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 Post subject: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 23rd, 2012, 11:00 pm 
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Joined: July 8th, 2010, 10:14 am
Posts: 605
Location: Eastern Washington
After a long cold winter of working behind a desk and dealing with people and numbers day after day and week after week, I decided I needed a little break from the chaos. Thankfully I can come to FHF and live vicariously through many of my fellow FHFers. I decided a four day weekend was in order to celebrate a friend's birthday and find my sanity again.

The plan was to meet on a Friday in Grant County, WA and do a little dual county herping in Kittitas and Grant county that afternoon, evening and Saturday morning. I decided to leave my side of the state early in the morning and get a head start on the others. I finally arrived just before noon and went to a spot known for Pygmy Short Horned Lizards - Phrynosoma douglasii which had skunked me the year before and a species I had yet to encounter on my Herping Journeys.

The deserts in Central WA are under rated by most Washingtonians in my opinion, but to me they are somber and beautiful.

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The sound of warm wind and song birds was just what this Desk Jockey needed to start his reprieve from 50 hour stress filled work weeks. Wandering the hillsides with no other human being in sight was almost hypnotic for me.

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Finally, I strike pay dirt!

Pygmy Short Horned Lizard - Phrynosoma douglasii
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This, what I estimate to be a yearling, was out in the open.
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I noticed the larger mature Pygmy Horned Lizards were more often found between the sage where they could quickly scurry to the protective cover of the ever so bountiful Sage Brush, but the smaller juveniles were almost always seen in the open breaks with sparse grasses. I had seen plenty and was very pleased I arrived at the appropriate time to witness them above ground. When I had come to the same place in late June of 2011 the ground was so dry, inhospitable, and barren that there were hardly even signs of invertebrate life.

I stopped by a local fossil and mineral gift store and spotted a Kueichousaurus hui for sale which was tempting but I didn’t have $750 worth of loose change in my pocket.
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There were also some other dinos outside the shop but I don’t have any firm IDs on any of them.
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After browsing the neat little fossil shop I decided to hop over to the East side of the Columbia River into Grant County to get a little bit more herping in before people started showing up for camp. I found two DORs about 75 feet from one another, a Gopher Snake - Pituophis catenifer catenifer and a Northern Pacific Rattlesnake - Crotalus oreganus oreganus. I also spotted one of three Racers - Coluber constrictor, but they are always way too fast for me to photograph or catch.

After a fellow bug lover joined me around the same area we started seeing tons of Side Blotched Lizards - Uta stansburiana.
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That night we road cruised till I could not road cruise any longer. The temps were dropping fast in the evenings all weekend and the road cruising was subpar for this area. We first cruised a neonate Crote which was my first neonate rattlesnake.

Crotalus oreganus oreganus
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We came upon a DOR Gopher later on but the cruising was pretty slow. I almost ran this happy fellow over but my lead foot was able to strattle him so thankfully we didn’t have another DOR to snap pics of.
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A little while later after cruising the same road we had cruised about an hour before we found this little guy.
Crotalus oreganus oreganus DOR
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I really liked how far the banding went up this one's tail, it is a shame it was DOR.


Saturday PNWHerper (Filip) met up with us the next morning and we visited a spot east of the Columbia River which was a beautiful area but we only saw two snakes which fled before we could get pics of them. The first was a HUGE Racer and the second was a Crote that decided it was much more comfortable deep inside a basalt fracture.

Filip was itching to head back over to the West side of the river and get some track data on the Pygmy Short Horned Lizards for a book/field guide he is working on so we decided to head out. I was very impressed with how much PNWHerper knows about edible and medicinal plants in WA and his skills at tracking were rather impressive.

The Pygmy’s were out in force on Saturday and I can’t even remember how many we saw that day. We noticed a mature male that was vocalizing when we picked it up and Fil got the hissing on video. I will ask him to post the video clip on this thread.
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Male, Female comparison
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The male being the smaller one on the left and his female counterpart on the right.

Filip showed me that this flower I had taken pics of the day before was actually one of the best tasting onions I have ever had and probably ever will.
Allium douglasii
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It was time to pack up and head over to our next destination which was North of Moses Lake, WA at Gloyd Seeps. I had done as much research on this area as I could online and it looked like very accessible land, but there just wasn’t much info available online and it ended up being closed to vehicle access and we decided to head to an area PNWHerper was familiar with south of Moses Lake. A nice looking lake lined with Basalt cliffs called Soda Lake was where we ended up camping. I was happy with the change in plans even though I was pretty deflated over not getting to do Gloyd Seeps. I guess I will have to put Gloyd Seeps on the back burner and hike in there for a day sometime in the distant future.

We did manage to cruise another gopher trying to find our way into Gloyds.
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It was a typical Basin Gopher

Sunday, we headed north to a spot I heard was good for large Phidippus audax (Jumping Spiders) and found this little guy amongst our eight legged targets.

Pacific Tree Frog - Pseudacris regilla
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Coincidentally, upon returning home I was told by my children that the 2-4 P. regilla in my front yard water feature in Spokane County had laid a small cluster of eggs.

After we collected our Oogly Eyed Spiders we headed to some B&L land Northeast of Moses Lake for a quick jaunt before heading to camp and spotted a few more Pygmy Short Horned Lizards.

Phrynosoma douglasii
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On the way back to Soda Lake we found an interesting gopher snake that would have surely been pressed into the black top had we not stopped traffic to get it.

Pituophis catenifer catenifer
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This one's girth and coloration kind of reminded me of the P. c. sayi we have in Spokane and Stevens counties in Northeastern Washington.

Back at camp another Racer gave us the slip…. Sigh

John and I decided to go canoeing to end the day.
Great Egret - ardea alba
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The next two pics are not very good but it is still hard not to fall in love with the form and grace of this beautiful bird.
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Monday morning we were packing up the camp and were thrilled to find three Stenopelmatus sp. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better these two serpents came to camp to bid us fare well.

Pituophis catenifer catenifer
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Crotalus oreganus oreganus
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My bug buddy John getting some shots.
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All in all, this was the kind of weekend I would like to have more often.


Cheers,

Travis K.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 24th, 2012, 4:56 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 1:46 pm
Posts: 416
Location: Seattle, WA
You guys did great, especially with the horned lizards. The road cruising will pick up a lot out there in June.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 24th, 2012, 7:26 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:53 pm
Posts: 266
Location: South-Central Kansas
I'm liking that little Oreganus... the little crotes are really cute imo.

Andrew G.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 3:21 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:31 am
Posts: 347
Location: A bunker near Mountainburg AR
Nice post all the way around...had no idea there was habitat like that in WA... awesome.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 9:06 am 
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Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Posts: 657
Location: King County, WA
Travis,

Thanks for your and John for an great outing on Saturday! :beer: Nice post. Love seeing that lovely habitat. :thumb:

Did you notice that all 3 of the gopher snakes you have photographed have completely different patterns?

I know a lot of folks think the Great Basin gopher snakes are rather dull in WA state, but I am impressed with their variety of patterns and colors! :shock:

That great egret is lovely. I do miss seeing them regularly, as I once did when I lived in CA.

That final oregonus is a beautiful snake too. Glad that the Soda lake area provided, at least a little bit after I left.

Here is the clip of the pygmy short-horned vocalizing:



Really cool to get to capture some behavior like this! Thanks to Travis for suggesting we record it. ;)

Here are a few pics of some of the pygmies we saw:

First a male and female together. Nice demonstration of the sexual dimorphism in this species.

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Here is a nice big, sand colored female.

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A really nice male that posed for us on this lovely lichen-encrusted background.

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And, when it comes to research for the herp tracking book I learned something really cool about the pygmies. You can tell the sex of the animals by their trails. Here is the trail of a male, showing the distinct, nearly squared tail drag:

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The other interesting thing was that the scat of the of several adults showed a variation in content from that of what I would have expected...

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The scat we picked apart on the left is that of a juvenile, and typical for horned lizard scat was full of ant remains. The scat of the adult (on the right), surprisingly contained plant material and beetle parts. I thought at first this might be just an odd event, until I checked the scat content of other adult pygmies and found more of the same... a significant amount of plant materials. I could not sort out what sort, but I suspected flowers.

We did see a fair amount of flowers blooming in the horned lizard hotspot, as Travis' nice photos can attest.

Anyone out there done fieldwork with pygmy short-horned lizards? Can you tell us more on dietary habits and how they might vary seasonally or locally?


Last edited by PNWHerper on May 25th, 2012, 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 10:05 am 
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Joined: July 8th, 2010, 10:14 am
Posts: 605
Location: Eastern Washington
PNWHerper wrote:
Did you notice that all 3 of the gopher snakes you have photographed have completely different patterns?

I know a lot of folks think the Great Basin gopher snakes are rather dull in WA state, but I am impressed with their variety of patterns and colors! :shock:


I did, but I do kinda prefer the P. c. sayi that are found in Northeastern WA. The one I posted with the dorsal orange color on the tail was the strangest P. c. c. I have encountered.

*************************

Thanks for the nice comments above. This is my first 'real' Feild Herping post.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 6:19 pm 

Joined: June 11th, 2011, 2:05 pm
Posts: 6
Hi all! Sorry for any redundancies:

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Maybe some more later...


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 8:53 pm 
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Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Posts: 657
Location: King County, WA
Quote:
I did, but I do kinda prefer the P. c. sayi that are found in Northeastern WA. The one I posted with the dorsal orange color on the tail was the strangest P. c. c. I have encountered.

*************************

Thanks for the nice comments above. This is my first 'real' Feild Herping post.


Only seen photos of sayi and yeah, they do look really nice.

Well, I think this is a great 'first' Field herping post.

Glad you guys enjoyed the wild onion. Amazing how flavorful they are and how each part of them has a different flavor.

John,

You string of photos is excellent. Great macro photos all around. :beer: I see you guys found the kingbird nest. :thumb: Its cool to see that bird with its red crest visible...

Those crayfish end up getting eaten? They look like nice sized ones.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 9:19 pm 
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Joined: July 8th, 2010, 10:14 am
Posts: 605
Location: Eastern Washington
Fil,

I have to agree.

John,

Your pics turned out very nice. :thumb:

Did you happen to take any P. audax pics?
Gotta love those eye lashes.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 25th, 2012, 10:41 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 1:46 pm
Posts: 416
Location: Seattle, WA
Well, I am not sure those pituophis from NW of Spokane are sayi, but they certainly get larger and are more stocky than other deserticola in the state and all other states (never seen anyone post that they found a 5.5 foot or 6 foot deserticola from anywhere else), and definitely look more like sayi from east of there than any others in the state.

None of the posted ones look out of the ordinary to me, they are normal looking WA deserticola, they don't look like the ones from NW of Spokane.

They are certainly different in a number of ways for some reason. Those ones from the north side of the Little Spokane River west of town and the north side of Long Lake and a bit further west are monsters (typical adults are 4 feet or more and very heavy), none other you'll find will approach their bulk as average adults, typical basin deserticola 2.5 to 3 foot adults are puny and very thin by comparison.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 26th, 2012, 3:54 am 
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Joined: October 9th, 2010, 11:00 am
Posts: 230
Location: Rochester, NY
Thanks Travis. I've never been to the pacific NW, but it looks beautiful. I never associate that area with deserts...your habitat shots were eye-openers for me. Now I have another destination on my USA bucket list.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 27th, 2012, 9:12 am 
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Joined: December 18th, 2011, 6:25 pm
Posts: 53
Location: british columbia
Awesome photos of the pygmy short horned lizards! Also that habitat looks fantastic! Did you get a pictures of any of the racers you saw?


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 27th, 2012, 9:25 am 

Joined: June 11th, 2011, 2:05 pm
Posts: 6
Thank you, sirs. I enjoyed our time in the field immensely and picked up some new insight. Lets do it again sometime. Fil, unfortunately the crawdad catch wasn't enough for a meal so they went back into the lake to replicate. I won't muddy up the forum with invert pics but here are a few more...

Children of the Earth- Stenopelmatus sp. post meal
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2 very different, gravid Phidippus audax females- the 1st is typical all black w/ white dorsal markings. The 2nd I assumed was something else but is apparently the supermodel of local audax.
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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 31st, 2012, 10:51 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:14 pm
Posts: 965
Location: Pacific Northwest
Some nice finds there. I had read about pygmies vocalizing before but could never persuade one to sing along with me...

As for the diet of pygs, I have heard that they eat primarily beetles in our range, hadn't heard much about flowers or plants, that's an interesting note. I believe there have been some studies done on WA horned lizards but not sure if they were published.


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 Post subject: Re: Central Washington In May
PostPosted: May 31st, 2012, 6:02 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:57 pm
Posts: 232
Location: Orting, WA
Fantastic Washington post. I need to make it out to the eastside soon. Nice looking Gophers and I love the Pygs.


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