Saturday, July 8, 2017

But It's a Dry Heat. AZ/ NM- Day Two, July 2nd, 2017

We got up early on Sunday, just as the sun was coming up and the birds started chattering. Of course, the Great-tailed Grackles were the loudest; they have an amazing and amusing array of vocalizations. We packed the cooler and hit the road, heading to the foothills to look for animals. The clean-up crew (Turkey Vultures and Common Ravens) were hard at work ridding the roads of the previous night's roadkill. Quails and Roadrunners joined the rabbits in the road-crossing frenzy. This male Gambel's Quail posed for a wonderful photo-op. (Bird #48 on the year)
#48 Gambel's Quail

The clean-up crew takes a breather...
#49 Turkey Vulture

Road-cruising got us no reptiles and hunger was setting in so we went to check on the diner, which wasn't yet open. No worries. There are some wonderful places to view birds nearby. We sat and watched the feeders for a half hour or so and saw many avian friends come by, a few of them were lifers. Like this stunning Blue Grosbeak (Year #52, Lifer #162).
#52 Blue Grosbeak (Lifer #162)
Broad-billed Hummingbird (#59/ #164)
#59 Broad-billed Hummingbird (Lifer #164)
This would be a place we'd keep returning to.

This Cliff Chipmunk was running across the wall of a garage... I thought I had a large lizard for a moment.
Cliff Chipmunk

We got some breakfast then headed to the mountains. We scoped out a few spots but with the dryness, we couldn't pull the trigger on a definite plan. A campsite restroom was needed by Andrea so we pulled up to it and I looked around the rocks while she did her business. Oddly enough, she had much better luck than I. This is a first for us... while peeing, she saw this guy in the bathroom...
He made a break for it but we got some pictures outside... our lifer Yarrow's Spiny Lizard.
That's the first time we've ever encountered a "lifer" while peeing. Should we change our oft-used code from "looking for Wood Frogs" to "looking for Yarrow's"?

We went down to the Research Center and poked around the grounds. I chased a Sonoran Whiptail around one of the buildings before I could get a shot of it.

I didn't know that I was looking at an adult Yarrow's at the time, but here is a gorgeous specimen.

Our first Striped Plateau Lizard was hanging by the "stream".

I'm not entirely certain on this Spiny... front leg banding of a Clark's, white eye-stripe of a Yarrow's... the color throws me off. I have it as a Yarrow's but would love to learn more.

Know your shit.

We had a nice long talk with the woman in the store and bought a few new books. We asked about the Chiracahuan Leopard Frog and she very generously told us what to look for. Evidently, we weren't far from a healthy breeding population. On her advice, we headed back out into the sweltering mountain air. We walked upstream (if you can call it that; the stream was all but bone-dry... a few puddles and a weak trickle at best) and finally got out of the stream bed and went up on the banks. And there it was... an oasis...
Two side by side springs. Frogs jumped in as we approached. Could these be the rare Chiracahuan Leopard Frogs? In a word, yes.
Being on the land of a research area, these springs are well-tended and, during this dry spell, water is added as needed. We sat on some benches and watched the green, spotted heads emerge. We stayed there for quite a while, just taking in the majesty of these rare frogs (and a cool breeze).
And I'll save the most hilarious for last...
Frog and Toad are friends or James Cagney? You decide.

That right there was worth the whole trip. Rare lifer frogs, peace and tranquility.

We tore ourselves away and headed back. We flipped a Vinegaroon.

Being a research area, there were sheets of tin laid out in the woods. It was far too hot for any snakes to be seeking refuge under them at this time but I wonder what they get there after the rains. Still, scientists will play tricks... this was under one of the tins...

This is the most water to be found in the stream. Our hopes of a Black-necked Garter Snake wouldn't be fulfilled.

It was early afternoon now and the heat was reaching its apex. We went back to the hotel to rest up a bit. Andrea napped and I consulted our new books. Some bees enjoyed a drink from a fountain.
I eventually woke Andrea up by trying to open a bag of chips with two painful tennis elbows. We can laugh now at what an asshole move that was on my part.

We were going to need some gas for the night's cruising. The station iss about 24 miles away so we pointed ourselves in that direction. We decided to stop at the Chiricahua Desert Museum on the way. They have an astounding collection of live animals and a garden out back that attracts many bird and reptile species. In fact, we got our lifer Cactus Wren out there. (#58/ #163)
#58 Cactus Wren (Lifer #163)

The little wetlands area out there was weird. It was full of Bullfrogs who had moved in within the last three years.
The water was filled with Bully tadpoles and small frogs. At one point, a Painted Turtle (Western?) swam up and looked at me from underwater while Red-winged Blackbirds called from the reeds. I thought I was home for a moment.

A Desert Tortoise that walks the grounds of the garden took a real liking to Andrea. It would not leave her alone.
He was underfoot like a cat.
Also, like a cat, it became evident that the love was merely a "feed me" display. Some staff brought out some turtle-chow.

We cooled off inside for a while, checking out their impressive collection of rattlesnakes and other animals. An atrox was rattling at us as we leaned in to look at the Vine Snakes in the tank above her. Upon leaving, we peered back into the garden and saw this Texas Horned Toad standing comically tall...

Then we hit the road to get some gas. There was a Border Patrol stop before we could turn on the the road we wanted. Border Patrol has a heavy presence all weekend but this was the only mandatory stop. I'm sure our honky-whiteness worked in our favor all weekend. Privilege.

Mercifully, the gas station (self-serve, no attendants) was still there and had gas. We filled up and then flipped a few ties out back. We saw a small tarantula and a Tiger Centipede.
Tiger Centipede

Driving back towards "town" (with a population of roughly 100), it is a dry, brutally hot stretch of road that our friend Mike tells us is the country's lizardiest place. That is to say there are more lizard species in this stretch than anywhere else in the US. I haven't researched that fact yet but we did see Collared Lizards along here last time but failed to get a photo. They are speedy and skittish. I was driving slowly and saw one standing very tall about 50 yards from the road. I stopped the car and he didn't move so, with my 60X zoom fully extended, I snapped a couple of shitty pictures.
Lifer Eastern Collared Lizard. It's the best I could do from so far away. Hey, it's better than my Whippoorwill shot!

The shadows were getting long so we headed out to our road cruising areas. A few drops of rain had fallen but, unfortunately, it was literally just a few drops. We drove on. First up was another potato with legs, a Texas Horned Lizard.

Heading back out to the road, we saw our first Mojave Rattlesnake, a big, dark gorgeous specimen who was flattened to the road, presumably absorbing heat from the packed earth.
I mean, it looked like pancake batter.
I took my walking stick and little by little peeled it up. It finally got the point and slowly crawled off the road. No rattle, no hockey temper. A mellow Mojave? That's one for the books.

Not much further up, another pancake batter Mojave was laying out...
This smaller, lighter Moe-Jave was easier to get to move itself off the road.
He settled under a bush and made kissy-face.
Our friend Mike, who lives in the area, said his dog went up nose to nose with a Mojave earlier in the year and the snake flattened like that. A possible defensive posture? Research needed...

The drive into the mountains was beautiful at sunset.

Some places were in deep shadow while others still had some sun.

In the waning light, I finally got a decent picture of a Greater Roadrunner.
#56 Greater Roadrunner

We headed back to the gas-station road for the last cruising of the night. Sadly, on the main drag, we passed a gorgeous Gopher Snake who had recently been hit. It didn't suffer, it was mashed. We saw another Mojave out and about and we wasted no time getting him off the road.
Again, no hockey temper. Mellow Mojaves are something new to us.

That was it for the night. We headed back and slept like the dead until the morning, when the calls of birds and Bullfrogs would again signal us to start the day.


  1. wow everyone seems to be mello in that heat

    1. Lizards LOVE the heat, everything else tolerates in to a point. The morning was lovely... maybe even a little cool!

  2. i am so glad you folks had such a good time