My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

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AndyO'Connor
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My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 2nd, 2013, 10:47 am

OK so technically this all started on August 28th, but it was still my best September to date. Last year at the NAFHA National Meeting at Snake Road, passing a bottle around the campfire, Tim Warfel looked at Mack and I and said, "You boys like Me-xi-co?!". At first I thought he was just quoting Super Troopers, but soon realized he was talking about a trip. It took very little convincing for us to commit, and we had about 10 months of anticipation. When we landed, it was a bit overcast, with impending tropical storms ready to hit Los Cabos that night, and after meeting up with Alex Krohn and Marisa Ishimatsu at the airport, we made it to our hotel in Cabo San Lucas.

This would be our home base for the group for the first few nights. I liked the place, the manager was really friendly and knowledgable, there were tons of house geckos running around at night, and it was in a decent location for great food and herping opportunities.
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Speaking of food, this place earned our business with delicious burritos, and we ate there at least 5 times.

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There was also a decently priced bar right by the hotel, that had a home-made "tequila" that tasted more like caramel-apple sugar juice.

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I got excited about going cruising the first night before the rest of the crowd started to trickle in, and although the other 3 weren't so keen, based on the forecast, and the local expert (the hotel manager) saying it was a bad idea to leave as the storm was going to hit by 10 pm, we went out anyways. It was a scary stupid idea, and I took video footage, but haven't uploaded it. We never made it out of the city and turned around and made it a 30 minute river tour of Cabo San Lucas... After we got back to the bar, here's a few shots of the carnage.

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The next morning.

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Between the taco shop and the hotel was a little boulder field that was fenced off. We saw at least 3 species of lizard including spiny tail iguanas, long-tailed brush lizards, and side-blotched lizards. Here's a male brush lizard showing off.

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We decided to walk along the rocks near the beach and see what else we could find. Here's a pic mele of the lizards found.

Sceloporus
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Petrosaurus
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Another Sceloporus
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Ctenosaur
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Some scenery and beach antics

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Mack showed off his noose prowess

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Orange-throat
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zebra-tail showdown
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winner!

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Beautiful sunsets were par for the course.

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Road cruising every night produced many cool finds that were photographed the next morning each day then released, and we found a nice river in a canyon and more red-spotted toads than you could imagine. It was a deafening daytime chorus and was done when we returned a couple days later. Here's a few shots from that area, as well as some snakes that were road cruised.

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I was trying to get a nice wide-angle shot of a male toad calling, when this stupid garter snake crawled in and messed up my shot.

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Giant whiptail. I called them ameivas.

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A few spadefoots turned up amongst all of the red-spotted toads we saw on the trip, here's a couple different ones.

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A night hike produced all 3 species of rattlesnake and a few other finds, and Tim Borski had the eye for ruber coiled under bushes.

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A team work style photo shoot. Notice the beers, crucial to the process.

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More snakes from hiking and cruising.

Rosy boa

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Enyo

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Lyre snakes

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Cape gopher snake (my favorites)

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A large speck

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Coachwhips

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patchnose

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desert iggy

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Another beautiful Sceloporus

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And some more beach searching and antics

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A sea lion and a pirate ship!

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Another Sceloporus

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In one city, we stayed at what we all have decided to call "The sex hotel". There was a mirror on the ceiling, contraceptives and supplies on the bedside tables, a room service menu with such items as spaghetti, cheeseburgers, lube, Viagra, and alcohol, a nighlt rate as well as an hourly one, and finally, free adult tv, only two clicks up from when the tv was turned on.

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More road cruising and hiking, and more awesome animals.

More vertebralis

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kingsnakes

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Caracaras were a new raptor for me.

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We found this awesome coast horned lizard on a desolate paved road.

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And then it was time for the fun part. Are you ready for the fun part? We took a LONG boat ride to a particular island. There were dolphins on the way. no big deal.

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I have a video on my facebook of this part, but I will have to add it later, it's pretty neat.

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We went to this particular island, in search of a particular snake dubbed cascabel sin cascabel. We found a couple. I was just happy to see one of each color form. Thanks to a storm front moving in, 11 excellent herpers with keen eyes all searching, and a stroke of luck, we were able to turn up a couple animals. Although the habitat LOOKED flat from the beach, it was deceivingly uneven, and the miriad of endemic plants all seemed to tear my flesh from my forearms and shins.

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This snake was crawling across my path, and crawled into this position on its own, I never touched it.

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An island paradise sunset.

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Speaking of a storm, as it moved in, activity picked up, and I found MY highlight find of the trip, a blind snake, on the crawl. Studies indicate that this IS an endemic. It wouldn't hold still for me and this is the only shot where the whole snake is in the frame. I like Marisa's shots of it better.

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I just got a DSLR this year, and as the storm picked up, I realized I could try to get some lightning shots. Other than rain drops on the lens spoiling a couple, I got the hang of it (after about 2000 shots, I got about 40 keepers)

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I liked that in some shots there were so many lightning strikes around us that my shots came out like a landscape in the afternoon even though it was after 2 am.

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Many other endemic lizards were seen and photographed, but here's one of the last shots I took before we headed back to the mainland, an Isla Santa Catalina chuck

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Road cruising was the plan for the remainder of the trip, and as my car full of people wasn't present for the ajolete, I focused on trying to find snakes not often found. When road cruising, you can't really FOCUS on such a find, other than being in the right area. Our group of cars obviously was as we turned up multiple sand snakes of varying patterns and colors, Slevin's night snakes, and other cool critters.

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Slevin's night snake
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leafnose snake

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Multiple baja rats including this beast.

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a leaf toed gecko

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a banded gecko

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We looked for baja collared lizards in the southern part of their range, and succeeded.

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We saw a large nice looking male but he escaped before photos were possible. Here's a consolation brush lizard with a lot of blue.

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I wanted to give the pacific side of baja its fair shot at producing as there are a few species in baja sur that occur more on the pacific side such as ruber ruber, mid-baja gopher snakes, and peninsular glossy snakes. We found all 3 in one night, as well as a few other discoveries. The glossy snake was my big target, as it is near the southern part of their pacific range, and the one we found had a meal in its belly, which is of interest as there is little to no literature on their breeding or feeding habits.

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A funky looking lyre snake, a range "confirmation" as it isn't necessarily an extension, but was RIGHT on the edge of the range maps. Interesting habitat too, not many rock piles, mostly flat desert, but not TOO far from a river valley.

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That pretty much concludes the trip to Baja, next up was the NAFHA trip, which I headed to a week early to go to South Carolina for a Diamondback Terrapin Group conference. I already posted these shots in the NAFHA post, but included them here just in case.

Here's a few shots, including one of the williamengelsi that was found while I and others were camping with Tim.

A sunset view from John's Island, SC where my trip began with the Diamondback terrapin working group meeting.

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Whit Gibbons giving his introductory talk

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A nice corn snake from down there found on my first night, posed the next morning.

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A southern black racer in situ

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Went cruising again that night and found a really pretty southern copperhead. First two are as found before it started moving again.

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Seining for terrapins was the name of the game on the last day of the meeting. It was actually pretty physically demanding.

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SCORE!

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Drove back up to NC and camped at a place in the middle of nowhere, and was threatened with being shot for not checking in before taking the tent out of the trunk... Woke up to this.

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I love that you can just drive down the road and see a miriad of turtles in the ditches. Here's a painted.

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Went looking for red pygmys and found a couple (17) but here's my favorite two.

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This SE five-lined skink ate a spider right in front of me and John, it was a highlight of the trip for me.

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The aforementioned Carolina water snake.

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A redbelly water, although the prettiest one escaped my camera, seriously it was flourescent orange and red, top to bottom, head to tail, and over 3 feet long.

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A squirrel treefrog

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This lynx spider was right in my face and I'm glad I didn't touch it, I put my snake hook near it and you could hear and feel the bites on the metal. Rightfully so, she was protecting her eggs.

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A worm snake that I found on the crawl when our car stopped to check on what tree frogs were crossing the road, as I was walking back to the car, I noticed a shiny squiggle in the needles and leaves on the shoulder.

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A canebrake found by our car.

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And on my way home, while getting gas and vacuuming out the car, I heard a frog call I was not familiar with. 20 minutes later with a one-step-at-a-time stalk in the dark, I got 2 images of a Brimley's chorus frog before it ducked under the grasses.

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I found a lot of the same stuff already posted, but wanted to offer a few images of new animals. It was a great trip for me.

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justinm
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by justinm » October 2nd, 2013, 11:51 am

Andy,

You're a world class herper man. Great post I really really enjoyed it and wished I had time to get out more than I do these days.

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IllinoisGuy
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by IllinoisGuy » October 2nd, 2013, 12:10 pm

Wow, Mexico has some incredible stuff. Sweet post!

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Norman D
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Norman D » October 2nd, 2013, 12:22 pm

Love the speck!

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 2nd, 2013, 12:59 pm

We turned up a few mitch mitch, but it certainly was not the most common snake seen and we had a lot more eyes and cars doing the searching. I definitely plan on going back.

Jimi
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Jimi » October 2nd, 2013, 1:41 pm

How about enyo? Those guys can turn up in great numbers but it doesn't look like they did so for you all. Looks like you rocked it on the ruber though - congrats.
In one city, we stayed at what we all have decided to call "The sex hotel".
Funny. Was it one of those outskirts-of-town jobs with the individual garages with closing doors, all inside a walled compound? I've found those to be a pretty good choice - clean (clean-looking, anyway), always with AC, hot water and TV, all for a pretty good price. A local middle-class price, not a tourist price.

thanks for the vicarious herping pleasure

Jimi

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Blacktail31
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Blacktail31 » October 2nd, 2013, 2:14 pm

That was..................... AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 2nd, 2013, 2:25 pm

Jimi wrote:How about enyo? Those guys can turn up in great numbers but it doesn't look like they did so for you all. Looks like you rocked it on the ruber though - congrats.
In one city, we stayed at what we all have decided to call "The sex hotel".
Funny. Was it one of those outskirts-of-town jobs with the individual garages with closing doors, all inside a walled compound? I've found those to be a pretty good choice - clean (clean-looking, anyway), always with AC, hot water and TV, all for a pretty good price. A local middle-class price, not a tourist price.

thanks for the vicarious herping pleasure

Jimi
We got a few enyo, I think maybe 8-12? Maybe more, once we'd seen a couple individuals of a given species, a lot of people stopped keeping track of this or that species and only brought back new stuff, or exceptionally colored/sized individuals. I don't have the individual species counts, but I know we saw 51 species/subspecies.

As far as the hotel, yes that nails the description, except it wasn't on the outskirts of town, it was right smack dab in the middle of a medium sized non-touristy town.

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Norman D
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Norman D » October 2nd, 2013, 6:59 pm

AndyO'Connor wrote:We turned up a few mitch mitch, but it certainly was not the most common snake seen and we had a lot more eyes and cars doing the searching. I definitely plan on going back.
Do you have more photos of the other mitch mitch?

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by MattSullivan » October 2nd, 2013, 7:32 pm

17 red pygmies?! im only slightly jealous...awesome month, great job

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Antonsrkn » October 2nd, 2013, 7:40 pm

Damn, this confirms I need to get over to Baja pronto! Great finds and post!

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M Wolverton
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by M Wolverton » October 2nd, 2013, 10:47 pm

Busy month! Awesome!

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 3rd, 2013, 6:18 am

Norm, I didn't upload any other speck shots (and only photographed one other animal) so we may need to wait and see if anyone else makes a post at some point. We had talked about making a group post at one point or another, I just got caught up in editing and uploading and it seemed like the next step was there to put it into a post. There are a lot of animals I saw but didn't photograph, and a few I photographed and didn't post, and I know that members of the group have awesome shots to make more posts. I will upload a shot of the little grayish speck our car found one night, it's the only other one I have shots of.

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 3rd, 2013, 7:51 am

Marisa has some AWESOME herp in habitat shots on her flickr here http://www.flickr.com/photos/marisa_ishimatsu/ and will likely upload more as she gets to them. And I'm sure we will see something awesome from other members of the team in time. This trip was 12 days long for me, and nearly as long for everyone else, and thousands of pictures were taken by most of us, so it may be a little longer.

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by SurfinHerp » October 3rd, 2013, 8:23 am

Terrific post Andy :beer:

Love all the Baja reptiles - especially the rosy boa!

Did anyone manage to capture an adult blue rock lizard during your trip? That would be impressive!

Jeff

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 3rd, 2013, 8:29 am

No, none of the rock lizards were captured, and they had lost their breeding colors, although some still had some brilliant blue spots, none were like the one on Grismer's book cover. I think they can be captured with a better approach, we had a long noose but were going after them mid afternoon, and only one long noose amongst several people, with one or two more long nooses, we'd had a shot at a couple.

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Crazins » October 3rd, 2013, 3:05 pm

Norm: Here's one of the two specs I shot. The other shot is kinda crappy, but it's on my flickr site.

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Mitch mitch by Marisa.Ishimatsu, on Flickr

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Joshua Jones
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Joshua Jones » October 4th, 2013, 2:45 am

Great stuff, Andy. I've always wanted to visit that "particular island" to photograph that "particular snake." All of my experience in Baja has been fishing. Love seeing these kinds of posts.

BTW, only 17 pygmies? You poor guy. (I hate you. :lol: )

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Matt Cage » October 4th, 2013, 7:27 am

Andy

Was great fun and I really enjoyed your pix!

Until next time......

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Roki » October 4th, 2013, 8:50 am

Great post, awesome pics! Makes me want to go check out Mexico.
Roki

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by justinm » October 4th, 2013, 11:04 am

I have to say I just went through this again. This was EPIC dude. Thanks so much for putting it together. Great posts like this are what make this site the best.

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » October 5th, 2013, 10:49 am

Here's a phone pic of the little grey speck we cruised.

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by ErikNM » October 5th, 2013, 5:56 pm

Awesome Andy! I am slowly getting around to editing my photos of the trip, was good to herp with you and everyone else!

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Nshepard » October 5th, 2013, 6:54 pm

Wow. Cool shit all around!

And as a crote person I feel weird saying this but my favs were the Lyre Snakes, Leafnose, and of course that freaking Baja Ratsnake! Great landscapes!

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Norman D
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Norman D » October 7th, 2013, 1:18 am

Thanks Marisa and Andy! Cool specks.

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Mike Pingleton » October 31st, 2013, 12:03 pm

Nice job, Andy! You got some great shots. Always nice to see the trip thru someone else's camera :)

-Mike

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by moloch » November 1st, 2013, 4:25 pm

What a wonderful set of photos, Andy. You guys found some exciting species. The banded geckos there were incredible. Are they a different species to those in the US or just a different race?

Great report!
David

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by Tonia Graves » November 3rd, 2013, 2:44 pm

Wow! You got some great stuff here! I would love to check out Mexico some time but am not brave enough...working alongside the Border Patrol for the last 5+ years makes me too aware of the issues down there. Hopefully you all didn't run into any problems.

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AndyO'Connor
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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by AndyO'Connor » November 7th, 2013, 7:21 am

No issues Tonia, other than a couple "traffic violations" or "roadside donations" to the locale law enforcement. Baja Sur really seemed completely safe and I think it is very different than the border areas most of us are worried about.

David, they are the same species as the ones in the SW US although they are a different subspecies of western.

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by TimCO » November 7th, 2013, 12:51 pm

There's some nice shots in here. Good times.

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Re: My BEST September ever. (pic overload >120 shots)

Post by TravisK » November 8th, 2013, 9:58 am

Wow Andy! Looks like a lot of fun was had. Some of your shots are really nice, you are getting very good with that camera.

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