Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

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SurfinHerp
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Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

Post by SurfinHerp » July 22nd, 2014, 1:46 am

Hey There Everyone,

I’ve been spending most of my spare time out in the field trying to check off the final few reptiles and amphibians on my San Diego County life list. I’ve also played host for some visitors to SD and herped just for fun with friends and family.

Here is a list of the species I’ve been searching for the most this year:
- Red-sided gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis infernalis)
- Peninsular banded gecko (Coleonyx switaki)
- Cope’s leopard lizard (Gambelia copeii)
- Flat-tailed horned lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii)
- Sandstone night lizard (Xantusia gracilis)

All of these have proven to be very difficult for me to locate, but I have seen a couple of them so far. Along the way, I’ve found and photographed a wide diversity of other, more common herps. I haven’t shared many of my photos since the end of February, so this post ended up being extra long. I’ve tried to put everything in chronological order.
Hope you appreciate at least a few of the photos!


March


Imperial County desert trip with my close friend Dave P. and our four kids…

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Early-season search for Cope’s leopard lizard…

Legless lizard
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Western skink
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Ring-necked snake
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Searching for red-sided garters in northern SD County…

Legless lizard
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This small gophersnake was the first snake I found on the crawl this year
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Nice-looking fence lizard
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Herping my favorite coastal canyon…

I found this California glossy snake under a large piece of bark I laid out last Fall
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It was buried in the sand and I only found it after I grabbed for a Gilbert’s skink that bolted into a small hole. The glossy was only about 8” from the hole, and I accidentally uncovered it while sifting for the skink.

Here’s a different Gilbert’s skink that I found a little later on that day
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Herping southern SD with Will F. and both of our families…

Brady’s still learning how to properly hold a snake
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Here’s the king posed on a rock
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Alligator lizard in the grass
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A black-headed snake
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Road side red diamond rattlesnake
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Herping southern SD County with Nate S. (Nature Nate) and Will F. (Fieldnotes)…

Habitat shot of our first stop
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This SD banded gecko was one of our main targets
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My best-ever photo of an orange-throated whiptail!
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We found a legless lizard and a gopher snake at our second locale
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Will and I camped overnight in the desert, while Nate had to return home in the PM.

The next few photos show the habitat where Will and I searched in the morning, without much luck
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A quick day trip to the mountains…


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Pair of black-headed snakes
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Then a third one only yards away
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Plus a striped racer
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Clearing the stables…

I moved these two small helleri out into the hills and away from the horses
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This one was already at a safe distance, so no need to bother it
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An afternoon down in ” SeedRow”…

Spadefoot tadpole
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Small kingsnake
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Coiling nightsnake
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Long drive through the County…


This little migrant had just crossed the border from Mexico
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My first of many road-cruised shovel-nosed snakes this year
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A desert banded gecko
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Intergrade Sonoran/San Diego gophersnake
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Back at my favorite coastal canyon again…

Alligator lizard closeup
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Red diamond rattler as found crawling through a bush and over a rock
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It took a few years, but I finally found a rosy boa here!
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Exploring the mountains in northern SD County…


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Baja CA treefrog swimming
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Sagebrush lizard
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Nice, big ‘gator lizard, as found
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April


Berdoo Boys Birthday Bash – San Diego edition…

Jim B. (Hellihooks) and Josh C. (GeckoGuy) get together every year on their shared birthday for a full day of herping. My b-day is only two days prior to theirs, so I offered to show them around and help them look for their lifer San Diego mountain kingsnakes and large-blotched ensatinas.

Here’s Josh and Jim with the first mountain king
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We found a bunch of western skinks
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Our second mtn. king
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Josh with his double-flipped lifer zonatas!
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This one was the most attractive and had a cool head pattern
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Just a boring gopher snake
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The largest of two large-blotched ensatinas found on the day
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Two tough guys and a nice dude
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All three of us ended up finding at least one mountain king, but only Josh and I found ensatinas. We’ll get your large-blotched next time Jim!




A day in the mountains with the boys…

Trevor enjoying the stream
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Two-striped garter snake spotted by Brady
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Decent-looking gopher snake
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Family camping trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park…


I led a group of kids and some parents on a road-cruising adventure through the flats outside the Park both nights we were there.

Here’s what we saw on Friday night:

Desert banded gecko
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Shovel-nosed snake
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The kids were really excited about finding this desert iguana that was trying to sleep on the road
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Saturday AM hike up the canyon

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Brady approaching the palm oasis
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Side-blotched lizards were out in relatively low numbers
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Found my SD County lifer red-spotted toad!
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This is what I grew up calling a small-scaled tree lizard
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Now they're known as black-tailed brush lizards

We saw plenty of CA treefrogs, and tadpoles
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Here I am pointing out a big lizard to lil’ Jesse
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Photo taken by Jesse G.

It was this chunky male chuckwalla
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We saw a few banded rock lizards too
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The kids had a great time in the oasis
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Watching this group of five bighorn sheep slowly cross the canyon was the highlight of our trip!
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Here’s a great pic of the borrego taken by Jesse G.
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Road-cruising Sat. night:

First herp was this small sidewinder
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Then we found a cool black and white shovel-nosed snake
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Nimish checking out a small shovel-nosed
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On Sunday AM, we didn’t encounter many interesting herps, just a cool patch of coyote melon
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Pretty good camping trip overall, but perhaps not quite as fun as last year’s.




Some miscellaneous herps found around the middle of April…


Nice rosy from the edge of the desert
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Coastal patch-nosed snake
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Excellent striper!
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Red diamond rattler, as found in an area I visited for the first time this year
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Red racer discovered at night under a board
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Toad cruise on a rainy night…

arroyo
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spade
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arroyo
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spade
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arroyo
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Herping with Matti and Santra from Finland…

I had a great time showing FinnishSerpent (Matti M.) and his cool girlfriend (Santra) around SD a few times during their two week vacation. They were happy to see any of our local herps, and overall we did pretty well. They photographed all four species of rattlesnakes found in San Diego!


Here are some of the photos I took during our time in the field together…


On our first outing, we found a Cal. king, a drowned tiger whiptail, and a speckled rattler

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Santra noticed this dead whiptail floating down the Flume
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Here’s the speck
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A few days later, we took a long road-cruise through the desert hoping to photograph a wild rosy boa, but only found a variety of more common herps…

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Adult sidewinder
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Shovel-nosed
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Juvie sidewinder
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Another shovel-nosed snake
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Banded gecko
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My buddy Todd came along for the ride and had some fun too.
Here’s Todd taking a pic of Matti holding a leaf-nosed snake near Ocotillo
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We made our way up to a spot that had numerous red-spotted toads hopping around.
This one had cool camouflage
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Our last snake of the night was a nice little desert glossy
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Lake Hodges BioBlitz – end of April…

Friday

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This excellent red diamond was spotted by Jeff Lemm on the shoreline
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When I came down to see the ruber, I noticed this gravid two-striper only a few yards away
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This was the best-looking of the two Southern Pacific rattlers we saw that day
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Saturday

4 foot gopher snake, as found
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Frank S. and Laura P. with the gopher snake and Laura’s lifer red diamond!
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Laura spotted the red diamond coiled under the bush only a few yards behind us as we were photoing the gopher snake.

Here’s one of a pair of thread snakes I found together under a rock way up on a steep slope
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One last red diamond, as found coiled on prickly pear cactus
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May


Overnight trip to the desert…


Desert night snake I found while night hiking – a first for me
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The first leaf-toed gecko I found this year
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In the early morning I looked for flat-tailed horned lizards, but ended up following these sidewinder tracks
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They led me right to this cratered ‘winder
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Later in the morning, I explored a new canyon that I thought might reach into sandstone night lizard habitat
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Turns out I was wrong.



In the middle of May, I took a three-day trip into the Mojave National Preserve and back. I had high hopes of recording a Gila monster, a regal ring-necked snake, or a Sonoran lyre snake. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and I didn’t find many herps. At least I got some decent scenery shots though…

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This desert banded gecko was the only herp seen during a long night hike at a remote riparian canyon
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The next morning I found some common lizards and a bunch of red-spotted toads
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Then I hit the road and went further north into Nevada for a night
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Can you see the falcon over the lake?
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My luck wasn’t much better in NV. All I found were a few sideblotchies, a DOR speck, and a small snake that got off the road before I could ID it (seemed like a ground snake or shovel-nosed).


On the return leg of my trip I stopped at a few well-known locales and eventually found some cool reptiles.

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Red diamond
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My first rosy boa from this popular road
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Long-nosed snake
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Later on in May the conditions improved dramatically and herps were moving all over the County.


On a rather cool, humid night, I took a drive to the desert and back…

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Two days later I went back to the desert and had a great night…


Started out promising when I flipped this legless lizard in the evening
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My 9th Anniella of the year!

A little while later, I came across a young couple stranded in the middle of nowhere. Despite a good effort, I couldn’t tow their pickup out of a sandy gully. So I gave them a ride down the mountain into town where they contacted a recovery truck. On the ride down, we stopped for this sweet desert-phase California kingsnake.
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They forgot about their predicament for a couple minutes and were stoked to see such a cool creature.


After dropping them off at Jilbertos, I hit the road again and started seeing a lot of desert banded geckos.



Then I finally found my lifer Peninsular banded gecko!!
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Now that’s some good karma!





I certainly had a lot of fun this Spring, and I still have a bunch more good finds and photos to share from Summer. You can check out Part 2 here: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=20111



Take it easy,


Jeff

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by hellihooks » July 22nd, 2014, 4:52 am

Good Stuff Jeff... screw the klaub (i'm searching for the SB Mt ones, that haven't been seen in a decade)... I'm coming back next year for my switaki...Awesome Dude... :thumb:

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by Calfirecap » July 22nd, 2014, 6:28 am

Great post! That Peninsular Banded Gecko timing was perfect.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by Mike VanValen » July 22nd, 2014, 8:36 am

Wow, great post! Makes me want to drop everything and come out there. Everything would be a lifer.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by Zach_Lim » July 22nd, 2014, 8:56 am

Excellent finds, Jef.

Love the zonata and the glossy that you flipped!

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by Carl Brune » July 22nd, 2014, 8:35 pm

Nice post. Looks like you've spent quite some time in the field this year.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by PNWHerper » July 22nd, 2014, 9:36 pm

Jeff, what an EPIC post dude! :thumb: :beer:

There is just too much awesome in here. I was very happy to see you tracked a sidewinder and found it!

All those rubers too. Man, those snakes are gorgeous. Someday, we shall herp and go tracking again together. Till then, I will have to enjoy the treasures of southern California via your posts.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by jamezevanz » July 23rd, 2014, 9:55 am

Excellent! Glad one of us finally found a Switaki. I guess I just wasn't doing enough good deeds to please the reptile Gods -- though i did once rescue a couple who locked themselves out of their car in Anza Borrego. I think that Karma only earned me a few banded geckos and a leaf nosed snake. Great stuff.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County – Spring through Summer 201

Post by justinm » July 25th, 2014, 4:17 am

You've done very well I'd say. The red Coachwhip was really cool, is that typical for your area? I had thought they were only red in Texas, maybe I'm totally off? There are so many great animals there, I need to do that trip again. Last time I did was in '94 and I didn't have half the knowledge I do now.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

Post by Fieldnotes » July 25th, 2014, 1:10 pm

:thumb: Dang, that is an amazing post.. nice pictures too. Jeff, thanks for showing me around and flip'n that perfect looking San Diego Banded Gecko. Finding that Glossy by luck was an interesting story. I'm looking forward to your next post showing the other herps that you'll be finding later this year.

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

Post by JEDDLV » July 25th, 2014, 3:43 pm

Great post, I always enjoy your photos, thanks for sharing

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

Post by tspuckler » July 26th, 2014, 7:29 am

You found a lot of great stuff - many herps that I'd like to find someday - and it looks like you had a good time finding them.

Tim

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

Post by SurfinHerp » July 26th, 2014, 10:20 am

Thanks a lot for all your kind comments guys!



Jim - good luck finding your San Bernardino Mtn. large-blotched; and hit me up if you want to get together for a Switaki search.


Mike - I hope you get a chance to visit San Diego one of these days. Maybe for the NAFHA National Meeting in 2015?


Fil - yeah, I was glad to find that sidewinder I tracked. I was thinking of you the whole time, trying to remember what you taught me. It had traveled really far - about 150 yards or so - and gone through a handful of bushes. It also changed direction a number of times.
That same morning I followed what I believe were badger tracks. Seemed like there were two young and one adult. One of the tracks meandered around bushes, made a few small digs, then one big hole and a long, straight drag to a big burrow. I guessed that the adult badger dug up a large sidewinder, then dragged it home.
Looking forward to herping with you again someday soon. I'd like to try tracking a Gila monster!


James - Any plans to visit So. Cal. again? Just an FYI: leopard shark fishing hasn't been that great this year. Only landed one good one so far. Hope you're having good fishing karma this summer in AK 8-)



Jeff

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Re: Lifelisting San Diego County 2014 – Part 1: Spring

Post by PNWHerper » July 26th, 2014, 4:15 pm

Fil - yeah, I was glad to find that sidewinder I tracked. I was thinking of you the whole time, trying to remember what you taught me. It had traveled really far - about 150 yards or so - and gone through a handful of bushes. It also changed direction a number of times.
That same morning I followed what I believe were badger tracks. Seemed like there were two young and one adult. One of the tracks meandered around bushes, made a few small digs, then one big hole and a long, straight drag to a big burrow. I guessed that the adult badger dug up a large sidewinder, then dragged it home.
Looking forward to herping with you again someday soon. I'd like to try tracking a Gila monster!
Good work! That is a good length to follow a snake trail. Next time I am in that area, we should do a thorough search for the flat-tailed horned lizard tracks and sign in the several sand dune areas around 'Borrego where they have dramatically declined. May be we can contribute something to science via tracking and herping.

Did you get any shots of the badger tracks and sign? Sounds really cool. I remember we found the remains of a dead badger in one of those dune systems when we were out with you.

I have two ideas regarding tracking Gila Monster. First, I would love to do a track survey in the mountain range area where Gila's have been seen in Cali. I think we might be able to find some stuff that way. Especially if there are good sand or dirt roads for them to cross, or sandy washes. Second, if you can ever join me for a trip to southeastern AZ, I know a canyon where we can find some tracks/sign and likely a Gila given a day or two in the field.

Here is a teaser of my best Gila Monster tracks: Image

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