Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

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NM Ben
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Joined: November 10th, 2015, 4:37 pm
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Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by NM Ben » January 6th, 2017, 9:42 pm

Hello!

My name is Ben. I'm a longtime lurker who's finally getting around to posting a longwinded, scatterbrained introduction. I've absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the pictures you've all been posting, and figured I should start sharing some of my finds.

I'm based in central NM, where I've grown up with a love of reptiles. Over the past few years, as I began to see more herps during my usual hiking activities, my passion has been rekindled, and I've decided to be more purposeful in finding reptiles. I hike often in the desert, so I get to see a lot of Collared Lizards, Tree Lizards, and Crotalids, and started road cruising a bit over a year ago to find more variety. I like to photograph every find that I can, and avoid collecting except for special circumstances (I keep a few reptiles such as a Desert Kingsnake I rescued from a library, a Collared lizard I found as a neonate under a target at a shooting range, etc).

I started out with a point and shoot, but got frustrated with the lack of control. When my dad got a new DSLR, I began to use his old Nikon D50 with kit 18-55mm lens, which is what I've taken a majority of my pictures with. I've only recently gotten to the point that I'm satisfied with a decent percentage of my shots.

For Christmas/Birthday/Graduation this break, my dad got me a Nikon D7100 and Tokina 100mm f/2.8 and Nikon 70-300mm. I am absolutely thrilled with the Tokina, having taken some macro shots out hiking of various spiders/lichen/etc that I'm very happy with. It goes without saying that I am getting VERY itchy for the weather to warm up. For now, here are some of my favorite 2016 finds, with a few from the end of 2015 thrown in.

2015

My first road cruising trip, on a rainy night in Socorro County (August 2015, I believe). Turned out to be extremely productive for Crotes, turning up 3 Atrox and 2 Viridis, plus a few DOR.

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Little Atrox. Looks like he had a very painful meal!

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Tiny little Viridis (If I'm not mistaken).

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Spadefoot

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DOR Longnose (Lifer)

Every year in October, New Mexico Tech hosts an event where students can volunteer to haul 50lb bags of lime up to the top of M mountain. This was the first year that I participated, and I'm hooked. I saw two lifers on the hike.

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Lifer Crotalus Molossus! Picture taken with a cell phone. I instantly became a fan of Molossus, though this is still the prettiest one I've seen to date. I really hope to find another with this rich gold color when I've got an actual camera on me.

I also saw a lifer Sceloporus Poinsetti Poinsetti, but was unable to get a picture. Those things are massive!

On October 31, I came across a neonate Atrox and two beautiful adults while hiking in my favorite desert.
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The two adults were right next to each other, probably near their den. Third pair we've seen in that desert.



Spring 2016


2016 started off with me rummaging through the trash at some illegal dump sites in search of... Well, anything, really.
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I turned up some Utas! One of my favorite little lizards.
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In March of 2016, I went up to southern Utah for a week of Canyoneering and adventure with some close friends. I didn't expect to see much because of the cool temps, but thankfully I was proven wrong.

After my clutch went out (Thank goodness about two miles from the mechanic) in Moab, I met up with my brother who lives in SLC, and we headed out for some adventure while waiting for a new clutch to arrive. We started out warming up our climbing and rappelling skills somewhere between Moab and Monticello on a lonesome peak of fine grained sandstone.

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I immediately spotted a Sceloporus of some kind on a south facing slope. (I have a hard time differentiating any two species of Sceloporus, anyone know?)

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It's a bit hard to seem, but there's an Urosaurus Ornatus in the crevice dead center, with the Sceloporus above.

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We saw a different Sceloporus who was about 5 feet away from the other two lizards. While my brother and I were looking at the Sceloporus, I looked about a foot to my left, and at eye level, saw some sort of rattlesnake wedged in the sandstone that I'd been leaning on!

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After I came down from that shot of adrenaline, I took a step back and it dawned on me how careless I'd been. Four or five feet to my right, sitting in some bushes, were two neonate crotes.

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Here's the only one who would cooperate for a picture. I'm thinking Viridis, but after seeing some information panels in Moab about Midget Faded Rattlesnakes, I'm not sure. Any thoughts? I'm assuming the crote wedged in the sandstone was likely the mother, as it looked to be an adult size.

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Me, laying in a sea of cow pies, trying to get a shot to turn out.

I was surprised to see so many reptiles out on a 54F day with intense wind. I'm certain I wouldn't have seen anything had the sandstone face not had the perfect angle to catch the sun.
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Shielding myself from the dust storm that was actively trying to bury me.

The next day, we headed to a famous canyoneering route. Right before our first big drop, I saw a lifer subspecies!
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A Plateau Sideblotched Lizard! May not be exciting for most, but I had been particularly looking forward to seeing one of these, as I have a great fondness for the Sideblotched lizards I often see in NM.

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Following an Urosaurus a little too close to the edge before a big rappel


I ended up seeing quite a few Uniformis during the trip, some of which were really beautiful.
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I was particularly drawn to the colors of this subpopulation at one of the highest elevation points in Moab, which is only accessibly via a canyoneering route.
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Summer
Back in NM, I tried not to get too distracted as I finished my final semester of Undergrad. When May rolled around, I started cruising again. My Brother in law started joining me, and we've had some awesome adventures!

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A poor photo of a very pretty glossy in Socorro County.

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This Desert Kingsnake wasn't pleased with my brother-in-law

Cruising season really began in June for me. My sole mission at this point was to try to find a Desert Night Snake, which had somehow eluded me to this point. Unfortunately, what would have been my lifer Nightsnake got hit by a truck that I was directly behind, and died as I was parking my car.
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Lifer DOR Hypsiglena

Finally, after a very long night in Socorro County, my LIVE lifer showed up!
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Truly gorgeous snake. I've seen a dozen or so since this one, and none have been as pretty. Unfortunately I couldn't get the vivid pink color to come through in the pictures. We ended up seeing two Hypsiglena that night, and I've been blessed with seeing many since.

A little later in the year, we tried a new route going further east than usual in Valencia county. Turned up a new lifer for both of us!
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Tantilla! This little snake had a lot of character. Very active, constantly running figure 8's through my hands. Refused to cooperate for pictures.

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Viridis a little further down the road. He coiled up so high that he actually fell over! Almost looked drunk.
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Closer look at the same snake

A few days later, we swung down to our more normal route in Socorro county, and turned up the largest Glossy I've ever seen, and a good sized Desert King.

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My brother-in-law holding a very calm Splendida.

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My brother in law holding a very angry Glossy.

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Another smaller Splendida

While cruising around in Bernalillo one night, I found a Hypsiglena. I wasn't aware of any records for this species in that county, and I'll probably be submitting a sighting when I get that figured out.

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Bernalillo Hypsiglena

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Bernalillo Hypsiglena

I figured out that I really enjoy hunting for one specific species through my experience looking for the night snake, so next I set my sights on finding a Suboc. I did a ton of research, and also got some great help from Bgorum and Herpseeker1978, and began searching a great road in Sierra County. All in all, I've spent four nights this year looking for Subocs, and they've not showed themselves yet. That'll just make it all the sweeter when I finally find one! I did have some other good finds on that road.

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Like this tiny little Atrox

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Or this even tinier Night Snake!
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This is the Night Snake right next to my size 8 wedding ring! Never seen a smaller Hypsiglena. May never have seen a smaller snake!

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Found this fella while hiking around in the dark in search of Subocs


I pulled off on a small dirt road and camped for the night. It'd been a good decade or so since I'd been taught a proper lesson by mesquite, so I thought I should remind myself. Ended up with a flat in the morning, and a brand new set of off road tires with reinforced sidewalls the next week!


Ended up hiking around near Elephant Butte the next day in search of much older, deader reptiles from the Cretacious. Didn't find any fossils, but I did find about 20 Greater Earless Lizards!

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These lizards were stunning. And very tempting to try to catch for better pictures! After a half hour battle I finally caught one, at which point my camera stopped working. Murphy's law at work!

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Cell phone picture that doesn't do justice to this lizard's color.

Later that day, I saw my lifer gambelia wislizenii!

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He's that few pixels in the middle. There's only so much a 55mm lens can do.

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Another Hypsiglena

Throughout the year, my dad, brother, and I make numerous trips to the area surrounding the Ojito wilderness area. The Ojito has become without question my favorite little corner of the world.

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We've hiked about 400 miles and counting in the Ojito, and make trips as regularly as possible. We go out in any weather condition, provided the roads are passable, often leading to reptile finds. The unique geology in the area make the landscapes very strange and stunning. Most of the reptiles I see throughout any given year were chance encounters while hiking here.

Urosaurus

The first Urosaurus I ever saw was in the Ojito, climbing around on some petroglyphs near an old paleontological dig.
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They're the most common reptile out there by far, and we see them anytime the air temp peaks 60F, and occasionally even lower.
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I really enjoy observing them. Highly variable patterns means a lot of unique looks.
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In recent years, the Ojito has been absolutely parched.--water tanks drying up and the like. Urosaurus always gladly accept a bit of bottled water spilled down their sandstone slabs. In fact, they are sometimes so desperate for water that once they start drinking, their fear of predators falls very low on the priority list. I was able to just reach over and pick these two up after providing them a bit of water. After an initial freakout of being picked up, they just accepted me as part of the landscape.

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More variance in color

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Lizardception, if you will

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Urosaurus on a Jurrasic Sauropod

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This is a terrible picture of a really cool situation. I followed this Urosaurus trying to get a picture, and as you may be able to see on the far left of the screen, he led me to a bat.
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I tried to get a picture of the bat without being too obtrusive.

This little guy seemed to bite off a little more than he could chew! I watched him for about 5 minutes as he fought with this very ambitious meal.
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He dragged it off down a crevice, so I never saw if he finished it or not.


On one very cold January day in 2016, I picked up what I thought was a dead Urosaurus to get a better picture. He looked frozen and desiccated. He turned out not to be dead (At least not quite), and started very weakly struggling. He was so extremely emaciated that I decided to break my rule and bring him home. I put him in an empty water bottle and tucked it in my jacket for warmth. He survived the trip home, and is now thriving on termites and fly larvae.

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Him (Actually I think her), after running through the water dish.

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One of the prettiest Urosaurus I've ever seen. These lizards are amazingly agile, and jumping to and from inverted ledges, making them difficult to photograph sometimes.

Crotophytus
Another common inhabitant of the Ojito bluffs are Eastern Collared Lizards. These are the lizards that got me more interested in Photography.

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My first ever picture of a Collared Lizard, taken with a point and shoot about three feet away.


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Their color is highly variable, and sometimes quite vibrant.

Crotalus

Every once in a while, one of us gets a nice shot of pure adrenaline. We've run across about a dozen Crotalus, mostly Atrox, and only been buzzed a few times.

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This guy let us walk up to within a few feet before we noticed. He never moved, never rattled, didn't even care!

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, this guy started rattling before we could even see him. Probably 75 feet away in an arroyo. Photo credit to my dad with his 18-200mm.

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Crossing the road on the way out

Other Occasional Species

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I was quite surprised to see this Blackneck Gartersnake so far from water. I typically associate any Thamnophis with streams and lakes.


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Chihuahuan Whiptail, rummaging through the leaflitter. Not sure what he's got in his mouth.

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Pitouphis

Back outside of the Ojito area, we took a trip up to the Kirtland Fruitland formation to document some Cretacious fossils.
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Saw my lifer Lesser Earless Lizard!

Fall

Some other miscellaneous finds
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Some Thamnophis in the northern part of the state. I'd figured out what species it was, but I didn't write it down, and I've forgotten. Any ideas?
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Different snake, same area.

I went climbing south of Socorro in October. There were many Urosaurus there, all with very different patterning than those in the Ojito.
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I also saw a pair of Crevice Spiny Lizards!
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After a long battle, I finally lured one out of it's crevice far enough to catch it and take some photos. It was missing quite a few scales, even on it's head, and it's no surprise. I could hear what sounded like the rasping of wood as he moved about his crevice.
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As happy as I am to finally have photographed one, I'd really like to do it again with a non kit lens, and see if I can get some better in situ shots that communicate just how spiny these guys are. It felt a bit like grabbing a cactus when I picked him up. It's hard to imagine any animal swallowing one of these whole.

A few weeks after I picked up a young collared lizard off a shooting range, I took a few pictures. She's(?) been putting on a lot of weight and growing quickly.
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More recently

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My last find was in October, and was very unexpected. So unexpected that I didn't have my camera with me!

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Lifer neonate Massasauga! I saw three in a one mile stretch of road in Bernalillo county. Great last find of the year!

I'll finish up with a few non-herp pictures that illustrate how excited I am to find some herps and use my new gear. I've taken these over the past 2 weeks.

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Cross-sectionally hexagonal needles of ice growing on blades of grass early in the morning

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Very small spider, who's diameter including spread out legs is smaller than that of a standard sized marble

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Individual "Tufts" on the wing of a dead butterfly

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Dinosaur bone that fossilized after significant osteon decay

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Fossilized dinosaur bone with each decayed osteon filled with intricate agate and quartzite



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So that's my 2016. I really can't wait for things to warm up even a little bit, but there's not much I can do to hurry that along, and we're all in the same boat.

If you made it this far, thanks! Sorry for all of my formatting inconsistencies, it'll take me a few iterations to get this posting process down.

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ClosetHerper
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by ClosetHerper » January 6th, 2017, 10:10 pm

Great collection of herps and nice to see someone getting bit by the photo bug! Those collared lizards and earless lizards are some beautiful subjects.

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Mark Brown
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by Mark Brown » January 7th, 2017, 1:49 am

Welcome and nice photojournal. I love New Mexico and I'm hoping to spend more time there, but it's just awfully hard driving by west Texas.

Jimi
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by Jimi » January 7th, 2017, 10:47 am

Likewise, Ben - welcome and thanks for sharing all the pics.
I was surprised to see so many reptiles out on a 54F day with intense wind.
Utah can be funny that way, both the Colorado Plateau side and the Great Basin side. It seems like dry is worse than cold, so animals will be active in pretty cold temps if there's still some moisture to be had ("moist" being relative). I swear, every year my "mental model" of what's too cold and/or wet to find snakes, has to be revised downward (especially if you're getting alternating "nice" weather and cold fronts, you can reliably find stuff in cracks and under surface objects during the cold fronts). Anyway, once the landscape cooks up and dries out, herping goes downhill fast and steep. There's a shifting spring window that's "prime-time". Near the 4 corners the window only seems to last a few weeks, and it can occur over maybe a 6-8 week span depending on the year. March is awfully early most years, but with a dry spring obviously it isn't too early. Sometimes early June is already too late. OTOH with a super-wet winter and spring I have gone out there too early, in mid May. Too cold and too wet, but I thought I had finally nailed it. It's a challenging area!!!

I believe you found a concolor den, and that the neonates are probably related to the adult but it may not be their mother - could be dad, aunt/uncle, half-sib, cousin, whatever. Please put that data in the HERP database, with a high security level.
I'm certain I wouldn't have seen anything had the sandstone face not had the perfect angle to catch the sun.
This is what I call "shrinking the haystack". Field-herping concolor is a serious needle in a haystack proposition (cruising them is easy, but pretty dull sport). Going out early in the season when it's chilly, either calm or with a wind that isn't coming straight out of the sun, so you can get some nice toasty lee-side action, shrinks the haystack down to something better than, well, just about hopeless. Everybody gets a few accidental or lucky field-herped concolor, but without some strategy (and some luck) it's really hard to just aim to do it, and then go out and do it.

More generally - I recommend you get and always carry an infrared temp gun, and shoot everything in sight. Top of rocks, under rocks (thin rocks, fat rocks, light rocks, dark rocks...), under tin plywood carpet and cardboard, animals on rocks, animals under rocks, animals under bushes, dirt under and between bushes, asphalt when you're seeing stuff, asphalt when you aren't, etc. It'll vastly accelerate your learning and your success. Seriously, just do it.

Your Uro rap - Negro Bill Canyon? Fun spot.

Watch the Rocky Mtn chapter subforum - if the subforums continue to exist - for group outing possibilities this calendar year. We usually do a few.

cheers

PS - oh yeah, I'm not quite sold on your "tiny viridis" ID. They're easy to confuse, especially as babies, and sometimes you just have to look at the head-crown scales (C. viridis have lots of tiny scales, Sistrurus have a few big ones), but with just a gut-feel glance at that animal, my brain prods me to guess "massa". It's just a gestalt thing, nothing rigorous, I could easily be wrong, it happens all the time.

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nhherp
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by nhherp » January 8th, 2017, 9:03 am

Hello Ben,
Nice introductory review!
Your "tiny viridis" is an adult Sistrurus.
Maybe one of these days I will run into you out and about. I'm not good at names so forgive me if I have met you out cruising at some point. I live off a rather common cruising route and bump into people in the summer just going home and they are stopped looking at something I often say hi to see what was found.

-N-

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herpseeker1978
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by herpseeker1978 » January 25th, 2017, 5:41 pm

As Notah said, your first viridis is a Sistrurus.

Also, this:
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this is either A. marmorata or A. tesseleta

Josh

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NM Ben
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by NM Ben » February 4th, 2017, 3:59 pm

ClosetHerper-

Thank you! I really can't wait to encounter my next Earless Lizard, especially now that I may be able to photograph them in situ!

Mark Brown-

Thanks! And from what I've seen on this forum of west Texas, I can't really blame you. I'm hoping to make a trip out there at some point, I just get distracted by all the cool stuff between me and there. Some day.

Jimi-

Well, I must've stumbled into the right conditions by dumb luck. Hopefully I can replicate that in the future! I've just submitted sightings on NAHERP classified as sensitive.

I've been looking around at temp guns, and I'll definitely pick one up before March hits. I'll also keep my eye on the Rocky Mountain Chapter, I'd love to join an outing some time.

Thanks for all of your input!

nhherp-

Thanks! I guess I had the massa lifer earlier than I'd though. Cool!

Hopefully we'll bump in to each other at some point.

herpseeker1978-

Thanks for the possible ID! I see those Aspidoscelis quite often, and hopefully this season I'll get some better shots to ID from.

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chrish
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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by chrish » February 4th, 2017, 8:39 pm

As a couple of others have pointed out, your lifer Massasauga wasn't actually your lifer. The first "viridis" is one as well.

The northern gartersnakes are Wandering Garters (T. elegans). Very common in the Mts around NM.

Good luck on the suboc next season. The first weeks of June into mid-July they can be quite common in the right areas.

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Re: Introduction and EOY2016 (Long)

Post by bgorum » February 5th, 2017, 7:22 am

Great intro post! Thanks for posting.
herpseeker1978 wrote:As Notah said, your first viridis is a Sistrurus.

Also, this:
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this is either A. marmorata or A. tesseleta

Josh
This one looks like tesselata, and if its from Ojito that clinches it. marmorata don't make it that far north in central New Mexico.

P.s., if Josh will forgive me ribbing him a little, as I recall Josh made the exact same mistake on his lifer Sistrurus that you did :thumb:

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