Friday, July 7, 2017

But It's a Dry Heat. AZ/ NM- Day One, July 1st, 2017

Three years ago, we took out Lame East Coast Herping (LECH) asses to the desert and had a blast. We got to hang around with like-minded people across the country, made wonderful friends and saw animals we'd never seen before. Needless to say, we've been itching to go back almost as soon as we got home from that trip. So we took a gamble... we planned a 4-day trip for this year at the beginning of July. It has been incredibly hot in the area, 120° at times. And no rain. Would the rains get there before us? While we were there? After we left? And if the latter was the case, would we actually see anything? Even if no animals were up yet, we'd be together in a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and things we don't get to see every day. We left for our flight in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

After a slight delay on our connecting flight, we got our wheels and headed into the desert. We had about 2 1/2 hours to go to our hotel so we didn't dawdle. We did, however, stop at a rest area where we'd seen some lizards on the last trip. We had some decent luck once again. Like three years ago, our first herp of the trip was a Sonoran Spotted Whiptail.
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It was hot, it was hotter than hell. So was Andrea. She wasn't dressed in satin and lace, though.
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Like our previous trip, we saw some Greater Earless Lizards at the same rest area. First up were two gravid females. (The peach/pink spot on the throat and sides tell us that.)
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Is this the male responsible? Perv.
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Note how they keep their feet up while on the hot concrete, careful not to burn their toes.

We finished up our drive and arrived at our hotel, the Mountain Valley Lodge, a place I highly recommend. We got the front room and all weekend had a few bunnies enjoying the shade of the yard in front. Desert Cottontails, to be specific.
Desert Cottontail

We set about looking at birds for a while as we got ourselves settled. The place had changed a bit in three years but the pond out back is still an oasis for many animals in this heat. Many little fountains were dribbling on the property. We saw a Bullfrog in the pond, an invasive species that we hadn't seen before. Dan, the owner, says two just showed up and moved in. Through the desert. Tenacious frogs, they are.

We got ourselves into gear and hit the road at dusk. Bunnies were everywhere and it was tough not to hit them as they ran out in front of the car. I will say now that I hit ZERO bunnies all weekend, though they seemed on a suicide mission. Others, however, didn't miss them all. *sigh* Our first lifer bird of the trip was a Whippoorwill (#47 on the year, Lifer #161). Yeah, they picture is laughably bad but it's IDable so screw you. Lets see how you do 50 yards away, through the windshield, in low light... jerk.
#47 Whipoorwill (Lifer #161)

It wasn't just Desert Cottontails hopping around. Their long-legged cousins, Black-tailed Jackrabbits, were also in the roads, on the sides... everywhere.
Black-tailed Jackrabbit

Know what we love? Potatoes with legs. That's why we simply adore Texas Horned Lizards.
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The "master" at work. Or mistress at play, maybe.
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Dusk had given way to night when we saw our first snake, a Black-tailed Rattlesnake.
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An absolutely stunning specimen, but I'd noticed it was trailing something. That something was a small trail of blood. I peeked around the other side of it and noticed it was injured. Not sure if some insides were coming out or it was a flap of skin but it had been clipped by a car. It was moving normally but it was a pretty bad wound down near the tail. We helped it off the road and hoped it would recover but we're aware that there's about a 95% chance it will not survive. But who knows?

That bummed us out a bit. But we saw some cool bugs on the ride back... a Walking Stick, a huge grasshopper (Gray Bird Grasshopper?) and a Desert Tarantula.
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Gray Bird Grasshopper?
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We got back to the Lodge and figured we'd better try for a shot of one of the resident Bullfrogs. I took this picture.
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At the flash, it swam up to get a closer look at us...
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That was our first day and yes, we were completely toasted by the end of it. The rains hadn't yet come so we already knew that we wouldn't be getting the numbers we had before. The Great Plains Toads that were all over the hotel pond would not be up yet, nor would many of the snakes. But we were here, happy and together. The next three days would be wonderful with or without herps.

1 comment:

  1. i am so glad you folks had a wonderful time

    ReplyDelete