We started out earlier than we should have, with the weather what it was … more for logistics than activity. It’s always better to be early than late, and we were definitely early. By the time we got our stuff together and climbed to the place where all the snakes would be, the fog and cloud cover was still hugging the mountain with no sign of lifting. After sitting around for at least an hour, we got to work anyway. It wasn’t long before Rich found 3 tiny baby rock rattlesnakes sitting out in the open. They were the first of a good number of this species found that day, and it’s always fun to find multiples.
Here are a couple – I’ll post others another day.
See him there? I could have gotten closer, but lately I’ve enjoyed taking shots like this – the snake in the environment it’s in, which better tells the tale. Photographers tend to gripe about it, the subject being so small, but that’s not really what this is all about.
This one was showing off some caudal luring skills. If I were a lizard, I’d certainly think that yellow wiggler was breakfast.
Here’s another diamondback from Eddy county – common of course but there are obvious physical differences between them and those that I find around Phoenix. They tend to be darker, higher contrast, and larger. Ya, a very common snake, but I’m happy to see every one that I do and will always photograph them, to the dismay of whatever herper is with me.
A couple more, of many found in the last few years. They all look so similar – I wouldn’t even know if I saw the same one twice.
Crotalus cerastes cercobombus
Every July, when the desert is at it’s hottest, driest, most brutal time, temperatures don’t really ever drop out of the 90s in rocky washes around Phoenix. This is a great time to visit a couple of tortoises that use the same cut out in a wash to keep in the shade. There are probably cooler spots, but these are where they are, and I’ve seen them for the last few years like clockwork, any day in July.
This one usually has a diamondback friend, though not this time around. He smells like a cow, which is how I found him the first time.
This is one of many seen last summer … many seen that night actually. Way back in a hard-to-get-to wash at about 2am, we watched this diamondback on the crawl head up into the low branches of a tree, and sit. I’m not sure if this was in response to our being there, but either way, it was some behavior that I don’t see much, especially with this species.
No snakes today, though I find plenty in this area. There are some places where you end up going because you like just being there, regardless of it being a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ spot. This one is fortunately a good one, and has a lot of surprises for me. AZ Black Rattlesnakes and Mojave Rattlesnakes found within spitting distance of one another? Check. Pretty cool place, where I really don’t care much whether I am successful in the hunt or not.
As far as you can see ...
High Elevation Grasslands
Heading into an oasis area
Here’s another willardi from 2011, and to be honest I don’t remember anything about this one. I was fortunate that year and saw a bunch of them, and now I’m all mixed up. SO, with that admission: here’s a good example of that cool ridge that sets these guys apart from other US rattlesnakes. When in a spot between bunchgrass, even very experienced herpers can step right over one. I am sure I have done my share of just that.
Ridge Nosed Rattlesnake
On an evening out in Eastern New Mexico that was so windy that I could barely open the doors to my truck, I found a little prairie rattlesnake stretched out in the road. Perfectly flat against the warm surface in a place where few vehicles have any business, he was out of the bite of the wind. I was not, however, and I had a hell of a time collecting the thing to get a few shots out of the wind. Quite a bit of fuss for one viridis. Regardless, it was a target, and my first snake of the trip.
While down in Texas, I met what became one of my favorite colubrids within seeing a few individuals. I knew that the Trans Pecos Ratsnake (or ‘suboc’, short for Bogertophis subocularis) looked cool, but I wasn’t expecting the cool attitude they have. The first I saw just sat there as I approached. When in-hand, there was no indication it was a wild snake … it just kept on slowly climbing, moving around and inspecting with huge blue-grey eyes.
We saw several on the trip, and I admit I took my favorite home with me; a lemon yellow beauty that is on his way to being a monster, if he keeps eating and shedding as he has since August. Here he is in the sun, about an hour before the photograph with the copperhead was taken.
Bogertophis subocularis, the 'suboc'
While I’m on the subject of blurry, rather terrible pictures of whiptails I’ve found, I might as well get this one up. This is Eastern New Mexico’s version of the little desert lizards. Though they can be found about anywhere in the grassy hills North of the Guadalupe mountains, I saw the highest frequency to be in the islands of bunchgrass that pop up from the red oil sands North East of Carlsbad. They’re easy to find there, just follow the tracks!
Here’s one of the more common lizards around the Payson area. By common, I mean you can see them darting around in the landscaping between mini-malls and the like. Though they don’t really climb much, they do what they do very well, and have apparently adapted to thrive more or less throughout the entire city. I’ve even seen them grow very large in surprising parts of town, like the bushes on Whiskey Row, feeding on the mega-fed cockroaches and crickets that cruise the sidewalks in the early morning hours.
Here’s a little one; I’m sure some Yavapai County residents will recognize it. They’re very hard to photograph – even if they don’t notice you, they continually walk around nosing and pawing at the dirt. I had to circle this little guy for an embarrassing amount of time just to get this mediocre shot. For as common as they are, this is the first of these that I have posted to this blog.
gila spotted whiptail
Here’s just a little bit of variation: two fairly common looking glossy snakes. One of the cool things about these guys is that shovel-nosed face and recessed lower jaw, perfect for nosing around in soft sand looking for prey. Like any animal, they can have a fair amount of variation between them. These two are pretty typical examples of glossies from two types of habitat, both in the same county.
This first one is more typical of upper grasslands. Big, mostly brown, with less distinct coloration.
This one is from a little lower in the desert, out in the Colorado river desertscrub – a place you’d mistake for a dead zone if you didn’t know better. In my experience, they tend to be a little more vivid in color and contrast, especially the young ones. This one is an adult, and still has a lot of that nice, red coloration between the scales.
I’m not sure why, but for a few years, I saw very few of these … then suddenly they are everywhere. Last Spring they had to be one of the most ocmmon colubrids I found, aside from Spotted Leafnosed Snakes and Longnose.