First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoons?

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bgorum
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
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First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoons?

Post by bgorum » September 11th, 2016, 5:53 pm

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Male Twin-spotted Spiny Lizard. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Northern Mockingbird. (Mimus polyglottos). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Female Twin-spotted Spiny Lizard. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Blue Grosbeak, (Passerina caerulea). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Great Egret, (Area alba), with a crayfish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Great-tailed Grackle calling. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake in ambush coil. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
On May 21st I had an opportunity to take one of my Flickr contacts who is a birder out herping. He had given me some good tips on finding some birds earlier in the spring and was interested in getting more herp pictures, so I was glad to reciprocate. We went down to the Rio Salado sand dunes on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. The best find of the morning was this young Diamond-back coiled in ambush beneath a large juniper.

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Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake in ambush coil. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Sonoran Gopjer Snake, Pituophis catenifer affinis by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


The snake above letting me know I got a little too close for its comfort.

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Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Great Egret with a Crayfish by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Indigo Bunting, (Passerina caerulea). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Twilight over a canal at Bosque del Apache NWR. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Displaying male Great-tailed Grackles. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Green Heron and New Mexico Garter Snakes fishing by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
One of the events I look forward to every year is when the marshes at Bosque del Apache are drained in the late spring. The marshes are drained for a number of reasons including to reduce water born avian diseases, promote the growth of “wet soil” vegetation that will serve as food for water fowl the next winter, and to mimic what used to happen in the Rio Grande flood plain as the snow melt fed springs floods would recede with the warming weather. What I look forward to when the marshes are drained are the formation of remnant pools with trapped fish that serve as a smorgasbord for local predators including the Green Heron and New Mexico Garter Snakes above.


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New Mexico Garter Snake eating stranded fish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Female Great-tailed Grackle eating stranded fish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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New Mexico Garter Snake investigating a Crayfish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
One thing I noticed this year that I hadn’t before was that the Garter Snakes seemed to take an unexpected interest in the Crayfish that were in the pool. Whenever a Garter Snake would encounter a Crayfish it would investigate is briefly. This behavior makes me wonder if the Garter Snakes might sometimes eat Crayfish, such as when the crustaceans have recently molted and are soft bodied. If so this would be pretty new behavior since Crayfish are not native to this ecosystem.


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New Mexico Garter Snake eating stranded fish by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Great Horned Owl and Owlet with a meal. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male American Bullfrog, (Lithobates catesbeianus). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Black Phoebe with nesting material. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Southwestern Fence Lizard, (Sceloporus cowlesi). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Common Raven, (Corvus corax). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
There’s a short hike at Bosque del Apache called the Canyon Trail that I like a lot. Its named for a sandstone canyon that it goes through and up on the wall of that canyon is a nest that has, during various years, been used by both Ravens and Great Horned Owls. This spring it was the Ravens’ turn. As I approached the portion of the canyon with the nest one of the Ravens landed on a dead juniper and proceeded to make itself very obvious with lots of cawing in an attempt to draw my attention away from its mate sitting on the nest above and behind me.


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Lesser Nighthawk, (Chordeiles acutipennis). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Young Desert Cottontail, (Sylvilagus audubonii). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Eastern Side-blotched Lizard. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Black-chinned Hummingbird at a feeder. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Eastern Collared Lizard, (Crotaphytus collaris). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
For the last part of Memorial Day weekend, I headed down to Valley of Fires Recreation Area on the Carrizozo lava field. My hope was to find a melanistic Black-tailed Rattlesnake like one I had found there DOR many, many years ago. After setting up camp I walked the paved trail near the campground in the last hours before sunset. Lots of lizards seemed to find the trail a perfect basking spot.


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Melanistic Southwestern Fence Lizard. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Texas Horned Lizard, (Phrynosoma cornutum). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Valley of Fires Recreation Area, New Mexico. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Rock Squirrel, (Ostospermophilius variiegatus). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Melanistic male Southwestern Fence Lizard. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
I didn’t have any luck with Black-tails, but did find a small Diamond-back that was a little darker than average.


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Basking Red-eared Sliders. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
The poor Slider on the right has a fish hook hanging out of its mouth and its head looks a little swollen.


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Pair of Wood Ducks, (Anas sponsa). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Female Texas Spiny Softshell. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Juvenile Common Black Hawk foraging for Crayfish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Juvenile Pied-billed Grebe with a Crayfish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
This juvenile Pied-billed Grebe was throwing this Crayfish around, diving and retrieving it, then throwing it around again. As I watched it I noticed a large female Softshell Turtle approaching. I was hoping the turtle would come up out of the water and take the Crayfish from the Grebe, but instead the turtle ended up stealing the Crayfish under the water after the grebe threw it, so no pics!


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Mule Deer does and older fawns. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Smoke from the "North FIre" in the San Mateo mnts by Bill Gorum on 500px.comSmoke from a forest fire as seen from Bosque del Apache on June 13th.


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New Mexico Garter Snake crossing a levee road. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
Garter Snake out crawling beneath the smoke filled skies that evening.


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Courting Southwestern Fence Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
The next series of pictures are of a little Fence Lizard love triangle I witnessed on June 16th at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park in Albuquerque. I first started watching the female in the foreground of the picture above as she was foraging for insects in the leaf litter near a dead and down cottonwood branch. After a short time, she jumped up onto the branch and immediately caught the attention of its resident male.

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Courting Southwestern Fence Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
He approached her and gave her an affectionate little lick.

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Courting Southwestern Fence Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
She however was not interested and quickly rebuffed his advances.

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Courting Southwestern Fence Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
So he moved down the log where he found a second female.

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Mating Southwestern Prairie Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
He gave the second female a little lick.

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Mating Southwestern Prairie Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
Then a gentle little bite.

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Mating Southwestern Prairie Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
Maneuvered into position…..

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Mating Southwestern Prairie Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
and finally success!

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Mating Southwestern Prairie Lizards. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
But now the first female decides that she is jealous! She comes running towards the two love birds and literally knocked them apart!


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Old Red-eared Slider, (Trachemys scripta elegans). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Rio Grande Wild Turkeys roosting in Cottonwoods. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Female Red-eared Slider looking for place to nest. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
Another bad sign. Non-native Slider looking for a place to nest at the Rio Grande Nature Center. There is a bioblitz that occurs at the Nature Center every year, and I know one of the things they do during that event is trap turtles in the viewing ponds there. I’ve always wondered why they put the Red-ears back afterwards.


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Male Great-tailed Grackle preying on a Crayfish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Great-tailed Grackle preying on a Crayfish. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Erosion along an Arroyo at Sevilleta NWR. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Twin-spotted Spiny Lizard on a Mesquite. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Texas Horned Lizard with a Harvester Ant. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
So one of the behaviors I’ve been trying to photograph is a Horned Lizard, (preferably Phrynosoma cornutum), eating Harvester Ants. A seemingly easy task, but one at which I have completely failed. Just because they don’t run away like other lizards does not mean they aren’t wary! Even using a 500mm lens the lizards refuse to do anything but freeze when I’m within photographic range. I need to find some that are acclimated to people. Maybe along a busy trail in some recreation area.


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Texas Horned Lizard, (Phrynosoma cornutum). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Eastern Collared Lizard basking. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Moonrise behind a One-seed Juniper by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Male Southwestern Fence lizard, Sceloporus cowlesi by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail peeking out of burrow. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
A Chihuahuan Spotted Whiptail constructing a nesting burrow right on a trail at the Rio Grande Nature Center on June 21st.


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Prairie Walkingstick, (Diapheromera velii). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Desert kingsnake, (Lampropeltis splendida). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
This was kind of a weird summer for me. June was hot as usual, but it just continued into July. The monsoons which had been predicted to be very good this year took their sweet time getting here. Road cruising amounted to a whole lot of gas money to yield very few snakes. The dry air meant that mornings warmed up quick and nights cooled down fast once the sun went down.


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Painted Desert Glossy Snake. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Black-tailed Jackrabbit, (Lepis californicus). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Ash-throated Flycatcher with a meal. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
On June 28th I stopped to photograph this Ash-throated Flycatcher on a Cholla with a meal.


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Ash-throated Flycatcher with a meal. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
Soon its mate arrived with a Grasshopper.


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Ash-throated Flycatcher, (Myiarchus cinerascens). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
It was then that I realized I had parked my truck right in front of a post, that had a cavity, where they had made their nest. They seemed reluctant to bring food to the nest with me in such close proximity, so I left at that point.


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Long-nosed Leopard Lizard, (Gambelia wislizenii). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Prairie Rattlesnake, (Crotalus viridis). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
There is a dirt road that runs from Bernardo, skirting around the foothills of the Sierra Ladrones, and comes out at Magdalena. It’s the kind of road I like to drive to remind myself why I purchased a four-wheel drive truck instead of a Prius. On this particular evening I encountered this Prairie Rattlesnake in the road and stopped to take its picture.

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Prairie Rattlesnake, (Crotalus viridis). by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
As I was loading my gear back into the truck I watched the snake crawl off of the road and over to the base of a cholla where there were numerous mammal burrows. I figured the snake had entered one of the burrows and walked over to investigate. The snake was still out on the surface and I didn’t see it until I was quite close causing it to coil and rattle defensively. I took a few quick shots and continued on my way. These two pictures have been kind of an interesting lesson on how different my own preferences in wildlife photography are from many other peoples’ at times. I greatly prefer the first shot which is to me more natural. It is a Prairie Rattlesnake being a Prairie Rattlesnake, basking on a dirt road in the evening. Something Prairie Rattlesnakes undoubtedly do frequently. However, almost everyone else that I’ve showed the two picture to prefers the second shot, which to me is just a Prairie Rattlesnake reacting to the presence of a human, something that happens far less commonly, especially since for many rattlesnakes the first time they do it may sadly be the last.


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Tarantula, New Mexico. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Chihuahuan Hook-nosed Snake, New Mexico. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
One of the things I’ve been trying to consciously include in my nature photographs is the human element when it’s there. Unfortunately, many animals no longer live in wilderness, but rather in proximity to us. I always leaving that out of nature pictures is being dishonest.


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Western Marbled Whiptail feeding on arthropods. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com


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Moonset over Albuquerque, New Mexico. by Bill Gorum on 500px.com
My city! Best thing about Albuquerque is that it’s still a city surrounded by natural areas. That more than anything else is why I chose to live here.

Check out part three for a little diversion to the west.

DallasJolly123
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Joined: February 23rd, 2015, 10:49 pm
Location: littlerock ca

Re: First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoo

Post by DallasJolly123 » September 13th, 2016, 11:41 am

Love Albuquerque, and the state of New Mexico in general! I had the pleasure of taking a two month trip out to Moriarty last summer and traveled all over the state with a good friend. NM quickly became my favorite of the states I've yet to see and I've made another three trips since then, cant wait to get back!! Good stuff, I especially like the addressing of the Prairie Rattlesnakes and the fact that they may look faded and with reduced pattern at on moment but can also look like a typical viridis, I've also noticed this in C. scutulatus.

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Carl Brune
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Re: First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoo

Post by Carl Brune » September 14th, 2016, 3:13 am

Good stuff. A lot of nice snake-on-road shots there.

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Porter
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Joined: March 19th, 2011, 6:43 pm

Re: First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoo

Post by Porter » September 14th, 2016, 5:33 pm

All three posts are great man :thumb: I especially like the shots of the garter snakes hunting fish, lizard mating sequence, and the variety of storm clouds and habitat shots.

This is such a trip to me because I was literally thinking about this a few days ago... I noticed your melanistic fence lizard. Ive always seen the occasional dark individuals and at some locals (especially where there isnt much vegetation shade cover and large broken cement habitat) are almost all black fence lizards. I never thought much of it over the years except, "those are some ugly looking fence lizards" :lol: because of the lacking pattern and color. Later when I started photographing herps, I purposely never photoed them for that reason lol ...all this time, overlooking its morphage. Do you have any photos of the top side of that liz?

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Porter
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Re: First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoo

Post by Porter » September 14th, 2016, 5:57 pm

Here's the only shots I have of one... taken only because there was at least some dark brown coloration on the back and looked prettier than most of the dark ones I'd seen in the past. Does this qualify as melanistic?

ImageNorthwestern Fence Lizard by California Reptile & Amphibian Appreciation, on Flickr

ImageNorthwestern Fence Lizard by California Reptile & Amphibian Appreciation, on Flickr

ImageNorthwestern Fence Lizard by California Reptile & Amphibian Appreciation, on Flickr

Y.Morgan
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Re: First 3/4 of 2016- part two, what happened to the monsoo

Post by Y.Morgan » September 16th, 2016, 8:32 am

That in situ side-blotched with his bright blue dots on the red rock with the blooming flora is an explosion of color that easily gets my first place vote - in this batch of photos at least. But the garter snakes foraging alongside birds is super cool. And - native or not - I like the photo of the slider with the cottontail juxtaposed behind.

I've accepted that I'll never have the talent and patience to get these kinds of photos. Never! Just not in my DNA. I'm glad it's in yours though. Your posts help me see what I'm missing.

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