waiting for the monsoons

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
bgorum
Posts: 618
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Contact:

waiting for the monsoons

Post by bgorum » July 7th, 2011, 3:17 pm

O.k., so I'm pretty sure I did a post with this same title last year, but that's pretty much what we do here at this time of year. Right now it seems like half the state is on fire and almost all the local hiking destinations are closed to the public. We are still finding a few herps, but it's very few!

This is in some ways a continuation of my last post- viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5770

Image
An elm tree along Cedro creek in the Sandias that was just starting to leaf out at the end of April.

Image
On May 4th I headed out to the volcanoes and found this collared lizard watching planes fly by.

After photographing the collared lizard I moved on to one of the dens where I was surprised to find my old pal Rusty still at the den. However, he was not laying out, he was on the crawl. Turns out I arrived just in time to see Rusty leaving the den!
Image

I followed him for almost two and a half hours during which time he crawled, (pretty much continuously) south and east of the den in an L or C shaped pattern.
Image
He eventually came to this open area where he stopped and investigate the base of the salt bush that is just visible in the upper left hand corner of this photo.
Image
The more I watch these snakes the more I wonder what exactly makes them tick. I don't know if he smelled rodents or rabbits, or if perhaps this is a spot that he's used to ambush prey before, or maybe he was just tired of crawling, but he coiled here in ambush just as the sun dipped behind the volcano. His ambush spot was located 90 meters south of the den.
Image
Maybe he just wanted to have a view of the city lights after dark!
Image
As I was leaving that evening I found this glossy snake out on the crawl. It's always a treat to find these guys like this instead of on blacktop after dark.
Image

A Texas Horned Lizard from Socorro County on 5/06.
Image

On the 8th of May I found this diamondback in the foothills of the Manzano mountains. I just took a quick voucher shot and then continued on my hike. It wasn't until I got home and looked at the pictures that I realized the snake has a pretty nasty looking injury to the left side of it's head and several large spots of what appears to be dried blood on it's body.
Image

On the 13th of May I found this very emaciated collared lizard at the volcanoes. I ended up poring out my entire water bottle on the rock it was on as it greedily lapped what water it could.
Image

On the morning of the 15th I went back out to the volcanoes and found Rusty coiled in ambush again. This time he was coiled up at the base of a salt bush about 108 meters southwest of the den.
Image

It was about 9 am when I found him and it was already starting to get pretty warm. After about ten minutes Rusty very suddenly moved his head forward.
Image

At first I thought maybe he had seen a prey item, but it turns out he had just decided it was time to leave.
Image
(I hope this gif looks better on here than it does on photobucket. I can't get it to play at all on flickr).

He crawled for about 40 minutes heading east/southeast from his ambush spot. He eventually crawled around this boulder and then under another large boulder that had a woodrat nest under it. Rusty completely entered the Neotoma nest and did not ever come back out while I was watching. The Neotoma nest was about 106 meters south of the den. Straight line distance from his ambush spot to the Neotoma nest was 42 meters, so he was averaging a little less than one meter per minute.
Image

This is a roundtailed horned lizard I collected in Valencia county on the 17th of May and took to school to show my students (I know, that’s not legal in New Mexico). I released it where found on the 20th.
Image

I found a second roundtail the afternoon I released the first.
Image
Image

A fence lizard near the Embudo canyon trailhead on 5/22.
Image

That evening I went back out to the volcanoes and once again I found Rusty setting up an ambush. This time he was in an open area and not backed up against anything, which is somewhat atypical in my experience. His ambush spot this time was 25 meters south of the den. I've not seen Rusty again since then. My guess is that he has moved on to another area. It's interesting that he hung around at the den so late (May 4th) and then spent nearly three weeks just a little south of the den. Perhaps he wanted to get a good meal in him before he set out for his summer range.
Image

On May 29th I took a drive up to the Zuni Mountains. On the way there I found this feisty little gopher snake just past Grants.
Image
I went hiking in Bluewater canyonwhere I found this wandering garter snake at the bottom of a pool.
Image

When I first found it it's head was resting flat on the bottom and I thought it might be dead until it moved and eventually came up for air.
Image

I'm guessing it was waiting to ambush fish, but after watching it for almost an hour during which time many fish swam within easy striking range, but the snake never attempted to catch any I moved on.
Image

I also found some canyon treefrogs in Bluewater canyon.
Image

I found this individual clinging to the sandstone above a pool of water with a beautiful background consisting of the canyon, pine trees, clouds, the whole nine yards. I framed a picture with my wide-angle lens handheld to find the exact composition I wanted and then started setting up the tripod. Just then I heard Brrummm, Brrummm, Brrummm coming down the canyon and three four wheelers pulled up into my background, stopped, and proceeded to pop the top on their beers! So I had to settle for this shot with the macro lens. One consolation was that they had a kid with them that thought the frog was pretty cool.
Image

On Memorial Day I went to Cerrillos Hills State park to help the New Mexico Herpetological society with their survey of that park. Only problem was after the rest of the group surveyed on Saturday and Sunday they decided to skip Monday! No big deal. I found a few juvenile plateau striped whiptails.
Image

Also saw this chihuahuan spotted whiptail tackle a cicada.
Image

Saw several checkered whiptails of various sizes that were uncharacteristically difficult to photograph for this species.
Image

Saw only a single collared lizard, which was surprising because the habitat looked like Crotaphytus central.
Image

On the way home I saw this coachwhip get hit on the road near Golden. The snake was able to crawl off of the road on it's own and when I reached for it, it tried to bite me, so I was hoping it would live. I gave it to Josh to nurse back to health, but unfortunately it died the next day.
Image

A fence lizard on the Coyote trail in the Sandias on June 5th.
Image

On the morning of June 6th I headed out to the volcanoes. First find was this little darkling beetle.
Image

I was heading towards the woodrat nest were Rusty had retired previously and on the way I found this small diamondback coiled in ambush atop a boulder.
Image

Later I found this prairie rattlesnake right in the middle of the trail.
Image

On the morning of the 7th of June I was hiking in Embudito canyon in the Sandias when I came across this young striped whipsnake sunning in the trail. I set up the camera with my long lens to get a picture when it suddenly began moving its head in a strange jerky manner. Looking though the viewfinder I could see the reason was this small chihuahuan spotted whiptail, which was foraging on the trail. The lizard walked towards the snake, the snake lunged and missed, and the lizard ran down the trial towards me with the snake in pursuit. The snake stopped at one point and I went to reposition the camera, but the snake was gone when I looked through the viewfinder. It must have seen me move and fled off the trail.
Image

Some of the gifts of the smoke from the Wallow fire as seen from the Tramway trail in the Sandias.
Image

Image

Mule deer in Embudito canyon on June 13th.
Image
We had only a small amount of smoke on the 13th. This is looking down Embudito canyon. The volcanoes are in the background, with Mount Taylor (near Grants) behind them. That’s about 60 miles visibility, which was the most we had had in a while.
Image

I decided that given how dry it was the best plan of action was to try to hike around water. So with that in mind on June 17th I headed down to Bosque del Apache to hike the marsh trail. I was joined by a coyote.
Image

I found a juvenile New Mexico Garter snake
Image

A nice sized diamondback
Image

and a nesting painted turtle
Image

The marsh at sunset
Image

On the way home I even managed to cruise a few snakes, including this checkered garter snake.
Image

By now the Sandias had been closed due to the drought and danger of wildfires so no June 20th I decided to hike in the bosque north of Montano in Albuquerque. This is an area I have spent little time in for some reason. I shot some landscapes and found several snake tracks crossing the trail and I decided I really should not have neglected this area the way I have. I vowed to return. The next day the city of Albuquerque closed the bosque!
Image

So now around Albuquerque only Petroglyph National Monument is open. I went out to the volcanoes on the 26th and found a gravid earless lizard.
Image

and a collared lizard
Image

Now I like the volcanoes, but I don't want to go out there every day, so on the 29th I filled my gas-guzzling vehicle up and headed down to the Quebradas backcountry byway in Socorro county.
I found a gopher snake
Image

Texas horned lizard
Image

and a checkered whiptail
Image

I returned to Quebradas on July 2nd with Josh. There is a canyon with an intermittent, spring fed stream where I have found blacknecked garter snakes before, which would be a lifer for Josh. We hiked along the stream, but did not see a single garter snake. Disappointed we began hiking back up stream towards the car. At one point the stream forked and Josh went one way while I went the other. I heard a buzz and looked down expecting a diamondback (based on the habitat and my previous experience in this area). Instead I saw that the buzz came from this blacktail, which was a very nice consolation prize after not finding any garters.
Image

So that’s it for now. The weatherman is predicting a more active monsoon pattern starting this weekend. I hope he is right!

Thanks for looking.

dthor68
Posts: 291
Joined: July 26th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Location: South Carolina
Contact:

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by dthor68 » July 7th, 2011, 3:44 pm

BEAUTYFUL!

chad ks
Posts: 632
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:31 pm

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by chad ks » July 7th, 2011, 4:32 pm

This was such a great set of pics. I love the various behavior shots. Your posts are always a welcomed sight when I first log on!

User avatar
Will Wells
Posts: 275
Joined: June 18th, 2010, 4:32 am
Location: Arizona
Contact:

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by Will Wells » July 7th, 2011, 4:55 pm

I really enjoyed your photos. I like all the sky in the back grounds. Keep up the great work and hopefully we'll cross paths during the monsoon.

Tamara D. McConnell
Posts: 2248
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:42 am

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » July 7th, 2011, 6:31 pm

Absolutely stunning. Makes me even more stoked about traveling out west.

User avatar
Crazins
Posts: 269
Joined: June 14th, 2010, 5:49 pm
Location: My car

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by Crazins » July 7th, 2011, 9:49 pm

Great pics. Love the perspective on many of your shots, like the atrox one right after the gif (which was also very cool). Props for the patience to sit there and watch the predation and other behavior. Wonderful!

-Marisa

User avatar
Bryan_Hughes
Posts: 73
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 9:39 pm
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Contact:

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by Bryan_Hughes » July 7th, 2011, 10:08 pm

Great stuff, I really enjoyed your style of photography, and take on herping in general. I think there's a lot to learn from your patient approach.

User avatar
Correcamino
Posts: 444
Joined: June 10th, 2010, 11:50 am

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by Correcamino » July 8th, 2011, 8:12 am

Awesome series and spectacular photography Bill! Keep up the great work! :thumb:

Rich

bgorum
Posts: 618
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:46 am
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Contact:

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by bgorum » July 8th, 2011, 8:19 am

Thanks for the responses everyone.

Will and Marissa- I think all the skies and the perspective in many of the pictures are the result of me becoming kind of addicted to shooting with a wide angle lens lately. This is probably going to get me flamed, but Rusty and I have become so accustomed to one another that I can predict where he is going to crawl, lay down on the ground with the wide angle on the camera, and photograph him as he crawls past. He just completely ignores me. Not something I would want to try with just any rattlesnake however.

Tamara- I hope the rains have started before you head out west. I hear Arizona is already getting some. If you are going to be spending any time in New Mexico shoot me a pm and I'll be glad to help out any way I can.

Chad and Bryan- As I've gotten older I've just sort found that I enjoy seeing behavior more than racking up numbers of species and its a heck of a lot cheaper than trying to fund trips to new locations all the time.

User avatar
BillMcGighan
Posts: 2308
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Location: Unicoi, TN

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by BillMcGighan » July 8th, 2011, 8:43 am

Wow.... just Wow....

User avatar
David Jahn
Posts: 54
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:51 pm
Location: Norcal Bay Area

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by David Jahn » July 8th, 2011, 4:29 pm

Great photos and behavior observations! It's definitely tough to observe the behavior of active reptiles outside of their behaviors that are in reaction to your presence.

User avatar
nhherp
Posts: 122
Joined: August 10th, 2010, 10:25 am
Location: southwest US - NM

Re: waiting for the monsoons

Post by nhherp » July 9th, 2011, 4:40 pm

Congrats on the molossus. Im jealous as I have been waiting and wanting to see one back in there for some time now.

Its raining at my place now. Hopefully tonight will yeild something if I can decide where Im going..

-N-

Post Reply