Monday, September 8, 2014

NAFHA Cruises the Southwest, Day 4: September 1st, 2014

As our exciting trip was coming to an end, we wanted to be up bright and early to look for herps before we had to go home! Again... the best laid plans...

So, we woke up a bit late (again) and had to have PB&J sandwiches on the road again! Our mission this morning... to look for a Gila Monster! Our friend Ashley had seen a Gila the night before and we wanted to try our luck, too. While cruising the road in question, we passed Dave who was also on a Gila hunt. He relayed that Ashley, now known as the Queen of Gilas, had seen three within the last hour! (One was a repeat but that hardly matters when searching for such an elusive critter!)

We searched high and low (well, not too high... the skinny road going up the mountainside was just like the ones in the nightmares I've had since childhood!) but saw no Heloderma. It's all in the timing and ours was bad.

We headed back down to the paved roads where it was getting warmer but I was not chicken to drive on them. Much to our surprise, we saw a snake making its way across the road!
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catinefer)
This was over three feet of Gopher Snake and our first of the trip!
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catinefer)
That's a happy herper!
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catinefer)

Andrea was sitting cross legged taking pictures and the snake, who was a deflated female, probably fresh from laying her eggs, crawled into the shade of her lap to snooze!
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catinefer)
That made for an easy "nature shot" once Andrea stood up!
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catinefer)
You can see the folds of her excess skin. Get that gal a meal! She, like the first Hognose on Saturday, has a wonky eye.
Gopher Snake (Pituophis catinefer)

That was exciting! We didn't expect any snakes this morning and we got a beautiful lifer!

While we were enjoying out Gopher, a Javelina had trotted across the road about 20 feet behind us. This was the only one we saw alive all weekend.

On a secluded road, we saw a Roadrunner bolt in front of us! This was the first time I had ever seen one... much bigger than I was expecting and twice as silly looking; the Water Dragon of the avian world! I was far too slow to get a photo of it but since I won't be seeing another one any time soon, I'm calling it Big Year #93... the Roadrunner!
Roadrunner  (Geococcyx californianus)
You can see why I couldn't pursue it any further... (that and it left me in the dust... meep meep)

We went on to a favorite dirt road that had been kind to us. We saw a road-killed tortoise shell (Box? Desert?) that had already been picked clean by the bird-clean-up-crew. That was sad. This unidentified lizard peered at us from his post...

We were tooling along and I saw a large toad standing tall. I slammed on the brakes... why was a toad out at this time of the morning? I was extremely happy to see that it was a Texas Horned Lizard instead!!
Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)
What a jewel!
Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)
Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)
This was inevitably the last new herp of the trip so it's easy to say that we went out with a bang! Possibly my favorite find!

We found an Alligator Lizard skin, which is both awesome and frustrating!!
Alligator Lizard skin
We wanted to see the owner of that skin!

We did manage another Clarkii, though!!
Clark's Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus clarkii)

And a nice looking Glorious Scarab.
Chrysina gloriosa

After this, we went to have breakfast with much of the gang. The party was dissipating so we had to say our farewells a few at a time. Such an amazing group of people; everyone brought their knowledge and excitement and spirit to this trip! I've been struggling ever since... was it life-changing or just life-enhancing? I'm convinced it was both!

We had never stepped foot in this part of the country before, much less herped it. To be there with such an accommodating, smart and fun group was an honor. We can't thank Tim enough for his hard work... Brian as well. We made friends that we'll be keeping! Such a great great group of people. I miss them still,

While there, we saw other local herps that had been collected for short-time holding. They were pretty much show-and-tell material and it was exciting to see them. Of course, we're not calling any of them lifers now and we hope to find them on our own at some point. But it was a thrill to make their acquaintance!

A Green Toad that just wouldn't sit still for a photo!
Bufo debilis insidior

A Chihuahuan Hook-Nosed Snake who confetti-musked and farted continuously! ("Cloacal popping, yeah... but it was totally snake-farts!)
Chihuahuan Hook-Nosed Snake (Gyalopion canum

A Western Lyre Snake who was also tough to photograph but just beautiful!
Western Lyre Snake (Trimorphodon biscutatus)

Mike's family had all sorts of wonderful critters and they'd recently found a vinegaroon!

Before we left, we got to see an amazing find... a Lined Coachwhip!
Lined Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum lineatulus) hatchling

and the biggest target next time we're around the area... a Western Black-necked Garter Snake!
Western Black-necked Garter Snake (Thamnophis c. cyrtopsis)

We headed for gas before hitting the highway and had hopes of seeing a Collared Lizard, one of my big wants. We did in fact see one... and as I slowly backed up for a photo, it disappeared! Next time... next time!

We drove back towards Tuscon, still admiring the Viewmaster scenery. Saying goodbye to this trip was tough. We herped at rest stops but came up empty handed, despite tantalizing signs and views.

It was such a wonderful trip. Great people, great herps and memories to last forever. *sniff*... I have something in my eye... I've gotta go...

No comments:

Post a Comment