Southwestern Field Herpetology

Southwestern Field Herpetology
Jan
22nd
2017

Hard to be a Young Male at the Den

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..

Jan
22nd
2017

Costa Rica: Red Eyed Treefrog

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.

Jan
20th
2017

Mojave Desert North of Palmdale, California

Home of sidewinders and mojave rattlesnakes, and an effective physical barrier that separates Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific rattlesnake ranges.

Jan
18th
2017

Western Diamondbacks at the den in late November

This is a large den, as far as Western Diamondbacks go in central Arizona. It has about 40 individuals that I’ve counted so far. In the Spring, they are easier to see, since they spend more time staging to different areas of the den site and are generally more active. During ingress, even when conditions are near-perfect, they’re mostly stuffed into cracks and activity is limited to slowly revealing a coil or two to the sun. Regardless, it’s important to check on them during this time, as it helps confirm the actual sites and hierarchy of individuals that may be harder to understand when they are moving around all over the place.

Jan
16th
2017

A few more great basin rattlesnakes

Jan
16th
2017

Side Blotched Lizards

Side Blotched Lizards are one of the most common reptiles to see in the SouthWest. Here are 2 from opposite ends of Arizona.

Jan
14th
2017

Salt Flats of Eastern New Mexico

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.

Jan
12th
2017

Arizona Bark Scorpion with Babies

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.

Jan
10th
2017

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

These aren’t snakes of course, but the famous caves near Carlsbad are amazing to see, and a must-visit every time I’m in the area. Here are some photos of the interior of the cave.

Jan
6th
2017

Kansas Glossy Snake in Eddy County, New Mexico

Jan
3rd
2017

My First Cottonmouth

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. 

Dec
31st
2016

Banded Rock Rattlesnake near Sierra Vista, Arizona