImageGorum_170530_3847-2 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

Immediately after she did this, the male ran to her location and took possession of the wasp.

ImageGorum_170530_3867-2 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

The male was able to completely consume the wasp, (head first), in a time of about 10 seconds. At this point I ended my observations of these two lizards and continued hiking. Total elapsed time for the observations described here was approximately 8 minutes.

ImageGorum_170530_3875-2 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

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https://500px.com/photo/216177681/little-white-whiptail-foraging-for-camel-crickets-by-bill-gorum

After I left the Earless lizards I came upon this female Little White Whiptail digging. I figured she was probably digging a burrow to law eggs in, so I stopped and watched.

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https://500px.com/photo/216245519/little-white-whiptail-foraging-for-camel-crickets-by-bill-gorum


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https://500px.com/photo/216245521/little-white-whiptail-foraging-for-camel-crickets-by-bill-gorum

Turns out what she was actually doing was digging up a Camel Cricket. Perhaps one of the White Sands Interdune Sand-treader Camel Crickets, which has got to be one of the cooler common names I’ve ever encountered!

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https://500px.com/photo/216316909/little-white-whiptail-aspidoscelis-gypsi-by-bill-gorum

Then off she went!

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https://500px.com/photo/216316911/purple-sand-verbena-and-approaching-storm-by-bill-gorum

I went back that evening to shoot landscapes. Stormy sky meant no shadows on the dunes, no form, no texture, but they made up for that in other ways.

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https://500px.com/photo/216316945/darkling-beetle-feeding-on-yucca-flower-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/216687547/thunderstorm-from-white-sands-national-monument-by-bill-gorum

I can go back on virtually any evening and get the classic sunset on the dunes picture. This thunderstorm was raw, powerful, and beautiful, (and just a little bit scary)!

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https://500px.com/photo/216687579/bleached-earless-lizard-by-bill-gorum

The next morning I went out to try to photograph more lizard behavior, but the overcast skies from the night before were still hanging around and the Earless Lizards seemed to just want to bask, move to another spot, bask again, etc. While I wasn’t able to take the behavioral pictures I wanted, the light from the overcast skies was a nice change. Normally when you’re photographing lizards at White Sands the light is so bright that everything seems kind of washed out. This morning though there was some nice color and texture to everything.

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https://500px.com/photo/216805313/little-white-whiptail-by-bill-gorum

One thing I wanted to photograph were Little White Whiptail foraging up in the Soap-tree Yuccas. The first time I went to White Sands I heard lizards in the upper parts of yuccas and, expecting them to be Fence Lizards, I was surprised when they just as often turned out to be whiptails. I’ve never seen any other species of Whiptail climb like Aspidoscelis gypsi does. I wasn’t successful in getting the kinds of foraging pictures I wanted, but that just give me a good excuse to go back!

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https://500px.com/photo/216805315/little-white-whiptail-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/216805685/little-white-whiptail-by-bill-gorum

Another Little White Whiptail with a Camel Cricket. I think its interesting how these completely diurnal lizards seem to be targeting these completely nocturnal crickets.

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https://500px.com/photo/216937835/prairie-rattlesnake-crotalus-viridis-by-bill-gorum

The school where I teach wants me to teach AP Physics 1 next year so during the first week of June I had to attend an AP Summer Institute in Las Cruces. The conference was during the day, but I had evenings to myself. Naturally I went herping! I asked around and got several suggestions for places to go, but all the people that I asked recommended one place in particular, so that’s where I went. The first night I went the first snake of the evening was this small, pinkish Prairie Rattlesnake.

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https://500px.com/photo/216937835/prairie-rattlesnake-crotalus-viridis-by-bill-gorum

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https://500px.com/photo/217004483/northern-trans-peocos-ratsnake-by-bill-gorum

Next was this very nice Trans-pecos Ratsnake

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https://500px.com/photo/216937833/western-diamond-backed-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

And rounding out the evening was this Diamondback


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https://500px.com/photo/217004485/round-tailed-horned-lizard-by-bill-gorum

I went out again the next evening and found a couple Round-tailed Horned lizards before dark.

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https://500px.com/photo/217004497/western-diamond-backed-rattlesnake-by-bill-gorum

A Diamondback out in the rain.


ImageGorum_170607_4525 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

I also got a small Gopher Snake and a second Trans-pecos Ratsnake that night.

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https://500px.com/photo/217065017/couch-spadefoot-on-a-road-after-a-rain-by-bill-gorum

The rain also brought out a few Couch’s Spadefoots

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Female Desert Box Turtle by Bill Gorum on 500px.com

The last night I went out to the road it was rainy and noticeably cooler than the previous nights. I didn’t see any snakes, but before dark I saw this nice Box Turtle enjoying one of the puddles in the road.

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Female Bleached Earless Lizard in breeding color by Bill Gorum on 500px.com

After my conference was over I headed out to White Sands. (Its only about an hour drive from Las Cruces). My goal was to photograph landscapes that evening and then return in the morning to try to photograph Earless Lizards jumping up to catch insects in the grass and forbs there. That was a behavior I had observed when I was there at the end of May, but had not been successful in capturing. I started hiking a few hours before sunset and photographed this female then.

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Sunset, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico by Bill Gorum on 500px.com

(I just bought a new computer yesterday, and I noticed that the skies in these landscapes look too green. They seemed ok on my old laptop. My apologies if they look like that on your monitor too).

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Sunset at White Sands National Monument, New Mex. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com

The footprints in this picture are mine. I was walking along the crest of a large dune. The sand beneath my left foot was firm, but under my right it was soft and my right foot kept sinking and I’d kind of lurch to the right with every step. I finished my hike, went back to camp, and slept. The next morning my right hip hurt so badly I could barely stand up! That’s actually a lot of the reason I’m writing this post. I’ve been home resting and recovering and its gets pretty boring. This getting old crap is definitely not for wimps!

ImageGorum_170609_4819 by Bill Gorum, on Flickr

The end!


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 25th, 2017, 7:33 am 
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:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: Omg... I seriously can't get the smile off my face yet. That's like something out of a cartoon or something. Great photo sequence! :beer: I was shocked at the first shot of the wasp stinging the lizard's throat. Then to follow the set through to the end...sneaky little devil :lol:

Nice shots. I really like the artistic shots of the water and cactus, and the first shot of the male and female chuck. The one on the left blends in so well you hardly see it at first. Also, that shot of the deer jumping the ditch. Reminded me of my old skateboarding days. Nice shot :thumb: Amazing sandstorm as well


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 26th, 2017, 9:32 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
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Well Billy, I don't want to say I'm glad you hurt yourself, but...hey, whatever it takes to sit down and put something like this together! Ha ha. Yeah, getting old requires way, way, way more toughness than being young. Hello pain. Bye bye the consequence free lifestyle. It's different when you go into something knowing "man, this is gonna hurt later".

Your pistol ruber - there's just a few like that. Sure, most are mellow, but some are like an atrox, a scute, or a viridis. I'm sure you see the same thing with molossus, another species with a rep for chill but where you get the occasional "wants to bite you". I also think surprising him out on the crawl was a contributing factor - if he'd been happily stuffed in a crack, he might not have even rattled.

Wow, a teenager coot is an unlovely beast. The grebe chicks are darling though.

Amazing photos and travelogue as always. THANK YOU.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 26th, 2017, 9:40 am 
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Exceptional post as always. I adored the baby coots and grebes.

– Justin


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 26th, 2017, 1:29 pm 
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Location: Monterey Peninsula, CA
I was pretty sure my head was going to explode as I worked my way through this post. Your photos capture real nature in such beautiful ways.

Those fringe-toed lizards are not at all cooperative, are they? Little monsters.

I'm glad you found some cooperative desert iguanas and horned lizards in California. Horned lizards are the best. It's always wonderful to see one, and a real thrill to see one that's not moving or on the road.

Thanks very much for taking the time needed to put together your jaw-dropping posts!

John


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 26th, 2017, 6:45 pm 

Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am
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Fantastic post, I echo Ribbit's sentiment on the effort you obviously put into this. I appreciate you labelling all the photos especially the flora looks like it was a stunning bloom this year. I especially loved the Holbrookia series and the Phryno photos.
Thanks for sharing,
Nick


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 26th, 2017, 7:20 pm 
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Great post, I really enjoyed. Some very interesting lizard behaviors that you have seen.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 29th, 2017, 9:51 am 
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Posts: 645
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Amazing Bill!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and reliving our time together in early spring.
I shared a bunch of the photos with my boys. They really like the bleached earless lizards, and now they want to go to New Mexico. I'll be sure to let you know if we head out your way. It's possible we could go there before the end of summer...

Cheers,

Jeff


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: June 29th, 2017, 2:54 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Posts: 608
Location: Albuquerque, NM
SurfinHerp wrote:
Amazing Bill!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and reliving our time together in early spring.
I shared a bunch of the photos with my boys. They really like the bleached earless lizards, and now they want to go to New Mexico. I'll be sure to let you know if we head out your way. It's possible we could go there before the end of summer...

Cheers,

Jeff


That would be awesome Jeff. Definitely let me know if and when you guys come and what you would like to see. I definitely owe you one! (Actually more than one).


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 3rd, 2017, 8:03 pm 
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Posts: 93
So that's how you hurt your hip! But seriously great photos and post Bill. That lizard behavior really is something else at white sands and it's good to know there actually are beautiful snakes in NM and that it was just me. I might end up back in Santa Fe in early August with my friends family but I doubt they'd go any further south. Let me know if you ever end up in KY or the Southern Appalachians I might be able to help out with that cave salamander lifer.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 4th, 2017, 10:57 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Posts: 608
Location: Albuquerque, NM
kevin h wrote:
So that's how you hurt your hip! But seriously great photos and post Bill. That lizard behavior really is something else at white sands and it's good to know there actually are beautiful snakes in NM and that it was just me. I might end up back in Santa Fe in early August with my friends family but I doubt they'd go any further south. Let me know if you ever end up in KY or the Southern Appalachians I might be able to help out with that cave salamander lifer.


Hey Kevin,

It wasn't you, it was the time of year and the weather. The end of June is the hottest, driest time of year here, and it can be pretty tough to find many snakes. If you're able to get out when you come to Santa Fe in August you should do a lot better! What's the bet time of year for your area?


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 5th, 2017, 5:37 am 
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"We're not worthy. We're not worthy."

As always, Bill, besides the diversity, script, in situ pics, and picture quality, your eye for aesthetics is excellent, a quality that escapes many of us creatons when photographing the wild!

:thumb: :thumb: :thumb:


Though it would be tough to pic a favorite, I must say for all the Pied Billed Grebes my wife and I have seen, we've never seen chicks up close! (pied-billed-grebe-feeding-chicks-by-bill-gorum)


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 7th, 2017, 6:02 pm 
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We'll only be there for one weekend between July 20th and August 10th. So right in the middle of the monsoons and hopefully I'll get another chance at Jemez.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 8th, 2017, 4:32 am 
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Awesome stuff all around. Has the observation of whiptails digging up camel crickets been previously documented? It's fascinating.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 11th, 2017, 7:56 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
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Location: Albuquerque, NM
chris_mcmartin wrote:
Awesome stuff all around. Has the observation of whiptails digging up camel crickets been previously documented? It's fascinating.


Chris, I don't know if its been documented or not. It is certainly not uncommon for whiptails of other species to dig up prey. I've observed that behavior in Aspidoscelis marmorata and A. tesselata that I can remember right off the top of my head.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 12th, 2017, 2:13 pm 
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Stunning!!!!!!!!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 14th, 2017, 4:14 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
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Will Wells wrote:
Stunning!!!!!!!!!!


Thanks Will! You would be the guy to ask, so I'll ask, any advice on photographing Fringe-toed lizards?


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 Post subject: Re: Spring 2017 New Mexico, (and a little California)
PostPosted: July 16th, 2017, 1:26 pm 
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Just amazing, I'm really blown away!


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