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 Post subject: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 2:10 pm 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
Posts: 221
Location: Annapolis, MD
Hello Arizona chapter, I am from Maryland and plan to be making a trip out to Arizona to test my luck out west. My target species are any rattlesnakes (I'm not being picky), Western Banded Gecko, Eastern Collard Lizard, and the Gila Monster. Any information about any of these species would be phenomenal! I will be in the Sonoran desert and the Lower right side of the state (near Tucson). Any advice for this non-local would be greatly appreciated. I will be going in late spring.

Taylor


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 3:45 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Posts: 2095
Location: Southern Arizona
Late spring might be April-May. Driving roads at night will turn up some lizards and rattlesnakes. Collared lizards might be found in rock fields.

TC


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 3:53 pm 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
Posts: 221
Location: Annapolis, MD
Hey thanks a lot! Any information is helpful, I have high expectations for this trip and I know I'll find at least some of what I'm looking for. I know the forum is against sharing information about exact locations but what are the best things to flip out in the desert? I would assume rocks and the occasional log, but are there specific things I should target.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 4:40 pm 
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Joined: November 23rd, 2010, 6:44 pm
Posts: 280
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Rattlesnakes - A warm desert road
Western Banded Gecko - Artificial cover
Eastern Collard Lizard - Rocky areas
Gila Monster - Good luck


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 4:52 pm 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
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Location: Annapolis, MD
For the rattlesnakes would you recommend paved or unpaved?


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 5:03 pm 
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Joined: November 23rd, 2010, 6:44 pm
Posts: 280
Location: Mesa, Arizona
I imagine different herpers have diferent preferences. During that time of year I look on dirt roads during the day and paved roads at night. Later in spring rattlers, especially Sidewinders, should be out and on the roads at night. You might be suprised at how many you see.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 5:29 pm 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
Posts: 221
Location: Annapolis, MD
Music to my ears, I can't wait to go! I have 2 more months to put in some research, should help a lot.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 5:34 pm 
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Joined: November 23rd, 2010, 6:44 pm
Posts: 280
Location: Mesa, Arizona
Two words - Google Earth ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 7:23 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 5:51 am
Posts: 770
Location: Arizona
My .02....

Most of the animals you list can be seen without flipping a thing. I know that flipping is pretty big back east, but out here it's not really necessary. The only animal you listed that must be flipped to be seen DURING THE DAY is the banded gecko....These creatures are totally nocturnal and are actually very commonly seen on desert roads at night in both the spring and summer.

One thing to keep in mind...Go where the weather takes you. I see SO many out of staters that have their entire schedule planned out in advance...They herp a certain area because that's what their schedule says to do on that day...You will have MUCH better success if you go where conditions are best, at the time they are best. This requires flexibility on your end as well as the ability to monitor weather conditions in real time.

As far as rattlesnakes, gilas and collared lizards....Finding them (or at least looking for them) is pretty easy. Find a desert wash...Hike it...Keep your eyes peeled. All of these animals can be observed either actively foraging or at rest in desert washes in spring.

Another thing to consider....in some years there are BIG night-time temp differences between April and May. This of course will affect the extent to which you cruise at night. Pay attention to the moon phase as well....

I could go on and on here....suffice it to say that there's a lot that has to come together to have a "good" night of cruising, even in Az.

Good luck.

-Kris


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 7:33 pm 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
Posts: 221
Location: Annapolis, MD
Thanks for the great advise! You called it on the schedule thing, but thats how it works when you're from out of state :(

I do have a few more questions regarding some of the advice you gave me. I know the temperature in the desert drops off dramatically, but at what temperature does road cruising become not worth it, I have a short amount of time so I would like to cruise most nights but I figure I can't go every night so I should try to skip the bad ones. Also you mentioned that a lot of the life is out and about versus living under a rock, does this mean that flipping will yield little?


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 7:39 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:02 am
Posts: 229
Location: Southern California, AZ, AL, AR, NV, WMD...
I pretty much agree...about the no flipping.
I may be a Ca. guy but I have done more than ten trips to AZ in the last three years. I have seen all the animals you named on paved or dirt roads.

I even saw a collared lizard hunkered down one evening on a reasonably well traveled paved road.

I like to walk secluded dirt roads in the morning and early evening (good for gilas). I hunt only with a DSLR but I get a license anyway. Do not even think about touching, hooking, or grabbing a gila. Just take a camera and shoot lots of pics. Pictures last longer and they don't bite, or cause you to be cited.

There are tons of native AZ folks and locals with more experience than I, but I do pretty well and like the seclusion of herping alone.

Just a few ideas.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 9:29 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Posts: 2095
Location: Southern Arizona
Not everyone here likes to do flipping. It's only productive under certain conditions...cool enough, moist enough. I like the early mornings.

Most of your targeted herps don't hang out under surface objects much. I've never flipped a gila or a collared lizard, for instance. However, geckos are commonly flipped under all kinds of debris, and you have to be careful when flipping, because of rattlers and venomous inverts. I usually start flipping in my favorite areas, mostly rocks and a few boards, when the temps are above 50*F, probably from 7 to 9 a.m. Once the temps get close to 70*F, it might pay to walk the washes.

I usually only do flipping in the cooler months, maybe from Feb to early May, but I have flipped herps through to summer on the cooler mornings.

BTW, one of the other guys flipped a collared lizard on January 1st this year... ;)

TC :sleep:


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 9:43 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 5:51 am
Posts: 770
Location: Arizona
I know the temperature in the desert drops off dramatically, but at what temperature does road cruising become not worth it, I have a short amount of time so I would like to cruise most nights but I figure I can't go every night so I should try to skip the bad ones.

Alot of that depends on how hot the day got....If the day only got up into the low 80s, then you may only really have an hour or so of "good" cruising time. Conversely, if the day is in the 90s, you could probably have reasonable success for a good portion of the night...There's really no hard and fast rule here...You have to judge it based upon conditions and go from there.

Also you mentioned that a lot of the life is out and about versus living under a rock, does this mean that flipping will yield little?

I'm not saying that flipping is UNproductive per se...although I can virtually assure you that you will not have the same type of success that you might back east....That is to say that if you spend your time (and your energy) actually hiking, you'll cover more ground and hence increase your chances of seeing the species you listed. Yes, rattlesnakes, gilas, collareds, etc. can all be flipped....I've flipped a few myself. But you'll quickly find that lifting large rocks in a wash in the middle of the day is a very tiring exercise. If you feel you MUST flip, I recommend locating a trash pile in the middle of the desert (they are more numerous than you'd think) and flip there....If you're in flat creosote scrub, you'll stand an excellent shot of flipping Coleonyx and a reasonable shot of flipping a Crotalus cerastes or three (depending on where you are).

The point I'm trying to make is that as a general rule, your time (limited as it is) will be better served trying to cover as much ground as possible rather than hoping to get lucky and flip a target.

-Kris


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 9:46 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 5:51 am
Posts: 770
Location: Arizona
I'll also add that if you come during the wrong moon phase, you may be better off scraping cruising all together and just hike...This is a matter of some debate, but I can tell you from personal experience that I have seen MANY more animals on warm nights with no moon than I have on warm nights with a full moon or nearly full moon.

Don't underestimate the moon phase.

-Kris


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 16th, 2012, 11:05 pm 
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Joined: August 29th, 2011, 9:54 pm
Posts: 265
Location: Mesa, AZ
I agree that there is no hard fast rule on night cruising. I went one somewhat chilly night in the wind, and the rain, and the mud (trust me, the conditions were terrible - don't ask me why I even went out that night) and I found two Atrox and two Checkered Garters. There are so many variables to it all. I'd say that if you have the gas money, give it a whirl.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 17th, 2012, 7:44 am 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
Posts: 221
Location: Annapolis, MD
Over here in the east any time it rains is a great time to herp, is this the same general idea out west? or is it better to wait for the rain to pass and go out immediately after? I know from previous trips out west that flash floods can be extremely dangerous, as is being in a field during a lightning storm.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 17th, 2012, 2:22 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 5:51 am
Posts: 770
Location: Arizona
Over here in the east any time it rains is a great time to herp, is this the same general idea out west? or is it better to wait for the rain to pass and go out immediately after?

If you want to find phibs, then by all means go out while it's raining...In my experience, a day or two after a good rain is best for seeing a wide variety of reptiles.

I haven't seen very many reptiles out and about during a rain.

-Kris


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 17th, 2012, 2:53 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Posts: 2095
Location: Southern Arizona
I can't plan your trip for you and won't try. I don't know when in April or May you'll be here, what the moon phase will be, what locations you'll be at, etc. I will give you some tips though.

April and May are normally dry months, so you probably won't have to worry about flash floods. If you do get a big rain storm, don't get caught in a wash or trying to cross washes or rivers with rushing water. Rain is great for amphibians, especially after dark, but not so great for reptiles. I would wait a day, or so, after a big rain before road cruising. Instead I would herp different habitats during the day.

Walking the habitat is kind of a lost art with a lot of herpers, but it's pretty cool seeing herps in their natural habitat as opposed to seeing them on the road. If road cruising is really a big interest, I'd pick a nice blacktop in good habitat and work it real well for the first hour or two after dark. Road temps usually aren't very high in April and May and your success might depend a lot on luck. I usually feel successful if I see three or more snakes in an evening of road cruising. Lots of times you get skunked, which is another reason not to put all your eggs in one basket. BTW, lots of folks like to walk in the desert with a lantern to look for rattlers. Road cruising can also be good in the cool mornings and even later for coachwhips and the like.

I like herping in the morning, maybe because I see a lot of birds along with a few herps. The temps are changing from cool to warm, as opposed to warm to cool in the evenings. A typical example would be hiking a canyon like Sabino Canyon in Tucson. Starting at the bottom where it's the warmest the canyon starts to warm up and you can catch a few herps coming out to sunbathe, especially the lizards, including gilas. The stream has small fish, frogs, and garter snakes, while there may be a few other reptiles nearby. By the time you've gained a few hundred feet elevation you're probably going to be in the range of more rattlers, like the blacktail and tiger. Diamondbacks are probably throughout the canyon. Another really good herp in the area is the giant whiptail lizard. You might need a telephoto lens to capture a photo, however.

Hope these little notes help some... TC 8-)


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 17th, 2012, 7:14 pm 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 6:56 pm
Posts: 2718
Location: Litchfield Park, AZ
Gone herpin

If you haven't already, check this out ...

http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=522

From my experience I have found herps (reptilian and and amphibian) road cruising during a monsoon rain storm. I have also seen them just before and after the storms too.

The general rule I use for Gilas is this ... You don't find Gilas, Gilas find you.

When your trip gets closer keep in touch and maybe one of us can meet up with you.

Dave Weber


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 Post subject: Re: Advice needed
PostPosted: February 17th, 2012, 8:36 pm 
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Joined: July 27th, 2011, 6:01 am
Posts: 221
Location: Annapolis, MD
Hey I definitely will! and thanks for all the tips, I will probably be back with more questions when the trip gets closer. Also very very luckily for me, my trip is right when the new moon happens :thumb: If what I hear is true that should mean good luck for this trip.


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