Took the family west

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NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Took the family west

Post by NACairns »

The wife and I had to visit a few places this summer, a few more than we could afford to do by plane. So we packed our 10 month old and our dog into the car and headed west from Ontario. This was not a herp trip per say but both of us enjoy seeing wildlife and wanted to see as much as we could make time for. We decided that there would be no vacation-y stuff until we get to Kansas, just for the sake making some distance. I of course regretted this rule as we crossed the Kankakee River and saw a DOR bullsnake, man I wished I could check out the local tall grass prairie, next time. This trend of very cool road kill continued with turtles (box and map) through Missouri.
We rolled into central Kansas in the middle of the night. with the rest of the family sleeping and I noticed a small snake. I slowed down as gently as I could and spotted 4 more. Going back I found a number of lined snakes, a species I had never seen before and still know nothing about.
ImageTropidoclonion lineatum by N Cairns, on Flickr
These are really cool snakes, other that eating worms, does anyone know anything about them? In total, we found 11 of these little beauties in about 200 m. Unfortunately, the little man woke up with the stopping and was a bit grumpy so taking pictures got tricky, an unfortunate trend that would continue throughout the trip. We found two really DOR massasaugas and dozens of plains leopard frogs and great plains toads as we rolled into our camp-site at Cheyenne bottoms.
We left early the next day, headed towards Cimarron National Grassland. On the way, we saw some kick-ass birds including Mississippi kites and this critter the scissor-tailed flycatcher, never saw prairie chicken though.
ImageTyrannus forficatus by N Cairns, on Flickr
Cimarron was great, it was too hot when we first got there for much to be out but as it cooled off, the ants started coming out and ants mean Phrynosoma. Texas horned lizards were surprisingly plentiful.
ImagePhrynosoma cornutum by N Cairns, on Flickr
Prairie lizard was a new one, this one was at perhaps the most isolated playground I’ve ever seen (~30km from the nearest settlement).
ImageSceloporus consobrinus by N Cairns, on Flickr
K-rats and amphibs were active on the road.
ImageAnaxyrus woodhousii by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageSpea bombifrons by N Cairns, on Flickr
The habitat and veg was awsome. Always liked coyote melons.
ImageCucurbita foetidissima by N Cairns, on Flickr
New Mexico was lovely but we didn't have much time to stop. That said another nice Sceloporus or two.
ImageSceloporus cowlesi by N Cairns, on Flickr
The night was frustrating, at sun set we found a decent sized prairie rattler crossing the road, we stopped just to have the oncoming vehicle swerve into our lane to kill it. We did see this gorgeous glossy snake. ImageArizona elegans by N Cairns, on Flickr
With a small thunder storm there was an emergence of Mexican spadefoots metamophs but we couldn't stop to do any more than ID them. Grumpy babies are hard to road cruise with.
Northern Arizona was stunning.
Black widow was out in the early morning having a feed.
ImageLatrodectus hesperus by N Cairns, on Flickr
Good numbers of sagebrush lizards.
ImageSceloporus graciosus by N Cairns, on Flickr
We dipped into Utah and checked some beautiful areas around St George and then and camped in the north western corner of Arizona. Toads were calling in the Virgin River. We found many red-spotted toads.
ImageAnaxyrus punctatus by N Cairns, on Flickr
And a good number of Woodhouse's toads including this odd-looking one. There are supposed to be Arizona toads at this site but we did not find any.
ImageAnaxyrus woodhousii by N Cairns, on Flickr
This site was beautiful, the river babbling at the bottom of an amazing valley.
Imagenight view by N Cairns, on Flickr
Joshua tree's started to dominate the landscape.
ImageYucca brevifolia by N Cairns, on Flickr
And lizards appeared in great numbers, tiger whiptails were the most prevalent.
ImageAspidoscelis tigris by N Cairns, on Flickr
Unfortunately we only saw one adult, male yellow-backed spiny lizard which a species I was hoping to get a nice shot of.
ImageSceloporus uniformis by N Cairns, on Flickr
The next day we stopped at Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park. It was very busy and VERY hot (43C) but there were still desert iguanas out and about.
ImageDipsosaurus dorsalis by N Cairns, on Flickr
We arrived at Deep Creek, California and met with Jim (Hellihooks) to settle into to our first multi-day stop. On que, our other host Andy, rolled up on his quad with this beautiful boa. These guys and Andy's family made us very comfortable and gave us tons of advice for the next couple days and meeting them was one of the highlights of the trip.
ImageLichanura orcutti by N Cairns, on Flickr
The next day Andy took me to out on a quick mission to rescue a southern Pacific rattlesnake from a horse vet's place. Such a darkly patterned handsome snake.
ImageCrotalus oreganus helleri by N Cairns, on Flickr
The dog and I went for a nice long walk along the shady creek bed, it was likely her favourite day, no driving, lots of swimming, running and new animals like California ground squirrels and chukar. The creek was very productive lots of birds, and some cool herps. The dog missed this two-striped gartersnake.
ImageThamnophis hammondii by N Cairns, on Flickr
But then she spotted and pointed out this cryptic arroyo toad to me.
ImageAnaxyrus californicus by N Cairns, on Flickr
good dog.
ImageAnaxyrus californicus by N Cairns, on Flickr
Good numbers of fence lizards as well, we miss out in Canada without Sceloporus.
ImageSceloporus occidentalis by N Cairns, on Flickr
That afternoon Jim took us out for a series quick stops to see some cool local herps. The first was the lizard I was most excited about as night lizards have skunked me every time I've looked for them. However, with Jim's help these guys were everywhere. We found about a dozen in 15 minutes under AC and dead Joshua tree branches.
ImageXantusia vigilis by N Cairns, on Flickr
Then, knowing how much I like chorus frogs, Jim took us to a drying pond/creek that was crawling with Baja California treefrogs.
ImagePseudacris hypochondriaca by N Cairns, on Flickr
Every morning I'd get up and go for a walk by myself and look to see what critters I can turn up. Every morning this cooper's hawk would attack Andy's chicken coops.
ImageAccipiter cooperii by N Cairns, on Flickr
Jim again took us on a full day of herping, it started slow but the chaparral habitat was so different from what we know we weren't concerned by a lack of wildlife. Walking through groves of manzanita was wonderful.
ImageArctostaphylos glauca by N Cairns, on Flickr
Later on in the day, Jim turned up some very pretty western toads. A greasy fast Skilton's skink was in the same site but impossible to get a picture of.
ImageAnaxyrus boreas by N Cairns, on Flickr
Jim took us up in to the hills where we found the amphibian that I most wanted to see this trip, the California treefrog. In the sandy shallows of a clear, boulder strewn stream we found some large, late stage tadpoles. No adults were found but I was pretty excited about this one.
ImagePseudacris cadaverina by N Cairns, on Flickr
As I was photographing the tree frog tadpoles, Jim called me to say he found a two-striped garter. Really pretty snake in gorgeous habitat.
ImageThamnophis hammondii by N Cairns, on Flickr
We took a little break that afternoon then Jim and I met up with Tyler and Kristine for a kick ass night hike through a huge boulder field while a brush fire raged in the San Bernardino Mountains. The whole thing was amazing. Right off the bat Tyler showed his skills spotting several sidewinders pancaked out in the open.
ImageCrotalus cerastes by N Cairns, on Flickr
Kristine too had great eyes for these tiny buzz-worms, so cool to see these things in situ, sitting calmly.
ImageCrotalus cerastes by N Cairns, on Flickr
Then Jim yelled from the top of a nearby hill, he had found a stunning banded gecko out cruising around and knowing how much I like these guys called me over to see it.
ImageColeonyx variegatus by N Cairns, on Flickr
I was feeling like my eyes weren't working, I had only seen one desert k-rat.
ImageDipodomys deserti by N Cairns, on Flickr
I was checking cracks looking for boas when I spotted some purple, it was a late night active chuckwalla but he moved deeper into his crack so we could get a shot of him. Shortly after that I got lucky enough to spot this beautiful speckled rattlesnake, a species I had always wanted to see. This small snake was sitting out on a flat rock curled in a ball (not coiled) and when we walked up to him he curled up even tighter and hid his head in the ball. Eventually he calmed down and let us take some pictures.
ImageCrotalus mitchellii by N Cairns, on Flickr
As we left he crawled up into creosote bush and rattled at us to prove he was tough.
ImageCrotalus mitchellii by N Cairns, on Flickr
The next morning, as we packed, Andy pulled up yet again on his trusty quad with this juvenile gopher snake. What a great place and what great people. We had an outstanding time.
ImagePituophis catenifer by N Cairns, on Flickr
We drove up to San Francisco to visit some friends and had a great time but no herping. At this point we were running low on time to get the little man to see his grandparents so we blasted through the north west. I regret not having more time as we got such great advice and kind offers from folks.
When we got to Victoria BC, the grandparents snatched up the little man up so we took the opportunity and went whale watching, not as many pinnipeds as I would have liked but we saw tons of killer whales
ImageOrcinus orca by N Cairns, on Flickr
and a couple of humpbacks.
ImageMegaptera novaeangliae by N Cairns, on Flickr
We spent a couple days and we were on our way again. We crossed the coast mountains. The bird life was great.
ImageNucifraga columbiana by N Cairns, on Flickr
We camped at one of my old herping sites in the Okanagan. It wasn't as productive as I remembered but we found a lovely Great Basin gopher snake
ImageIMGP4519 by N Cairns, on Flickr
and a YOY rubber boa.
ImageCharina bottae by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageCharina bottae by N Cairns, on Flickr
We stopped in Creston BC for a quick walk in the rain there were tons of birds and many garters
ImageThamnophis sirtalis fitchi by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImageThamnophis elegans by N Cairns, on Flickr
Stopped in Val Marie for a uber-wedding between two of the best people I know. To try to deal with the hang over I joined Kyle (Kyle from Carolina) for a greater short-horned lizard hike.
ImagePhrynosoma hernandesi by N Cairns, on Flickr
ImagePhrynosoma hernandesi by N Cairns, on Flickr
I miss living on the prairie.
ImageAntilocapra americana by N Cairns, on Flickr
We visited family across the prairies starting in Saskatoon were the rain brought out some tiger salamanders.
ImageAmbystoma mavortium by N Cairns, on Flickr
In the sand hills of Manitoba the Canadian toads were metamorphing
ImageAnaxyrus hemiophrys by N Cairns, on Flickr
I used to live in this part of Manitoba and worked as a field tech on a number of herp conservation projects most revolving around prairie skinks. It was nice to flip one old board that I left there 8 years ago and two skinks and a red-backed vole were making a home.
ImagePlestiodon septentrionalis by N Cairns, on Flickr
After that, we stopped a couple more times but not much to report, mostly driving. In total we put 15800 kms on the odometer and got to spend a lot of time with each other, our friends and our families. There are a lot of places I wished we had had time to stop or stay longer and there are places we will have to go back to because they were amazing. Thank you to Chris, ricrabt, Ebit123, Jonathan, Heather, Tim, Lawrence and Jimi for their helpful advice and Kyle, Kristine and Tyler for joining me in the field. In particular, I want to thank Andy and his family for hosting us and Jim for inviting us to his beautiful part of the world and for tirelessly searching out herps to show us tourists.
A beautiful country you guys have down there.
Thanks for reading,
Nick

hellihooks
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:12 am
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Re: Took the family west

Post by hellihooks »

It was great having ya visit... get out this way, in April or May... and you'll (literally) see 4-5 times as many species (we have like 90 herps in SB co) Welcome mat's always out for you. :thumb:

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Took the family west

Post by NACairns »

Thanks Jim, I'll take you up on that. There are so many places I wanted more time and Southern California was amazing even in July. I had a great time. Next time let's see a ruber.
Thanks again bud,
Nick

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JakeScott
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Re: Took the family west

Post by JakeScott »

An all around amazing post! Great job!

-Jake

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Took the family west

Post by NACairns »

Thanks Jake, I appreciate that. It was fun to make.

hellihooks
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Location: Hesperia, California.
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Re: Took the family west

Post by hellihooks »

BTW... of course... right after you left, hatchling blainville were EVERYWHERE! :roll: Richard Hoyer might be very interested in your BC boa data... :thumb:

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Took the family west

Post by NACairns »

That's the thing eh Jim? You can't get them all. I was a little sad I wasn't able to see a new species of Phrynosoma on this trip but we tried, man we tried. Next time.
I did tell Dr. Hoyer about that little boa and the others in that area but I didn't take measurements, samples or do any scale counting (no permits) so I'm not sure I have much data for him. Man do I like boas though.
Nick

hellihooks
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Re: Took the family west

Post by hellihooks »

NACairns wrote:That's the thing eh Jim? You can't get them all. I was a little sad I wasn't able to see a new species of Phrynosoma on this trip but we tried, man we tried. Next time.
I did tell Dr. Hoyer about that little boa and the others in that area but I didn't take measurements, samples or do any scale counting (no permits) so I'm not sure I have much data for him. Man do I like boas though.
Nick
We'll get um next time... :crazyeyes: We're any Ca noe cal members of any assistance... If not... i feel bad... i shoulds worked harder to get ya set up with them. Hell... if we'd had internet at DC... i coulda given you a spot where I saw 11 rubber boas in one hr (along with literally hundreds of coast garters, some YBR, aboreals etc etc... :roll:

I take several trips a year up that way (for my sally fix)... so yeah... all thats needed is some planning... :thumb:

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Took the family west

Post by NACairns »

Yeah a number of folks offered advice or opportunities we just ran out of time for herping. I wish we'd had more time for Nor Cal and the NW. Actually same go's for KS, NM, AZ, NV, BC and SK but It was a great trip and Deep Creek was a high light, you worked your ass off showing us new species. Thanks for that.
Nick

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Kyle from Carolina
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Joined: May 3rd, 2012, 7:12 pm
Location: western MA and NC

Re: Took the family west

Post by Kyle from Carolina »

Good finds and great photos. Nice to meet up with you in Sask. I had been wondering how that GSHL shot turned out after seeing your homemade diffuser. I'm gonna have to make me one now. Hit me up if you're heading down to NC for peepers in the future.

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