First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » February 25th, 2013, 7:31 pm

Rained and snowed earlier in the week and temps got down to about 30*F. By Saturday, February 23rd, however, temps were supposed to be mid-60's by lunch time. That was good enough for me and I talked a couple friends, Dave W. and Nick B, to accompany me to the Maricopa Mtns, in Maricopa County. Although the temps were pretty cool, the sun was warming the south facing rock faces.

Here is a habitat shot....
Image

In a wash on the way to the foothills we found these tracks.....
Image
Image
Could these be desert tortoise tracks? Please comment if you've seen them before. Also, can you make a data entry just using tracks of an animal?

The lizard we saw the most of was the Western side-blotched lizard. Mostly they were sticking to the creosote bushes...
Image
Image
We saw quite a few of these lizards and couldn't photograph all of them....
Image
Many were on rocks also.

Another lizard spotted in the washes was the Eastern zebra-tailed lizard. Only a couple were seen and were difficult to get pics of, because they were running long distances...
Image
This one is in the left center of the photo. Sorry for the small size.

Another lizard I only saw a couple of and were hard to photograph, because they were so skittish, was the Southern whiptail, a tiger whiptail subspecies....
Image

A final lizard seen at this location was the Tucson banded gecko. This subadult was found under a flat rock on top of a larger rock....
Image
Only one was seen and it was cold...probably brumating.

Earlier in February I found my first live herps on my own property in southern Pima County, a pair of tree lizards. Here's a pic of the adult female....
Image
This species is common in our yard, but this one was on the window sill on our back porch. Also seen was a subadult male that afternoon.

All common species I know, but at least it's a start. Happy herpin', all.... :beer:

Terry Cox/AZ Chapter Sec.

Jimi
Posts: 1875
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by Jimi » February 26th, 2013, 10:46 am

Could these be desert tortoise tracks?
sure looks that way to me, seen plenty being made

with a finer-textured substrate (dust or mud) you can see the impressions of their skin - weird rings analogous I guess to a fingerprint or maybe the mark your elbow or knee would make

look for that some time

cheers,
Jimi

User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » February 27th, 2013, 9:09 pm

Thanks, Jimi... ;)

Jimi
Posts: 1875
Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by Jimi » February 28th, 2013, 2:49 pm

Sure thing, Terry. Here's a photo of what I was talking about (hard to put into words):

Image

Image



I Googled "tortoise footprint" and found these pictures online. Out in the world they're very easy to see in the right tracking substrates and lighting conditions. Otherwise...pretty subtle. Kind of a funky fractal thing. I like 'em.

cheers
Jimi

User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » February 28th, 2013, 9:02 pm

I see what you mean, Jimi. My tracks don't look much like tortoise. Maybe they are manmade? (thanks)

Terry

User avatar
Bill Love
Posts: 169
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:33 pm
Location: Apache Junction (near Phoenix), Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by Bill Love » March 1st, 2013, 8:18 am

I had similar results last weekend about 1.5 hours further west and south, except for swapping your zebratail for a couple Uma rufopunctata. A big ditto about it sure being great to get out in the field too !

User avatar
PNWHerper
Posts: 667
Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Location: King County, WA

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by PNWHerper » March 1st, 2013, 10:27 am

Terry,

Nice post. Love the tracks. :thumb:

They look pretty classic for desert tortoise to me.

I don't think you can use only tracks for the data base yet, but perhaps once my book is published and tracking in the herp world becomes more accepted as scientifically viable, we will be able to in the near future. At least for some species.

Terry,

Did you try to follow the tracks to their maker?

The tracks in the photo don't look terribly fresh, but even fresh tracks in that sort of coarse gravelly substrate would not look anything as crisp nor show the kind of details as in the tracks shared by Jimi.

You should make another trip to that location and look for more fresh tracks. There is a good chance if you are persistent and work for it, you will find one.

Here is what a fresher trail looks like in finer sand.

Image

Image

Also, if you keep any eye out you might also see their scat.

Image

The neet thing about looking at tracks and following a trail, is often they will show you what the animal did, what it ate and so on.

Here are 2 posts I did a while back that include some more desert tort tracks and sign:

http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... 12&t=11629


http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =6&t=10951

Hope that helps!

Let us know what you find when you go back out there. ;)

Fil

User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » March 4th, 2013, 7:52 pm

Bill Love wrote:I had similar results last weekend about 1.5 hours further west and south, except for swapping your zebratail for a couple Uma rufopunctata. A big ditto about it sure being great to get out in the field too !

Bill, congrats on getting down to those sandy places near the border. I hope to make out that way in a few weeks.

Here's a few from this past weekend here in Pima County...

Saw some Clark's spiny lizards in boulder cracks up in the mtns....
Image

A couple treefrogs were out and about...
Image

This juve regal horned lizard was out in the front yard....
Image

Terry

User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » March 4th, 2013, 8:17 pm

PNWHerper wrote:Terry,

Nice post. Love the tracks. :thumb:

They look pretty classic for desert tortoise to me.

I don't think you can use only tracks for the data base yet, but perhaps once my book is published and tracking in the herp world becomes more accepted as scientifically viable, we will be able to in the near future. At least for some species.

Terry,

Did you try to follow the tracks to their maker?

The tracks in the photo don't look terribly fresh, but even fresh tracks in that sort of coarse gravelly substrate would not look anything as crisp nor show the kind of details as in the tracks shared by Jimi.

You should make another trip to that location and look for more fresh tracks. There is a good chance if you are persistent and work for it, you will find one.

Fil. Thanks for the info on torts and other things.

I won't be up to the Maricopa Mtns again for awhile. It's a lot further for me than for the guys in Phoenix. We did follow the tortoise tracks that day, but they died out and didn't lead us anywhere. I think the tort went up the slope.

A couple years ago we rescued a tort off the exit ramp of I-19 in Santa Cruz County. While we were relocating it, it defecated. So I have seen some tort scat...lol. All these things are great for helping us all understand herps better. Have you looked at any lizard scat?

TC

User avatar
PNWHerper
Posts: 667
Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Location: King County, WA

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by PNWHerper » March 5th, 2013, 7:11 am

TC,

Haha, well that is one way to see Desert Tortoise scat! :lol:

Yes, I have been studying lizard scat. Some lizards have very distinct scats that are fairly easily identified. Horned lizards are one group that is pretty easy. There is also chuckwalla, desert iguana, large spiny lizards, leopard lizard and others have pretty easily identifiable scat. I think many species have distinct scats, but I am still learning some of them.

The best way to learn your lizard scats is to record what they look like, where they are placed and what they contain whenever you see a lizard poop.

Via scat alone, I often know where the best spots are to find chuckwallas and desert iguanas.

Do you ever photograph the scat you find?

User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » March 9th, 2013, 5:59 pm

Fil, sometimes I record scat, if I'm interested. I think I'll be more interested now that we've talked about it.

Desert spiny lizards are pretty common in our yard in G. V. I've photographed their scat before. They leave it on the sidewalk and in our pool area a lot and it's easy to i.d. We don't have many horned lizards, but I'll pay more attention in the future.

We also have lots of mammals and birds. The coyotes leave their scat fairly often and I sometimes shovel it up to put on plants to scare the rodents and rabbits away. Javelina leave scat too, as well as deer and rabbits, but these are all mammals. How interesting is that, haha?

PS: Do you ever find snake or lizard eggs?

Terry

User avatar
PNWHerper
Posts: 667
Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Location: King County, WA

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by PNWHerper » March 11th, 2013, 12:49 pm

Terry,

If you have good photos of Desert spiny lizard scat and wanna contribute them let me know. Same goes for other scats you might have photographed.
We also have lots of mammals and birds. The coyotes leave their scat fairly often and I sometimes shovel it up to put on plants to scare the rodents and rabbits away. Javelina leave scat too, as well as deer and rabbits, but these are all mammals. How interesting is that, haha?
I think those scats are great, but I like check out the scats of many animals. As a naturalist, you learn a lot about the animals by looking at scats. In regards to the book I am writing, I am focused on recording only herp tracks and sign (which includes scats where ever possible).

I have not found very many lizard eggs. Many of them nest underground, so I don't run into their eggs very often. I have found the eggs of banded gecko, what I believe may have been cuban brown anole and possible fringe-toed lizard. I have found the nests of various turtle species, general after they have been predated. But, I personally have not seen any snake nests or eggs in the wild. I have had some folks send me some for the book. Mostly ring-neck and racer eggs which commonly lay under AC. Also had John Vanek from the forum send me some lovely photos of eastern hog-nosed snakes nesting.

Have you come across many nests and eggs of herps?

hellihooks
Posts: 8025
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:12 am
Location: Hesperia, California.
Contact:

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by hellihooks » March 12th, 2013, 7:08 am

I've seen Fil Id a HL scat, the size of a bb, from like 8-10 ft away. broke it apart... sure enough...full of ant parts... :shock:
Fil's being very modest... his knowledge of track/sign is astounding, and I learned a TON herping with him... :thumb: DON'T pass up any chance you might get, to hit the field with him... :thumb: jim

User avatar
PNWHerper
Posts: 667
Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Location: King County, WA

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by PNWHerper » March 12th, 2013, 9:45 am

Jim,

Thanks brother. I learned a ton herping with you as well. You have a keen eye and a good memory for details. Your knowledge of the areas you frequent was impressive and your predictions of where things would be were pretty dead on.

I love tracking and have gained a fair amount of skill in it, but I am humbled all the time. When you learn tracking and commit to continuing to learn it and use it, you have to learn to be comfortable with being proven wrong. Its a scientific process at times, and an art at others. So, I think its good to be humble about it because you gotta keep your egotism outta the picture to really learn.

Anyway, Terry, post some pictures of your lizard turds when you find 'em. And let us know if you go back at some point and find that tort who left you the nice trail. ;)

hellihooks
Posts: 8025
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 7:12 am
Location: Hesperia, California.
Contact:

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by hellihooks » March 12th, 2013, 10:03 am

Fil,
You'da liked this one pure black cat I had... named him skidmark...called him mark, or... here skiddy skiddy... :crazyeyes: :lol: :lol: :lol: jim

User avatar
ratsnakehaven
Posts: 2272
Joined: June 8th, 2010, 8:08 am
Location: Southern Arizona

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by ratsnakehaven » March 13th, 2013, 8:48 pm

PNWHerper wrote:Terry,

If you have good photos of Desert spiny lizard scat and wanna contribute them let me know. Same goes for other scats you might have photographed.
We also have lots of mammals and birds. The coyotes leave their scat fairly often and I sometimes shovel it up to put on plants to scare the rodents and rabbits away. Javelina leave scat too, as well as deer and rabbits, but these are all mammals. How interesting is that, haha?
I think those scats are great, but I like check out the scats of many animals. As a naturalist, you learn a lot about the animals by looking at scats. In regards to the book I am writing, I am focused on recording only herp tracks and sign (which includes scats where ever possible).

I have not found very many lizard eggs. Many of them nest underground, so I don't run into their eggs very often. I have found the eggs of banded gecko, what I believe may have been cuban brown anole and possible fringe-toed lizard. I have found the nests of various turtle species, general after they have been predated. But, I personally have not seen any snake nests or eggs in the wild. I have had some folks send me some for the book. Mostly ring-neck and racer eggs which commonly lay under AC. Also had John Vanek from the forum send me some lovely photos of eastern hog-nosed snakes nesting.

Have you come across many nests and eggs of herps?

I can't find any scat photos at the moment, but will get some in the coming months.

The boys in our family have always been hunters of one sort or another. We are used to looking for sign and anything to do with the animals we are hunting. With herps I look for scat, tracks, shed skins, turtle shells, old or new nest sites, dead animals, etc. Sounds will often give away an animal's location too. Last summer I heard a rattle from an open window in a moving car and got out to locate a mojave rattler, under cover, on the side of the road. Once I found a black ratsnake in a tree by following the agitated birds it was stalking. I also found an Eastern hognose snake in a rock pile when I first found and i.d.'d a shed skin. Next day I went back and found the snake sunning itself. I've found snake hibernaculums, nest sites of various snake species, and tons of shed skins. Last summer a friend and I surprised a large snake near a road we were cruising and saw it disappear into a rock pile, but couldn't i.d. it at first. After looking a little we found a shed skin in the same rocks of a Sonoran whipsnake which matched the description of the snake we saw escaping. One of my many favorites was hearing a crying frog which we located in the mouth of a large garter snake which was making a meal of it. Just thought I'd mention a few experiences.

I don't have my own computer at the moment and am using my wife's. I'll try to put some pics together later of some of my finds. Most snakes' eggs I've seen were from egg-laying snakes in MI. Also lots of turtle eggs.

Terry

User avatar
PNWHerper
Posts: 667
Joined: July 8th, 2011, 1:04 pm
Location: King County, WA

Re: First outing of 2013 - Southern AZ.

Post by PNWHerper » March 14th, 2013, 9:32 am

Terry,
The boys in our family have always been hunters of one sort or another. We are used to looking for sign and anything to do with the animals we are hunting. With herps I look for scat, tracks, shed skins, turtle shells, old or new nest sites, dead animals, etc. Sounds will often give away an animal's location too. Last summer I heard a rattle from an open window in a moving car and got out to locate a mojave rattler, under cover, on the side of the road. Once I found a black ratsnake in a tree by following the agitated birds it was stalking. I also found an Eastern hognose snake in a rock pile when I first found and i.d.'d a shed skin. Next day I went back and found the snake sunning itself. I've found snake hibernaculums, nest sites of various snake species, and tons of shed skins. Last summer a friend and I surprised a large snake near a road we were cruising and saw it disappear into a rock pile, but couldn't i.d. it at first. After looking a little we found a shed skin in the same rocks of a Sonoran whipsnake which matched the description of the snake we saw escaping. One of my many favorites was hearing a crying frog which we located in the mouth of a large garter snake which was making a meal of it. Just thought I'd mention a few experiences.
That's great! Sounds like we scan the landscape in similar ways. Tracking skills are what kept our ancestors alive and fed, and it feels good to me to see others practicing them in some form. Its a skill set I refuse to let die out...

Your story about the black rat snake is a pretty classic example of using bird language to find herps. I had a similar experience with birds in FL, and located a grey rat snake up in a tree that way. Never did get any tracks from it, but finding it like that was definitely a highlight.

Love the stories! :thumb: That's the kind of stuff that I think really spices up the herpin' experience.

I am hoping to include a shed identification section in the book. I am still collecting sheds where ever I can get them. How best to represent them in the book is still boggling my mind... :crazyeyes:
I don't have my own computer at the moment and am using my wife's. I'll try to put some pics together later of some of my finds. Most snakes' eggs I've seen were from egg-laying snakes in MI. Also lots of turtle eggs.
Sounds great. I am excited to see what you dig up! :beer:

Post Reply