Monday, November 1, 2010

Arizona Herping Trip

Devin, Luke, and I (Jeff) made our way in early summer down to Arizona to see what we could find in a few days of herping. We stopped in Vegas on our way and managed to locate a few Mojave Desert species. Below, Devin is holding a red coachwhip that was catching some morning sun off the side of the dirt road.

Desert iguanas are always a welcomed sight among the creosote bushes.

We even stumbled upon some pretty collared lizards (female below) that were sunning themselves at the base of a rocky hillside outside of Las Vegas.

Chuckwallas were also in the area. This small one wedged itself in a shallow crevice.

We also spotted the usual side-blotched lizards and western whiptails that are always in abundance in the hot deserts. We stopped for a stretching break in northern Arizona (near Kingman) and unearthed this banded gecko under a fallen joshua tree.
Unfamiliar with the roads in Arizona, the three of us just set out at night in Phoenix and found a road that was good enough to provide us a healthy sidewinder. We held onto it to photograph in daylight, and it was released back into its habitat.
The backroads of Phoenix also yielded a mid-sized Mojave Rattlesnake. Again, it was kept overnight and released back the following day. The rattle, admittedly, isn't extremely impressive, but it was a nice-looking specimen.

Here are the two species coiled side by side in a tupperware.

We arrived in the deserts around Tucson and found a moist area inhabited by canyon treefrogs. Several were found resting in a granite crevice.

These amphibians have amazing camoflauge and are fun to find.

The moist area in the desert was habitat to eastern fence lizards, desert spiny lizards, and some tree lizards (pictured below).

The area was also a good spot for black-necked garter snakes moving among the cool, moist grass at the edges of the pools.

Habitat shot of area with granite boulders and pools of cool, clear water.

A little further down, where the water becomes mere trickles, regal horned lizards were out in the dry areas looking for ants.

Horned lizards seem to be good indicators for habitat quality, in my opinion. The area looked perfect, and these guys were not in short supply.

Zebra-tailed lizards were racing around (below), as were a few earless lizards.
A desert kingsnake managed to get away, but we were happy to stumble upon this desert patchnosed snake.
Night snakes can be found under surface debris, like this one that was under a railroad tie.
A Tucson banded gecko that was found on the road.The three of us found an excellent-looking dry streambed that was relatively green and had plenty of boulders and other cover. After finding a dead ring-tailed cat, we walked right into this gopher snake stretched out on the ground.
Then, we found a large, stunning Tiger Rattlesnake that was silently coiled in a ledge at the side of the arroyo and eyeballing us as we passed.
We were pleasantly surprised and elated to learn that the area was a hotspot for Gila monsters. We found not one, but two beautiful specimens. One was crawling around and the other was sitting next to a large hole that it apparently had just emerged from.
Here's another shot of the two. Sorry the picture is sideways.
The habitat was awesome, and watching these guys walk around never got old.
A more upclose photo of the larger of the two, which was the first one found.
A habitat shot of Gila monster country in southern Arizona.
Our main objective of the trip was to find a Gila monster. We ended up finding a couple of them (as well as a DOR Gila monster), and a variety of other desert species. We're going to have to make it back someday for more Gilas and some montane rattlesnakes, but for now we were happy with our successes.

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