Herping SE Sierras report

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 42
Joined: April 27th, 2013, 7:46 pm

Herping SE Sierras report

Post by zeevng »

Hello all,

You may or may not have seen my post of about a week and a half ago, talking about heading out to the South Eastern corner of the Sierra Nevadas, Kennedy Meadows, and other nearby areas for a bit of herping.
I received incredible and generous advice from Richard Hoyer (Thank you muchly for the tips!), packed my VW Passat to the gills with camping and cooking gear, loaded up my girlfriend and my two dogs, and hit the road Friday afternoon.

With a heavy right foot, I was able to make the drive up to the S Kern plateau in about 2:45 from Santa Clarita in North LA County, stopping along the way only for gas, and this DOR Coachwhip half way up 9m Cyn road:

ImageUnlucky Coachwhip #1 by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg

An important point to note here, is my actual Camera gave up on me for most of the trip, so the only pictures I have, are from my Google Pixel. Now, although the Pixel is incredible for a phone camera, the pictures are definitely lacking the depth I'm used to. That caveat aside, I shall continue.

We made it up the the plateau around 7:30pm, which gave us about 45 minutes to find and set up camp before sundown. Our plan was to either camp in K meadows, or if it was too full (Our dogs love other humans, but if there were to be any other dogs, they'd be insufferably loud all night), head on to Fish Creek or Troy Meadows campgrounds. I was definitely not expecting it to be too packed, but I couldn't have been more wrong.
Kennedy meadows was packed with families and dogs, so we headed back out towards Fish Creek.

Not even three minutes into the drive, we came across this absolutely STUNNING NorPac (Crotalus Oreganus):

ImageNorPac by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

ImageNorPac by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

ImageNorPac by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

ImageNorPac by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

As the goal of this quick little trip was to try and cross off as many lifers as possible, it was great to cross one off so quickly!
This guy was so much more attractive than the majority of the Helleri we have down here, and these phone pictures barely do it justice. The striping on the tail, the rich, golden-orange coloration, just beautiful.

Light was fading fast as we got to Fish Creek, which was even more packed. We headed onward to Troy Meadows to discover that it was quite closed.
The sun has now set, and we have no idea where we were going to set up camp yet, let alone actually set it up!

We started driving back east towards Kennedy meadows, thinking we'd just find whatever little campsite was available, when we came across an unnamed, yet completely official, little campground by a meadow. It had only two spots, and the better of the two, IMO, was waiting just for us.
We set up camp under the pine trees, against one of the many rocky outcrops, using the thick pine needles under the tent as extra padding.

ImageCampsite at Sunset by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

After we had camp set up, we piled back into the car and headed out for some night cruising as recommended. We did about three-four hours of cruising, from eastern edge and back several times, and were completely and totally skunked. Apart from one deer, we didn't see a single living thing all night. Tired and hungry, we slunk back to our campsite, had a quick dinner and hit the needles, ready for a day filled with non-stop herping the next day.

Sunrise was quick, and gorgeous, and before we packed up camp, we took a little hike through the woods around us, ending up at a creek that was absolutely filled with trout, as well as a couple frogs that disappeared in nano-seconds, preventing any sort of pictures or IDs.

ImageLone Pine by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

We got back to camp, and my girlfriend Elly packed up while I cooked us a little breakfast using the hood of my car and a couple of sheet trays as a prep surface and cooking area (Ham and egg sandwiches, greek yogurt, berries, and more completely unnecessary yet delicious fare.).

ImageBreakfast on the move by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

When we were suitably stuffed, and wanting nothing more than a solid nap, we headed out to a couple of spots I'd wanted to check out and a couple of spots I'd been advised to check out.
Hiking through pine forests is always an incredible time, the crisp, clean air, and sweet smell of pine permeating every breath.

We herped along creeks, through every rocky outcrop we came to, under every felled log we found, and were rewarded with...

Absolutely zilch.
As Mr. Hoyer had very correctly surmised, it was just way too dry, I think. (Although even on the banks of creeks, several of which cut right through rocky outcroppings and seeped moisture into the ground surrounding it, there was nothing to see.)
I flipped every single rock I passed. Every log. Shone every crevice and crack.
I put in more physical effort herping that day, than I really ever have before.
We headed to the lowest part of the plateau near S Kern river, we headed to the highest part near Black Rock, and everywhere in between.
We herped from about 8:00am till 7:00pm, with just a small break for food in the middle, and the only herps we saw (Besides the teeming hordes of Uta, of course), were a tiny, neonate DOR NorPack, and an even smaller alligator lizard darting into a crevice. (No pictures of either, unfotunately.)

It's the most disheartening experience, to be surrounded by the most incredible habitat, and just see nothing.

The habitat really was beautiful though:

ImageHabitat #1 by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

ImageHabitat 3 by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

Even the dogs started giving up by the afternoon:

ImageLuna by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

ImageElton by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

By the time sunset was getting close, we decided to head slowly towards home, down to the desert, and head back south to JB Cyn area, and the desert surrounding it.
We got there about 45 minutes before sunset, and cruised the roads out into the Mojave for a while, watching a couple of Kestrels harass some Cottontails for a bit, before encountering another DOR Coachwhip. (I swear I see more of these DOR than otherwise).

ImageUnlucky Coachwhip #2 by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

By the time we got back to JB Cyn, it had not gotten quite dark enough to start cruising yet, so we hiked around a little to kill time.

ImageJb Cyn road by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

Finally, we were able to hit the road, and were rewarded almost immediately with this gorgeous little Pit:

ImagePituophis by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

We kept cruising, and it soon became obvious we weren't the only ones. It being a Saturday night, a new moon, and with temps absolutely perfect, we had quite a bit of company on the road. We cruised past fellow herpers in that awkwardly inquisitive way one does when encountering a fellow herper in the field:

"Are you...?"
Uhh, yeah? Are you...?
"Looking for snakes?"
Yeah, I'm herping, are you herping?
"Yeah! See anything cool yet?!"
And repeat.

Despite the crowds of fellow herpers (Say hi if you were there, i'm so bad with names! :oops: ), we were able to turn up a couple more snakes before calling it a night:

ImageGlossy by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

ImageLeaf-nosed by Zeev Nitzan Ginsburg, on Flickr

I really wish my SLR hadn't given out on me, as phone pics for night herping are awful, but hey, whatchu going to do?

Despite getting well and truly skunked on my target species (Boas, Kings {both kinds}, Garters, etc), it was a pretty decent 24hrs, and as it was the first time we took the dogs camping, it was a successful experiment in that regard too.
The habitat was gorgeous, the drive was incredible, and I will definitely be heading back there next spring, when it's a little cooler and wetter.

Thanks for reading along, and as always,

Happy Herping! :thumb:

Richard F. Hoyer
Posts: 620
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:14 pm

Re: Herping SE Sierras report

Post by Richard F. Hoyer »

Very nice narrative and photos. Richard FH

User avatar
Posts: 1474
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:12 pm
Location: Anaheim, California

Re: Herping SE Sierras report

Post by Fieldnotes »

Nice post, read every word, then scrolled down looking for a surprise boa picture, but None. Sounds like you had the best advice and technique, but no luck. It's post like this that keep me returning to the FHF. I hope it picks back up soon. :beer:

User avatar
Posts: 2292
Joined: March 19th, 2011, 6:43 pm

Re: Herping SE Sierras report

Post by Porter »

Awesome layout :thumb: A refreshing revisit back to the forum’s original post aesthetic.

Love the color on that rattler 8-) nice find 👍

Post Reply