Tuesday, June 5, 2012

St. George Encore

It's no secret why Devin and I decided to go back down to St. George the very next weekend. We caught 3 Reticulated Gila Monsters a couple weeks back, and we've been itching to catch our first Banded Gila Monster. As the sign below would indicate, we're in the right place. But the daytime weather this weekend was right around 100 degrees, quite different than a week ago. But to save you the anxiety, no, we were skunked once again and would not see a Heloderm this weekend. We did see other herps.
Getting into town a little late, we missed herp rush hour for road cruising and instead focused on getting warmed up with a few amphibs. Following a high-pitched whistle sound led us to some Woodhouse's Toads at the edge of a pond.
We also cracked the case of the tadpoles from the week before. They were Red-spotted Toads, like this little guy.
Then, to our shock and disgust, we located some Pacific Treefrogs behaving inappropriately. Their calls were pretty loud and overwhelming, but we did hear the intermingled low-pitch "bum, bum" of bullfrogs and saw a big boy sitting at the edge of the water that quickly leapt into the weedy abyss.
Is there a better way to start the morning than by finding a rattlesnake freshly killed by a nature-lover's rock?  Oh, there is? Oh. Well, that's how this morning began. Why do people that come out into the wilderness to enjoy nature then see fit to destroy it when they see it? I don't get it.
We can always be cheered up by the friendly face of a big ol' male tortoise. This pic is in situ.
Check out this guy's gular shields that curve up past his face! You know what they say about big gular shields...
A non-herp, but my first time seeing this mammal out "on the crawl". Can you see her?
Cropped and zoomed in, a better look at the Kit Fox.
Two tortoise burrows next to each other and partially concealed by grasses.
And not far from them, we found this female tortoise that lives there. Her fresh tracks can be seen in the sand from when she just emerged.
The heat brought us to the river, where we managed to sneak up on and capture this duck-billed water bird. A rare find, this elusive water fowl quacked in joy to being warmed by my hands.
Psh! I didn't even want to see softshell turtles anyway. What else lives in these waters? Is that a muskrat swimming toward me? No, it just turned out to be some other smaller species of rat that apparently likes to swim and dive underwater when pursued. I have often heard the phrase of looking like a "drowned rat", but perhaps this puts a face to the name. (No animals were harmed during the taking of these photographs.)
Back to herps. This mating pair of Desert Horned Lizards were seen together from our car near the Utah/Arizona border.
The male has the broader tail base. Love his coloring.
The female has a narrower tail, and she had more pinkish coloration.
Devin and I have become good at finding Lyre Snakes, and they've become a staple. We found this one further north than any other specimen we've found, basically at the northern end of its range and fairly high in elevation. We always find them in relatively high areas, always rocky, sometimes partially wooded.
Devin actually got bit by it, but unfortunately not bad enough to study the effects of a mild invenomation. Lyre Snakes are always notorious for being uncooperative for photo shoots.
And here's what a Great Basin Rattlesnake from southern Utah looks like when its head is not smashed by a hiker's rock.
Licking the air to taste for clues. That's my Old Spice you're smelling.
A final shot of this Great Basin Rattlesnake from the Utah/Arizona border, which is close to the southern limit of its range. It would've been ideal to find a Banded Gila Monster, but we love the journey regardless.

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