Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

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

Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Porter »

I've got all these old photos of herping over the last 10 years... So, I thought it would be cool to share some of these to the forum for viewing pleasure and/or topics related to the content in some way or form. Feel free to add your own photography or stories to the thread!

I recently mentioned this spot on another member's post, in regards to carpet flipping. While living in Folsom CA, I went out searching for random junk to flip in suitable habitat. Anyone familiar with old backroads knows there is usually a yearly litter of short-lived dumped debris. This particular spot had several large mounds of truck dumped concrete and gravel. Along with a scattered labyrinth of pieces of plywood, metal objects, garbage, and carpet. Some of the large boards looked as if they had been set by a herper who had found the spot before me. They looked to have been pulled out from the piles. In fact, I may have done it myself and forgot :lol: I usually do that, anytime I come across an old junk pile or fallen shack. But, I do think I remember a couple large boards laying flat in the grass when I first discovered it. There was also a large board leaning up against the bottom of one mound. It looked to me as if it had been specifically placed. But there were a lot of really good small boards that weren't laying flat at all or flippable. Maybe from a different dumping. If anyone recognizes this spot and has pics or stories, feel free to share!

So, I ended up hitting this place several times throughout 2011 until it was flattened out by tractors. I do remember flipping this first racer two years in a row. Not sure if that was 2010-11 or 2011-12, but this spot turned out to be fruitful in diversity and rarity. It mostly was home to Yellow-bellied racers. I flipped two breading gopher snakes on one occasion. A couple rattlesnakes, including a large tail-less adult that was flipped during the day. Which I returned to film later that night. I flipped it under a small square board little more than the size of the snake. I had to leave it alone because I wasn't herping with hooks or tongs at that stage in the game. The best find by far was a red-colored YBR that also had coloration on the tail similar to a CA striped racer/whipsnake. Something uncharacteristic to yellow-bellied racers (as far as I know). This was a very interesting find for the times... because I remember debates and discussions on the forum about whether or not coluber lateralis lateralis was better named as a whipsnake, rather than racer. A very high orange Pacific gopher snake with red blotches was found there as well. I couldn't help but wonder if the extra red pigment in the two individuals was influenced by the locale. Although different species, could a food source of prey items or elements/minerals in the soil be playing a part in this..?

Looking back... Finding this spot was definitely one of my favorite memories as a herper. A great experience discovering what I had never seen before :thumb: (I had seen a couple orange-ish gopher snakes over the years. So, that wasn't too uncommon)

ImageFotoJet - 2020-12-26T004958.002 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2020-12-06T095249.037 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-02-15T083021.812 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-04T050315.023 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-04T051521.154 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-04T051644.097 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-04T005952.531 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-04T005744.758 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr






Here's a 2010 photo of the location. Looks like it was 2011 when they bulldozed it :cry: ...So, that means I would have found it in 2010, uploaded the video in 2011 (after recording the footage in 2010), and visited it for the last time during early spring of 2011.
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Jimi
Posts: 1955
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Re: Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Jimi »

I have seen photos recently of some reddish and also some slightly bluish YBRs from the same locality in Utah. Parley's Canyon along I-80 just east of Salt Lake City. It may be that there's a genetic connection between these 2 "morphs" - something present, or something (e.g., the "dominant usual color") missing, maybe?

The older you get the more of these "that spot is gone now - paved" bummers one accumulates. It sucks. I will say though, there are a few spots I used to herp as a kid that were unprotected at the time, which are now in public ownership for the purposes of wildlife conservation. Various units of the SDNWR are a prime example. So there's something positive.

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Re: Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Porter »

Nice :thumb: Do you have access to the photos to post to the thread?

They seem to be kinda sporadic here in the Central Valley and surrounding lower elevations. I've only found the one red. I wanna say Natalie McNear found one the same year or following year. There seemed to be a red aberrant/morph trend happening there for a while. I found a red gigas (far more than the usual orange variations they find in the traps.. and the bay area people (Maybe Luke Talltree) found a reddish/orange ordinoides. As far as I know, there is no locale specific to the red colored racers (in CA). The most interesting thing about that individual to me is the tail. I've never seen red coloration on the underside tail of any YBR other than that one. I'd be curious to know if the ones in Utah have red tails like that. The lighter grey/blue individual I'm not 100% sure was found at the same flip spot. I've also seen only one of those. Like you mentioned, I think that one may be missing a color.

There's an interesting thing I notice about the ground color of YBR in accordance to elevation. The ones in the farmlands of Davis and Sacramento have much more blue showing than the ones further East (further from saltwater influenced marshland habitat). They are more on the green side as you get into the foothills area. Some blue, but most is blended out into the other colors. The the ones I find in the Sierras are straight brown dorsal with bright yellow bellies. No blue at all. I have however found racers high in the Sierras, at a little spot of a more foothills looking habitat (much further north) that resembled the foothills coloration/variation. As for the red individual from the bay area, I'm not sure if that was found near saltwater or not. Habitat is a lot different out there. Especially if they herp more inland.

Hellihooks told me about some sky blue ones down by him. I'm not sure where that was, but it seemed as if several or a few had been found there before. It was an area to search for them.

Here's a couple pics of a Yolo county blues:

ImageFotoJet - 2021-02-01T002419.375 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-10T064324.620 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr



One from Sutter County:

ImageFotoJet - 2021-01-04T052925.324 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr



Here's one from El Dorado County. This one from 3,100 elv. I've found the same brown variation at 3 other moutain locales (3,500, 3600, and 4,000). You can see there is just a slight hint of greenish color on this one. But, the blue is absent.

ImageFotoJet - 2021-06-07T123833.458 by The Singing Frog, on Flickr

An Even more interesting thing about the red one I found, is that there is a ton of blue coloration on the neck of the snake... but nowhere else. It fades out as it extends from head to tail.

I wondered if prey items might cause the color differences in these (Also, the influence of minerals brought in by the ocean). The first YBR I ever found, I called a green watersnake for years until I got ahold of a Stebbins field guide. I was walking waist deep through an Elk Grove ditch with a large dip net and saw it basking/hunting atop floating water plants. It was far from the shore and over above about 3 feet of water. You could barely see it because it's green color and shape (like a vinesnake in a tree) camouflaged it better than any other aquatic snake. In fact, I've always thought of them as an aquatic snake because of that. You'd have to assume, the Yolo and Sutter county probably consume more amphibian and aquatic prey (which is where they possibly could be getting the saltwater influence. Aside from natural absorption through the skin). The Sacramento and Placer county (foothills habitat) would be consuming a good variety of everything. The mountain YBR would probably feast on a diet of mostly, if not only, reptiles. The ones near water have only trickling streams. They eat insects, so whatever grasshopper specie is available (if different) could be a factor. Maybe vegetation consumed or just ground color to camouflage to. As far as the red ones go... Maybe they are more selective in their prey choices. Choosing a diet of only foothill's reptiles or maybe only mammals.

I didn't read any of this. These are just my thoughts, so if anyone knows more on the subject definitely feel free to chime! Jimi, aside from seeing photos and info on the undertail color, I'd like to know if there was saltwater where the Utah snakes are found! ..and any additional info

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Re: Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Porter »

Also, is there any chance of a different subspecies (mountain or reds)...? How or what would be the best way to determine that?

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

Re: Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Jimi »

They're another guy's pictures so I'm not eager to post them. He did send them to me, but...meh. I don't take many pictures, and hardly ever put any online, so obviously I'm not motivated that way. He takes a lot of pictures, but also posts hardly any as far as I can tell. So...uh...ha ha. I don't think the world is going to be seeing those racer images.

They were from a few miles up I-80 from Salt Lake City. Parley's Canyon. Dry rocky scrub-oak setting about 5500' elevation. GSL sits about 4200' over 15 miles to the west. So no, no salt water nearby. There are little sceloporine lizards all over around here, and plenty of orthopterans and small mammals. I suspect it's just some little genetic quirk that tweaks their color. Also note that a lot of usually-green snake species sometimes come in a blue shade. I guess they may be lacking some of their usual yellow? Not sure about where the red comes in.

I'm kind of a viper dork. The sexual dimorphism in the genus Viridovipera is interesting (to me anyway) - the females of several species are often a grassy green, while the males (who are not notably smaller than the females, as in most tree vipers) are more of an emerald green. It feels like maybe there's some blue down in there, or just less yellow, if that makes sense.

The first place I ever got to know western yellow-bellies was in the N Fk Smith River watershed in Del Norte county (CA). It was an area of very weird rocks - serpentine, with very acidic soils, lots of heavy metals like nickel in there, and lots of strange plants. Pitcher plant bogs, loads of wild azaleas and rhodies, fabulous Port Orford cedar stringers along the creeks, and such like. Fantastic country, worth an acquaintance. Also has nice ringnecks and boas. Anyway the racers were little runty guys, like most of them here (most adults around 24" or so, and finger-thick). Those were the standard olive-green, like most of the ones I see here.

cheers

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Re: Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Porter »

Weeeelll… why don’t you ask him? :lol: I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. I was contacted by elementary schools, Todd Batty For a cell phone app, and gave a photo to Brian Hubbs for a book..all for free! I even saw Chad Lane selling one of my treefrog photos at a reptile show one time. I think I may have bought it from them 🤣 Tell him what it’s for. Maybe he’ll post it himself…

Looks like I may have to take a drive through Utah 🤷🏻‍♂️

Yes, Del Norte looks like an awesome place! Especially for me because I love that interesting variation stuff even more than lifers. Definitely need to visit it sometime. Only time I’ve ever been up that way was when I was a kid and doing a camping trip at Fort Bragg. Actually got my first gartersnake there. I need to do a northern coast salamander and snake run.

Jimi
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Re: Spot Check - Memories #1 - Red-colored YBR

Post by Jimi »

We'll see. I may ask, or may not. I'm also not a fan of putting photos on the internet - I personally find something creepy about it.

Having lived in both - Del Norte feels a long way and a lot different from Ft Bragg. It's so much wetter. Inland gets hot, just the same, but the rivers are bigger and the rainy season is longer and the annual rainfall totals are nearly double in a lot of places.

Maybe we could meet up some time for a north coast herping jaunt.

cheers

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