2019 EOY Recap

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achillesbeast
Posts: 46
Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am

2019 EOY Recap

Post by achillesbeast » December 15th, 2019, 8:33 am

2019 was a bittersweet year; it was my best herping-wise, but it was extremely difficult in many other ways. We're all here for the herping so let's dive in.

As usual, I mostly herped in west Texas and my top targets were west TX Lampropeltis, lepidus, Sistrurus, Agkistrodon, and a few other species.

I got a late start to the 2019 season for personal reasons, and I didn't herp as much as I normally do during the spring. The spring was decent, most outings produced several common but welcomed species. It wasn't until late-April that I began finding target species, including a milk snake and early-season gray-banded kingsnake.


ImageShort-lined Skink by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGround Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageCollared Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMany-lined Skink by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRing-necked Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Narrow-mouthed Toad by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRegal Ring-necked Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSpot-tailed Earless Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNew Mexico Milk Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTrans-Pecos Black-headed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTrans-Pecos Ratsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMexican Hognose by Frank Portillo, on Flickr


Once the summer rolled around, I was in full alterna-hunting mode. In the early part of the summer, I tend to focus more heavily on the eastern part of the Trans-Pecos as that region seems to receive more early summer thunderstorms compared to the western edge of Texas. I was fortunate to find and photograph a lot of cool snakes during the early summer, several of which were found while herping with friends or with my wife. There were several off-nights, like usual, but the rain was plentiful and so were the snakes. West Texas certainly delivered big time!


ImageBaird's Rat Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Massasauga by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTrans-Pecos Copperhead by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr


June was an incredible month of herping for several people and groups in west Texas so, needless to say, my expectations heading into July were quite high. July turned out to be an interesting month; the early part was fairly productive, unsurprisingly because the rain was abundant, but the latter part of the month would turn out to be completely the opposite. The second half of July saw almost no significant rain, leaving a dry and snakeless landscape in its absence. Only a few common species such as diamondbacks and blacktails made occasional appearances, but zero-snake nights were not uncommon. At the very end of the month, a few, very small isolated showers finally delivered a little bit of rain, which encouraged limited reptile movement.


ImageTrans-Pecos Black-Headed Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDesert Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBig Bend Milksnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBig Bend Milksnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMottled Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr


The dry weather-trends of latter July continued throughout much of August in west Texas, and I wanted a break from the brutal stretches of herping and skunk-fests. My friend Ruben and I were both sick of the unusually bone-dry conditions of Texas, thus we planned a short trip to western New Mexico and southern Arizona, which would hopefully provide a nice break and change of scenery from recent weeks in Texas. It was a short trip and snakes weren't overly abundant, but we found multiple targets, making the trip a success. The most common species of the trip were the golden black-tailed rattlesnakes. Also, we finally saw large thunderstorms! It felt like years since I had last seen a decent-sized storm.


ImageBanded Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBanded Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBanded Rock Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBlack-tailed Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageArizona Black Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageArizona Black Rattlesnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreen Rat Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr


The snakeless and rainless nights persisted in west Texas during middle-August, making for frustrating and lackluster nights. It was extremely bizarre as the monsoon season normally arrives during late-July/early-August, making me wonder if the monsoons would ever arrive at all. Finally, the heavy rains showed up at the very end of the month, and with their arrival, the snakes came out of hiding. I welcomed the rains with open arms and set out to hunt like a madman. The strange summer already made it well known that more rain was not a guarantee. The last two nights of August brought a lot of rain and produced two fantastic nights of herping, delivering multiple gray-banded kingsnakes, a milksnake, and several other common species.


ImageTrans-Pecos Copperhead by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBig Bend Milksnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBig Bend Milk Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

The weather remained ideal throughout much of September, and snake activity remained decent until the end of October. During September and October, I heavily cruise grasslands in search of western and Mexican hognose, and other interesting grassland species. The highlights of the early fall included another gray-banded kingsnake (a beautiful speckled specimen), several hognose, plenty of horned lizards, and my first live, west Texas rough green snake.

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGray-Banded Kingsnake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRough Green Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageRough Green Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose Snake by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageWestern Hognose by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreater Short Horned Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGreater Short Horned Lizard by Frank Portillo, on Flickr


In several ways, the 2019 herping season was very rewarding, I got to see many cool snakes and I made a few friends along the way. Though I don't herp with people very often (mostly alone), I'm grateful to those individuals that I was fortunate to share some adventures with. To end the post, I included several photos of landscapes from multiple areas, and some photos of my dogs, who are my constant herping companions. The last few photos are of my two dogs Anubis and Brady, who sadly passed away this year, but who always accompanied me and made my trips so special and rich. My herping trips will never be the same without them.


ImageStockton Plateau Landscape by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePecos River Bridge by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageGuadalupe Mountains by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePiasano Pass by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImagePeloncillo Mountains by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageMonsoon Season by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageThe Right Time by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageNew Mexico Sunset by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageTranquility by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSacramento Mountains by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageDaisy by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBrady and Anubis in AZ by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageBrady and Anubis by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

ImageSummit by Frank Portillo, on Flickr

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 16th, 2019, 2:33 am

achillesbeast wrote:
December 15th, 2019, 8:33 am
2019 was a bittersweet year; it was my best herping-wise, but it was extremely difficult in many other ways.
Same here, Frank. Won't help a lot, but just so you know I am a big fan of your photography, thanks taking the time to compile these!

Jimi
Posts: 1888
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by Jimi » December 16th, 2019, 1:27 pm

Likewise, Frank - I always enjoy your excellent pics and stories. Sorry about the hard parts - did you lose two dogs, or one?

It was nice to meet you at the OB Oasis in late May this year. Great trip. Hope to see you again.

Curious, if you've got a sec - on the small fossorial csquamates like ground snakes, ringers, Tantillas & skinks, do you think a decent run of weather (nights 40's, days 60's) in say mid-late March could "fairly reliably" produce them? By say flipping the debris along cut bases? I've never been there at that time of year, but based on experience elsewhere I'd guess it could work just fine. "Moisture beats warmth, as long as it isn't freezing". There are a number of unsexy taxa that don't show up much - if at all - cut-walking, that I would be glad to encounter some year. Always looking to switch it up a little, ya know?

cheers
Jimi

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achillesbeast
Posts: 46
Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am

Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by achillesbeast » December 16th, 2019, 1:43 pm

Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:
December 16th, 2019, 2:33 am
achillesbeast wrote:
December 15th, 2019, 8:33 am
2019 was a bittersweet year; it was my best herping-wise, but it was extremely difficult in many other ways.
Same here, Frank. Won't help a lot, but just so you know I am a big fan of your photography, thanks taking the time to compile these!
Thanks so much, Jeroen, I appreciate it.

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achillesbeast
Posts: 46
Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am

Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by achillesbeast » December 16th, 2019, 1:44 pm

Jimi wrote:
December 16th, 2019, 1:27 pm
Likewise, Frank - I always enjoy your excellent pics and stories. Sorry about the hard parts - did you lose two dogs, or one?

It was nice to meet you at the OB Oasis in late May this year. Great trip. Hope to see you again.

Curious, if you've got a sec - on the small fossorial csquamates like ground snakes, ringers, Tantillas & skinks, do you think a decent run of weather (nights 40's, days 60's) in say mid-late March could "fairly reliably" produce them? By say flipping the debris along cut bases? I've never been there at that time of year, but based on experience elsewhere I'd guess it could work just fine. "Moisture beats warmth, as long as it isn't freezing". There are a number of unsexy taxa that don't show up much - if at all - cut-walking, that I would be glad to encounter some year. Always looking to switch it up a little, ya know?

cheers
Jimi
I lost two dogs.

I'm glad that you enjoy my photos. Regarding the fossorial taxa, they are reliably flipped under rocks during late March and early April, assuming moisture is decent. Those fossorials become more difficult to find during the summer months.

Jimi
Posts: 1888
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by Jimi » December 17th, 2019, 12:28 pm

I lost two dogs.
My God. Sorry to hear that. I have a 16-year old GSD who's nearing his end. Hard times, very hard times. Life's a serial heartbreaker - get well soon.
Regarding the fossorial taxa, they are reliably flipped under rocks during late March and early April, assuming moisture is decent. Those fossorials become more difficult to find during the summer months.
Thanks very much for sharing your experience. It works the same way farther west, if you haven't tried your luck in the Mojave or Great Basin - it's pretty easy to flip the little buggers in the moist & chilly, but just forget about them in the summer. Anyway, I'll have to wander over that way one of these early springs. If nothing else, it's a great season for a road trip - cheap gas, empty motels, low traffic.

cheers

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Porter
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Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by Porter » December 21st, 2019, 2:49 am

Tons of great shots :thumb: I really like seeing those trippy looking gray banded kingsnakes. :beer:

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achillesbeast
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Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am

Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by achillesbeast » January 7th, 2020, 2:39 pm

Porter wrote:
December 21st, 2019, 2:49 am
Tons of great shots :thumb: I really like seeing those trippy looking gray banded kingsnakes. :beer:
Thank you so much!

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achillesbeast
Posts: 46
Joined: July 15th, 2012, 8:52 am

Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by achillesbeast » January 7th, 2020, 2:40 pm

Jimi wrote:
December 17th, 2019, 12:28 pm
I lost two dogs.
My God. Sorry to hear that. I have a 16-year old GSD who's nearing his end. Hard times, very hard times. Life's a serial heartbreaker - get well soon.
Regarding the fossorial taxa, they are reliably flipped under rocks during late March and early April, assuming moisture is decent. Those fossorials become more difficult to find during the summer months.
Thanks very much for sharing your experience. It works the same way farther west, if you haven't tried your luck in the Mojave or Great Basin - it's pretty easy to flip the little buggers in the moist & chilly, but just forget about them in the summer. Anyway, I'll have to wander over that way one of these early springs. If nothing else, it's a great season for a road trip - cheap gas, empty motels, low traffic.

cheers
Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate it.

I agree, the early spring is a nice time to herp.

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CanebrakeRattlesnake
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Re: 2019 EOY Recap

Post by CanebrakeRattlesnake » January 16th, 2020, 9:20 am

Amazing photographs! I love that two-tailed skink :thumb:

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