Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

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PNWHerper
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Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by PNWHerper » July 7th, 2013, 7:47 pm

Hello all,

Another crazy roadtrip to collect data for the up and coming Herp Tracking book has come to a close. It was an epic, 3 weeks trip which included myself and 2 close friends camping out in the open every night. Just us on pads sleeping out under the stars. It was truly an awesome trip, and though it was focused on intensive herping, it included many other rewarding experiences.

I want to thank all the people who helped make the trip happen, especially Jeff (Surfin'Herp) who was a major supporter and even allowed us to stay at his place for 2 nights. Jeff you are a very generous, good-hearted man and a great field herper to boot. Thank you. And thanks to everyone who has clued me in to various species and locations throughout the desert lands. You advice has been very appreciated and was well used on this trip.

Sorry to all those folks who would have liked to meet up in the field this time. Minus our 2 days in San Diego and my commitment in New Mexico, we had to remain on a very fluid schedule due to the demands of data collection and all that influences the process.

We traveled a route that included: starting in CA, going to SE NV for a short time, back to CA deserts and east to AZ, then NM, and finally UT.

Here are the photos in roughly chronological order...

A friendly Mojave fringe-toed lizard(Uma scoparia) photographed in situ.

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Guess who... ;)

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A nice male chuck' (Sauromalus ater) on red sandstone. I noticed the males from this location are much paler and less red than from locals further west and south.

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Petroglyphs that include what I suspect might be a chuckwalla track amongst them...

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A location and the kind of substrate that herp trackers dream about. Observed here were tracks of : desert iguana, chuckwalla, desert banded gecko, tiger whiptail, desert tortoise, white-tailed antelope ground squirrel, desert kangaroo rat, badger and much more.

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Then we traveled back toward the western portion of the Mojave to some different locations.

You know its a hot day when Western fence lizard(Sceloporus occidentalis) are panting. This one hanging out right by an oasis, along with...

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A female S. uniformis:

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And male, Yellow-backed spiny lizard(Sceloporus uniformis).

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Also seen along the trail was a total of 7 Great Basin collared lizards(Crotaphytus bicinctores). Here are some of the better shots.

An individual with an extra long tail, and its close up.

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This one was flipped...And she was nice enough to leave me a shed for the book. ;)

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And this one was just a really nicely colored male.

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Also, along the path my friend spotted this master of camo...let me know when you see it. Its a D. dorsalis.

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A bit later, I found my first Desert threadsnake (L. humilis).

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Along with a nice looking shovel-nosed snake (Chionactis occipitalis).

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On another day, we also found 2 nice looking Great Basin gophersnakes (Pituophis catenifer deserticola).

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I suspect this second one is an intergrade with the Sonoran gophersnake (P. c. affinis). The range seemed right for it, as it was down about 20 miles into the Colorado desert.

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Here is another fun ID challenge for you, who is this...

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And, where is the long-tailed brush lizard (Urosaurus graciosus)??

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Here is a close up...

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And here is a fun landscape shot from not to far away...

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And a parting shot from that locale... my friend sporting the new trend, ankle bracelet a la (L. g. californiae). The snake placed itself there, believe it or not. Did not want to be on the ground.

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Further on, we encountered a random dragon attack. It does happen in the Colorado desert sometimes...

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And found some local critters in some sandy areas...

First, this lovely Colorado Desert Fringe-toed lizard (Uma notata).

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And some legless locals...

Desert glossy snake (Arizona elegans eburnata).

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And 2 coachwhips (Coluber flagellum piceus) in 2 days, both found via following tracks in the sand.

The first...

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And the second...

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A few lovely sunsets from there abouts...

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And a shot of the Super Full Moon... Bright enough to read by.

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Then over to visit Jeff on the SD side of the mountains and on the blessedly cooler, moister coast of CA. A stop at the SD Natural History Museum was an excellent way to spend an afternoon!

I was allowed to photograph this gecko in a nice little studio set up. Check out those awesome toes!

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And a look at the herp skulls collection, which was really eye popping!

(Coluber flagellum piceus).

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(Atrox ruber)

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(Heloderma suspectum)

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(Macrochelys temminckii)

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And the always smiling (Chelus fimbriata).

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Jeff took us to a sweet local coastal spot where we spotted this lovely critter:

(Masticophis lateralis)

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And we all had a ridiculously awesome time watching and photographing a juvenile peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) practicing hunting. It first targeted multiple gulls...

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A Caspian tern...

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And even a brown pelican!

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And all around was showing of for us adoring fans. We cheered loudly like spectators at a football game. It was pretty exciting! :shock: :thumb:

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After spending some quality time with Jeff, his family (human and herp alike), we were off for AZ. Wish we had more time with you, Jeff. Thanks again, friend! :beer:

Look for more in part 2. This post has gotten big enough as it is. Hope you enjoyed viewing some of the highlights. More good things to come in the next installment.

Thanks all!

:beer:

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JAMAUGHN
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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by JAMAUGHN » July 8th, 2013, 8:55 am

Fil,

Excellent post. What a great array of animals, and quite an engaging narrative, as well. The Peregrine shots were among my favorites, as was the dragon attack. Too many good herps to single any out.

Thanks for sharing this, and I'm looking forward to Part 2!
JImM

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by TravisK » July 9th, 2013, 9:48 am

Very Nice!

Looks like a great trip so far, can't wait to see the rest.

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by Brian Eagar » July 9th, 2013, 5:24 pm

Nice tour but what part of this was in Utah?

Great shot of that falcon. That would have been awesome to see it hunting the gulls.

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by SurfinHerp » July 9th, 2013, 11:22 pm

Great post Fil! Glad you survived the desert heat, even though your phone couldn't.

My family and I really enjoyed your visit. Hope we can host you again next year 8-)


Got any more good photos of the gophersnakes and kingsnake? I love those Great Basins and black & white kings.


I'm guessing your mystery lizard is a zebratail, right?


Here are some shots I took of you, Jeremy and Ted out in the field...

J Bob with a coachwhip
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Recording tracks at the coast
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Three Amigos
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Birding with boas
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I'm planning to be up your way from 7/31 - 8/4. Let's find a time to cruise some roads together!

Looking forward to Part 2...

Jeff

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by PNWHerper » July 11th, 2013, 6:13 pm

Thanks are for looking and for the great comments! :thumb:

Jeff,

Your photo additions are excellent! :beer: Great shot of JBob with the Coachwhip!

Great memories from the coast. Thanks for those.

Here is part II:

http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=16887

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by Aaron » July 20th, 2013, 9:28 pm

I guess that the lizard is a rock lizard(Petrosaurus mearnsi).

Were those rosy boas found that close to the coast? Or from an island?

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by PNWHerper » July 23rd, 2013, 6:06 pm

Here are some youtube videos for all of you to enjoy. Just short snippets of different herp encounters along the way on this trip.
























Hmm. Not sure why the youtube links aren't working out... Any suggestions?

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by PNWHerper » December 15th, 2013, 9:12 pm

Regarding the mystery questions in the post...

The first one, "Guess who?" is a Desert banded gecko.

The second one is a Zebra-tailed lizard.

Any luck finding the hidden lizards yet? Let me know when you see them.

Of all the states I have had the pleasure to get to know and to herp in, California remains my favorite. Miss those desert landscapes!

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 16th, 2013, 1:05 am

PNWHerper wrote:Hmm. Not sure why the youtube links aren't working out... Any suggestions?
Removing the "s" in "https" might help.

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by monklet » December 16th, 2013, 12:48 pm

Fantastic stuff :thumb: That coachwhip seems a bit unusual, like it's lacking red pigment. Tail appears so white.

The caption for the threadsnake and the shovel-nosed seems to imply you found those during the day? Flipped?, dugout?

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by PNWHerper » December 16th, 2013, 3:49 pm

Monklet,
Fantastic stuff :thumb: That coachwhip seems a bit unusual, like it's lacking red pigment. Tail appears so white.

The caption for the threadsnake and the shovel-nosed seems to imply you found those during the day? Flipped?, dugout?
Thank you! That coachwhip was rather unique, with a very pallid color overall, rather whitish gray.

I think we could have found a few more in that area, as the tracking there was really productive. Our time ran out though and we had to move on. Next time I am in that area, I will hit up that spot again.

Coachwhips are so variable. I wonder if there is any evidence of more pallid forms being more common in very open habitats?

The threadsnake and shovel-nosed were both road cruised at night. We did find what I believe was threadsnake tracks in one spot (and they certainly looked extremely similar to the tracks we got from that one specimen). Also, we followed many shovel-nosed snakes to burrows. One spot in particular had 3 or 4 shovel-nosed snake trails of about the same age going down the same hole!

Yes, we could have dug them up. I was, however, wanting to minimum stress and disturbance to the animals. Destroying their night-time safe haven just so I could see them seemed like a very selfish practice. A guiding principle on this project is "Do no harm, and minimize disturbance." At least to the best of our ability.

We also trailed what I believe to be a pair of courting coachwhips to the mouth of a mostly plugged up badger burrow. Again, yes we could have tried digging them out, but that seemed disrespectful. Both to the snakes, and the possible badger that might be still using that burrow!! :D

Here is that crazy looking trail, for your viewing enjoyment:

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by monklet » December 20th, 2013, 10:07 pm

Thanks much for the detailed explanation. I very much appreciate your unwillingness to dig things up. I'm even pretty ambivalent about turning stones. Your mastery of tracking snakes is highly intriguing, especially your success at actually finding them by that means.

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Re: Trip Completed (Part I - CA)

Post by PNWHerper » December 21st, 2013, 11:21 pm

Thank you Monklet,
Thanks much for the detailed explanation. I very much appreciate your unwillingness to dig things up. I'm even pretty ambivalent about turning stones. Your mastery of tracking snakes is highly intriguing, especially your success at actually finding them by that means.
There has been a handful of species during the production of this book I have missed. The situations in which collecting the tracks or sign from the animals would have been to high stress for the animals. I just let them be. Some of those were very frustrating, but ultimately the right decision.

A major intention of this project for me was to help others improve their personal relationships with herps. Seems like hypocrisy if I do that by cause them harm, directly or indirectly.

There have been some situations where I moved an animal to a nearby location which had better substrate, then promptly returned it where found. Generally though, I tried to avoid this whenever possible.

There are several layers to learning tracks which are involved. One is to simply learn the track morphology. Another words, the way the foot is built and how it registers on the substrate (be it sand, mud, clay or dust). Another is trail pattern. Trail patterns are best recorded from animals that are very relaxed and allowed to follow their pace and natural rhythm of choice. Displacing an animal from where it was found definitely can alter that, which makes moving them less than ideal for that reason as well.

So, there are the situations where I find an animal making a trail right in front of me... or find a fresh trail, follow and find the animal... or find an animal in a place it is not making any tracks and encourage it to make them where they will register.

The last method takes really patience, if you are going to let them relax. I once waited 4 hours for a mud turtle in Florida to decide it wanted to move! :sleep: But, I am very patient. And I have learned that if you treat the animals with great care and respect, and mind your energy many will be very relaxed around you.

Regarding success at finding snakes via trails, its just a matter of practice. Tracking just takes lots of field time. I think some folks get irritated with me here because I don't log thousands of vouchers a year, or even hundreds. Why? Cause I can spend all day following one animal around! :lol:

But through that process, I learn more about that animal's behavior in a day of following it than if I had logged 100 vouchers of that same species but not really spent much time with it. Not to say vouchers aren't really important, and we should not collect them. No doubt they hold some considerable scientific value, especially in terms of range and to some degree abundance.

My personal relationship with herps is being fascinated with their behaviors. I don't just want to know their names, I want to know what makes them tick.

But, its a slow process and I think some just don't have the patience for it. I have followed many snake trails to dead ends. But, overtime my success rate has gone up considerably since i now know what trails are worth the time to pursue and which will lead no where.

I'd love to do a trip in a few years when I can take a bunch of So Cal folks from the forum out to a place like Kelso Dunes or some similar place and train them up on tracking skills. When I have the funds and the free time again, I will definitely let people know. Whoever is interested, would be most welcome.

I have been feeling really grateful for all of the folks here that have been very generous with their time and even some of their secrets to help me along with this book. When I have a chance, I will give back to as many of them as I can. It might be a few years, but I'd like to make it happen.

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