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 Post subject: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 13th, 2017, 11:59 am 
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Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am
Posts: 30
I can confidentially say that this year was easily one of the most exciting in the field. I enjoyed a fair amount of surprising and exhilarating moments. As usual, my dogs were my ever present adventure partners. I'll skip a lengthy introduction and get right into my field experiences.

I spent a fair amount of the winter and early spring hiking in the far western portion of Texas, looking for birds and herps. That time of year, birds are plentiful but herps (especially snakes) are a little more scarce. Every now and then I encountered snakes either in or around their hibernacula, or by flipping rocks/other objects.

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake (in situ) by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSonoran Gopher Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Side-blotched Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageLong Hike by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBanded Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMountainscape by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

During March, I took a trip with a friend to Southern California. It was the first time I had intentionally herped that region of the US. We were able to find a couple of neat animals, most of which were new encounters for me. A huge thanks to Devin and Jeremy who were super helpful during this trip.

ImageSan Diego Gopher Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Pacific Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTwo-striped Garter Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRed Diamond Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRed Diamond Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNorthern Three-lined Boa by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBlack-tailed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRiverside County by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

I spent the rest of the spring exploring West Texas. Because of work and my impending dissertation defense, the amount and length of time I was able to go out herping were limited. Nevertheless, luck was on my side and neat animals were found almost every weekend. One memory I am particularly fond of, was finding a West Texas milksnake during on a chilly, spring afternoon. My friend and I were jumping for joy after seeing that beautiful tricolored snake under a large rock.

ImageWestern Ground Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePrairie Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePrairie Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Coachwhip by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageFour-lined Skink by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMany-lined Skink by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTexas Blind Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageCheckered Garter Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreat Plains Ratsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRing-necked Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTrans-Pecos Copperhead by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTexas Horned Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake in Habitat by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNew Mexico Milk Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNew Mexico Milksnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

Towards the end of April/beginning of May, I began hunting road cuts with greater frequency. One of my favorite memories came at the very end of May. My brother and I spent three nights hunting road cuts looking for gray-banded kingsnakes. The nights had been rather slow and unproductive. On the last night, as we were driving out to our chosen location for the night, it began lightly raining. My brother and I both hoped the light rain would bring out the elusive kingsnakes. We selected a large cut and walked it from 9 to 11pm only observing invertebrates. At exactly 11:05pm, a dark colored snake with orange bands appeared on the rock cut about 15-20 feet above me. With extreme enthusiasm, I yelled out to my brother: "ALTERNA!" He quickly made his way over to my location. I climbed up the cut and retrieved the beautiful snake. We both cheered and celebrated our prize. No less than 20 minutes had passed, and we spotted a second alterna. This one was about 30-40 feet up the cut. The snake was inaccessible from both the top and bottom of the cut. The snake remained surface active for about an hour and a half until it disappeared for good. We were slightly disappointed, but in good spirits, especially since we had already found our desired animal.

ImageTrans-Pecos Rat Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSonoran Gopher Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSonoran Gopher Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMany-lined Skink by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTexas Horned Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMexican Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMexican Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageOrnate Black-tailed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

At the end of May/beginning of June, I took a trip to Croatia to visit my wife. This trip was full of wonderful memories (both herping and non-herping). My wife and I encountered several species of herpetofauna throughout my two week stay, with the most exciting being a nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes). I tried to find this species the previous year in a different location but failed. This summer, I encountered the beautiful viper specimen basking during the late morning in a forest clearing.

ImageGrass Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBlue Ground Beetle by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageKalnik by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageEuropean Smooth Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageEuropean Marsh Frog by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageForest Sunrise by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGrass Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageEuropean Common Toad by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSlow Worm Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWater Lily Flower by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageEuropean Smooth Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNose-horned Viper by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNose-horned Viper by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

After my return from Europe, I took a friend on her first herping experience. We explored several areas throughout West Texas. Unfortunately, the entire Trans-Pecos was hit with a funky heat wave; the temperature soared into 110s. Night temperatures of 95+ were not uncommon. Despite the weather, I had a lot of fun on this excursion and we were able to see a decent amount of herp movement.

ImageTexas Banded Gecko by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGlossy Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTexas Night Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMexican Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

I spent the rest of the summer mostly exploring West Texas with a handful of trips to New Mexico and Arizona sprinkled in between. I found two more gray-banded kingsnakes during the summer months, both exciting and unique encounters. I was also finally able to photograph a gray-banded kingsnake in-situ, something I had not tried in my previous encounters with alterna because of the high probability of losing those snakes.

ImageDesert Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTrans-Pecos Rat Snake in Habitat by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMojave Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake in Habitat by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMojave Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBlack-necked Garter Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreat Plains Skink by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBanded Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBanded Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSummer Rains by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMajestic Davis Mountains by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBaird's Rat Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake (In situ) by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWest Texas Monsoon by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageFigeater Beetle by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBrady and Anubis in AZ by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSoutheastern Arizona by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageArizona Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSonoran Lyre Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Box Turtle by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageOrnate Black-tailed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMadrean alligator lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMadrean Alligator Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreen Rat Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageOrnate Black-tailed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePrairie Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMojave Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMountain Patchnose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMexican Black Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageOrnate Black-tailed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

The fall can be quite a productive time to herp, and this year did not let me down. On a particular weekend outing during late September, I found 60+ snakes represented by a good amount of diversity. I'll finish this post with photos from fall herping.

ImageWestern Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageAnubis and Canela by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBlack Range by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMojave Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageView From Above by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSonoran Gopher Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRegal Ring-necked Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRegal Ring-necked Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNeonate Desert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake in Habitat by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTrans-Pecos Copperhead by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageCheckered Garter Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Diamondback Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBig Bend Patchnose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMexican Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBaird's Rat Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Box Turtle by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePrairie Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageOrgan Mountains by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreat Blue Heron by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageCollard Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Coachwhip by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSandhill Cranes by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageEurasian Blue Tit by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageCoal Tit by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageHidalgo Sunset by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

Thanks for reading.

Cheers!

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 13th, 2017, 1:13 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1783
Stupendous. You got to some fun places and had some good times. Nice pics too BTW. I have a few impertinent questions burning holes in my brain, but will try to show a little restraint and leave you be.

Ah, here's just one harmless one. Did you walk any of those early-season 'saugas?

Thanks for the vicarious adventure. It's a bleak bleak bleak time of year where I'm at.

Good luck with that defense, if it's still ahead of you.

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 13th, 2017, 2:43 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:50 am
Posts: 1147
Location: Huntington Beach, CA
Incredible post. It makes me excited to herp the USA in 2018.


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 13th, 2017, 5:29 pm 
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Joined: April 2nd, 2015, 7:30 am
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Location: Utah
Too much amazing stuff man. For me, the red rattler pic really got me. I think it's sometimes very difficult to sum up a whole year--there's lots of stories "between" the pictures here. :D


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 12:59 am 
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Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am
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Thank you all for the comments and compliments.

Jimi: All of the early season saugas were cruised.


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 5:09 am 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 9:46 am
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Epic year. Amazing shots!

FH


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 6:29 am 
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Joined: December 26th, 2012, 11:48 pm
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Excellent set! Those horned lizards are too awesome!


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 7:43 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 11:13 pm
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Location: Greater Houston TX Area
Are ALL of your herping seasons this amazing? You really cleaned up on some traditionally "hard to find" species.


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 9:24 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
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Quote:
You really cleaned up on some traditionally "hard to find" species.


Hey Chris, you're not still chasing Moby Alterna are you? Heh heh heh. Hope not. I like Frank's super dark one the best, myself. Same goes for the darkest common king - nice animal.

Frank - just curious, (sorry if I asked this before, I know we have exchanged a little about them), how helpful do you find your dogs to be, in your herping? I love hiking with my dog, but I just can't herp with him. The panting alone would hinder detections, but his sheer "busy-ness" all around me is fairly guaranteed to drive everything underground before I get there. Then once he gets a little tired, he's right at my heel. Do you just make them stay 10 feet behind you, or what?


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 10:53 am 
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Fieldherper wrote:
Epic year. Amazing shots!

FH


Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 10:54 am 
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orionmystery wrote:
Excellent set! Those horned lizards are too awesome!


Agreed, horned lizards are great. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 10:56 am 
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chris_mcmartin wrote:
Are ALL of your herping seasons this amazing? You really cleaned up on some traditionally "hard to find" species.


Not all my seasons; a lot of effort and a lot of luck this year. Hope to get similar results this coming season!


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 10:58 am 
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Jimi wrote:
Quote:
You really cleaned up on some traditionally "hard to find" species.


Hey Chris, you're not still chasing Moby Alterna are you? Heh heh heh. Hope not. I like Frank's super dark one the best, myself. Same goes for the darkest common king - nice animal.

Frank - just curious, (sorry if I asked this before, I know we have exchanged a little about them), how helpful do you find your dogs to be, in your herping? I love hiking with my dog, but I just can't herp with him. The panting alone would hinder detections, but his sheer "busy-ness" all around me is fairly guaranteed to drive everything underground before I get there. Then once he gets a little tired, he's right at my heel. Do you just make them stay 10 feet behind you, or what?


Jimi: More than anything, my dogs keep me company. They tend not to disturb critters as they are normally on my heel the entire hike. Anubis, does help on occassion. He has found klauberi, and atrox/ornatus hibernacula.


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 11:41 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 9:22 am
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I would love to herp with my dogs but I fear they would be a bit too inquisitive around hots and being on the smaller side, a bite would prove fatal in minutes...

Awesome set of photos!

Bart


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 5:18 pm 
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What an epic post Frank! Glad I could help when you came over to California as well!
I really dig those shots, especially that alterna and the viperas! My dad's side of the family is in england / france so I've been lucky enough to see a few adders before. Always fun little snakes.

-Jeremy


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 14th, 2017, 9:25 pm 

Joined: February 16th, 2017, 7:19 pm
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Looks like a great year! Great shots too. Your lighting is very clean and your habitat shots very well composed!
Hopefully 2018 will be as kind as 2017!!!
Nicholas


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 15th, 2017, 1:19 am 
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RenoBart wrote:
I would love to herp with my dogs but I fear they would be a bit too inquisitive around hots and being on the smaller side, a bite would prove fatal in minutes...

Awesome set of photos!

Bart


Definitely would not want to take that big risk.


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 15th, 2017, 1:20 am 
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Jeremy Wright wrote:
What an epic post Frank! Glad I could help when you came over to California as well!
I really dig those shots, especially that alterna and the viperas! My dad's side of the family is in england / france so I've been lucky enough to see a few adders before. Always fun little snakes.

-Jeremy


Thanks, Jeremy! The European Vipera are pretty awesome. Hopefully I can see a few more species in the coming years.


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 Post subject: Re: 2017 recap
PostPosted: December 15th, 2017, 1:21 am 
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Nicholas wrote:
Looks like a great year! Great shots too. Your lighting is very clean and your habitat shots very well composed!
Hopefully 2018 will be as kind as 2017!!!
Nicholas


Thanks for the compliments, Nicholas! I'm hoping 2018 will be another great one.


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