Monday, August 23, 2010

Southeast Arizona Heaven

Ever had a therapist or hypnotist ask you to envision yourself in your happy place, maybe a white sand beach or a fern-covered forest hideaway? OK, me neither, but I've seen it on TV. Love those beaches and ferns, but my happy place isn't quite so commonplace. It is the Chiricahua Mounatins in southeastern Arizona. Last month I took Tony and Scott on a herping roadtrip to this magical place and a few others nearby. I am not a good photographer, and the monsoon rains prevented me from takng many bad photos. Here are the ones fit to spit on.

After a shotgun visit through Phoenix to see Saskia Brad and Kai, and Dale and Dianne, we got to the herping. We started out by meeting my friends Roger and Wendy at the Suizo Mountains, which are in the Sonoran Desert lowlands outside of Tucson. Roger radiotracked some tiger rattlesnakes (Crotalus tigris) and western diamond-backed rattlesnakes (C. atrox), like this girl here.


Here's another doing its "summertime open air market" bit:

Roger was releasing a Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum) that had just had its transmitter removed. Here's Scott wishing him good luck.


Scott found a beauty of a glossy snake (Arizona elegans):


And I found this nice black coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum) in the morning:


We spent the next evening radiotracking Gila monsters at the Owlhead Buttes, my old field site, with some of Dale DeNardo's graduate students. But after tracking just 4 animals we got completely rained out. No photos, but amazingly 3 of the 4 Gila monsters were the same ones that I and Dale had first captured and implanted with transmitters 10 years ago!

Heading ever southward, we met up with my friends Justin Keri and Corbin who live at the base of the Catalina Mountains, and then my friends Melissa, Jeff, and John met us up in said mountains. I never spent a lot of time here when I lived in AZ, but they are gorgeous.


We saw about 7 or 8 of these Sonoran whipsnakes (M. bilineatus):


And the creek was full of black-necked garter snakes (Thamnophis cyrtopsis):


No rattlesnakes out though; it was pretty overcast and cool. We spent the next night in the Pinalenos, but again not much of anything out. Time to head to the Chiricahuas.

Here they are from Onion Saddle:


The creek near our campsite, which I have now been going to for 11 years:


Melissa, Jeff, Tony, and Scott at our campsite:


Now, some critters. Melissa is holding a big male blacktail rattlesnake (C. molossus) captured near the Southwest Research station:


Here's a nice rock rattlesnake (C. lepidus) from Cave Creek area:


Two Sonoran Mountain kingsnakes (Lampropeltis pyromelana) were found, here's one:


Tony and Scott with shit-eating grins over their first pyro:


The typical lizard mafia was everywhere. Here is a striped plateau lizard (Sceloporus virgatus) on the left and a Yarrow's spiny lizard (S. jarrovi) on the right:


We went up to Barfoot Park, which is a famous spot for viewing twinspot rattlesnakes (C. pricei). They have been researched heavily here, likely because the beautiful talus slide is so gigantic that it houses a massive population of these guys:



I love this next photo. It looks like the sky behind the trees, but it's actually the giant hillside of talus!


Indeed, we immediately found a few pricei, including this guy:


We did a bunch of night driving, but unfortunately many of the critters were dead on the road. I've never seen traffic on Hwy 80 like this before! 3 of every 4 vehicles were Border Patrol, and we got "harassed" constantly. I say that in quotes because they were in fact quite friendly, and of course I am happy that they are there doing their important jobs. But it's hard to stop for a snake when you are being high-beamed and tail-gated by a patroller.

Here's a nice longnose snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei) we found on Hwy 80:


We visited our friends at the beautiful new Chiricahua Desert Museum, and were overwhelmed by their beautiful displays of live animals (and those of us without Y chromosomes also greatly enjoyed the fabulous shop). Here are the three of us standing in front of their collection of booze bottles with herp labels:


Next it was off to the Patagonia Mtns. Again, weather and conditions not so perfect, not to mention severe time lost having to drive to Nogales on my spare to get a new tire, but it was still really fun. Tony found this gorgeous night snake (Hypsiglena sp.) under a log:


There was a big rain pool from the monsoons, and it was filled with tadpoles. Upon closer investigation, we realized that these tadpoles were odd-- oops, wrong phylum! They were tadpole shrimp, which Tony likened to wee little horseshoe crabs. I had never even heard of them. Dorsal view:


And ventral:


Of course we had to have a soiree on our last evening in the boonies, given that most of the previous ones were spent night-driving. Check out our spread, yum!



Overall it was a great trip, but we were a bit early in terms of the monsoons. The final tally was 5 species of anurans, 1 turtle, and 32 species of squamates. Here are the rest of the species we found that I did not mention above:

Hyla arenicolor - Canyon Treefrog
Bufo cognatus - Great Plain Toad
Bufo debilis - Green Toad
Bufo punctatus - Red-spotted Toad
Scaphiopus couchii - Couch's Spadefoot
Terrapene ornata - Ornate Box Turtle
Crotaphytus bicinctores - Mojave Black-collared Lizard
Coleonyx variegatus - Western Banded Gecko
Cophosaurus texanus - Greater Earless Lizard
Callisaurus draconoides - Zebratail Lizard
Sceloporus magister - Desert Spiny Lizard
Urosaurus ornatus - Tree Lizard
Uta stansburiana - Side-blotched Lizard
Plestiodon callicephalus - Mountain Skink
Elgaria kingii - Madrean Alligator Lizard
Aspidoscelis tigris - Western Whiptail
Lampropeltis getula - Common Kingsnake
Pituophis catenifer - Gopher Snake
Salvadora hexalepis - Western Patchnose Snake
Trimorphodon lambda - Sonoran Lyre Snake
Crotalus scutulatus - Mohave Rattlesnake
Crotalus viridis - Prairie Rattlesnake
Heterodon nasicus - Western Hognose Snake
Thamnophis cytropsis - Black-necked Garter Snake

1 comment:

Christy said...

Imagine your species list if you had been birding too! They are reptiles...