There are many social layers at a Winter densite. Some of the most obvious are the clusters of large males here and there, each with several females that court and sometimes mate. Alongside all of this, are younger, smaller males that don’t seem to have figured out their place. They stay nearby, and spend the morning activity period moving around, trying to court females at the outer edge of each larger male’s area. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they are chased away.
Being chased away is the nature of most of the male/male confrontations that I have seen. The more familiar combat, where males stand up to fight eachother for dominance, I have actually never seen in its full glory. I’ve seen a lot of quick battles; mismatched males spending a few seconds to rise up, followed by a (relatively) high speed chase from the area. The young roving males seem to get it the worst in this case. I have watched 2 of them (one was actually a Great Basin Rattlesnake, but a similar situation) off of high rocky ledges to the rocks below, and one off of a cliff, landing in a tree.
Here’s one of my favorite examples of just how tough it can be to be one of these little guys. This little guy actually found a female to court, though in 2 days of trying, he did not succeed in actually mating. A big male shows up, chases him out and attempts to combat, and he flees to another rock. The problem, is that this rock is also taken, by another larger male, and the female he is trying to mate with … he is promptly chased away. Out of the frying pan, into the fire..
I’ve had the pleasure and luck to visit Costa Rica twice now, each time spending about a week in the mid-elevation rainforest around the Arenal volcano, then heading to the drier, hotter portions of coastal Guanacaste to search for the Middle American Rattlesnakes that live there. I’ve been fortunate (and tired!) to have found several of them, and a lot of great stuff along the way. There’s no way to sum it all up into one or even a dozen posts, so I’ll just be adding photos from Costa Rica to this feed, maybe with a tag or two if necessary. To kick that off, here’s one of the most iconic amphibians from the area, the Red Eyed Treefrog. They were everywhere in the gardens surrounding the hotel.
Home of sidewinders and mojave rattlesnakes, and an effective physical barrier that separates Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific rattlesnake ranges.
Side Blotched Lizards are one of the most common reptiles to see in the SouthWest. Here are 2 from opposite ends of Arizona.
Just before heading into the Guadalupe mountains in Eastern New Mexico, these salt flats provide a photo opportunity. In the Winter they often flood, creating surreal landscapes such as this one.
We saw this hiking a rocky wash in the hottest part of the year. The night time temperature didn’t drop below 104 all night. Snakes weren’t out, but we did see this cool lady and her babies out and about.
I had an opportunity to visit the famed “Snake Road” of Illinois last year with some friends, where I saw my first cottonmouth … quickly followed by 49 more over the next 2 days. Despite their reputation, they proved to be the easiest-going of any viper species I’ve seen, with the most defensive act being a mouth-gape.