early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert?

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Jimi
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early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert?

Post by Jimi » February 2nd, 2015, 5:49 pm

Hi guys,

A couple of us are chatting up the idea of a 2015 Great Basin pyro search. Sort of consolation for Bryan being buried under a pile of paper for the duration. What can I tell and ask you? Hmm I'll go first:

- in Utah, not NV
- a "public event" is not a sure thing, sort of depends on your interest level (though there WILL be some pyro-hunting out there, period)
- this would likely be sometime from mid-late May to early June
- this outing would probably include some week days and some weekend days
- there might also be an opportunity for smaller-group outings with the main surveyor

- we could go to mtn ranges where they have recently been found, but to new canyons in those ranges
- or we could go to likely but unknown ranges
- there's abundant opportunity for other new herp-locality discoveries, like for ringnecks
- it's a bit of a drive from anywhere (unless you live in Ely, Baker, or Delta, ha ha) but wouldn't require big (possibly any...) 4wd
- it's sweet country, no other way to describe it - vast, open, quiet, subtle with some surprises

- we could just visual-search, or we could also try our hands at trapping (surface-mount, not pitfall)
- trapping would involve some carrying and some drift-fencing but we'd try to get the truck as close as possible, and also site the traps in gravelly washes
- if the field herping doesn't fill you up there could be some cruising too

OK, there's a kickoff. Cheers,
Jimi

simpleyork
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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by simpleyork » February 4th, 2015, 4:00 pm

that sounds like it would be a blast Jimi, count me in!!!

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by s_stocking » February 5th, 2015, 8:57 pm

Sounds great Jimi, why not NV too? Perhaps right along the state line?

Jimi
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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » February 7th, 2015, 1:30 pm

Glad to hear of the early interest, guys.

This will be pretty near the UT/NV border, regardless of one side or the other or both. Nobody's keeping any members of the public from going wherever they want. But this outing *could be* (and in tossing this idea out there onto the internet, I was thinking it would be) associated with an ongoing state-funded and -outfitted herp inventory project, so some aspects of it would have to be confined to Utah. Like, a state truck can't go out of its state (not without pushing some paper, anyway). Such a truck might have volunteers and their gear (tents, sleeping bags, etc) in it. But private vehicles can go where they like. Maybe we don't take any state vehicles out there this time. Depends what we want to do...here we go...

Folks probably get sick of this, but I like to organize things in terms of who, what, where, when, how. All that stuff derives from "why". "Why" (and its much larger complement, "not why") helps inform & decide "what, and what not", "how, and how not", "where, and where not", etc. Basically, in my mind the problem is always how to hack down the overwhelming "universe of possibilities" down to something manageable, something you can work with and make a plan from, and get after. I always like to start with "why am I interested in doing something?" What's the reason? And what are not the reasons?

The implicit "why" I opened with here, is "to better-document the west desert, Utah, range of pyros, and offer the public an organized chance to help with that".

It's not like it isn't a big enough country out there - like we need to spread ourselves across two states. And when you're stumbling around up in the rocks and junipers, or bouncing along some 2-track in the sagebrush, it all looks and feels pretty much the same.

That said - NV & UT could definitely work together - we could expand "the why and where" I began with - which would require consideration & some modification of the who/how/what details. What permits or authorizations we might need. Whose vehicles, and where they could go. Are we gonna check and/or install any snake traps? Stuff like that. It would add - maybe multiply - complication for the organizer(s).

Anyway, I'm not laying down any markers or drawing any lines in the sand. I'm happy you asked the question if it advances the conversation and gets folks who might want to come out, to say what experiences and opportunities might interest them the most.

But I do suggest we decide on a "why" first. To not do so invites a lot of circular discussion - or, if there is no discussion, some opportunities for divergent assumptions and unmet expectations - on where, how, etc etc. I'd like everyone who participates to come away satisfied, content, and eager to do it again soon. And of course, I want us to find a pyro, or a ringneck, or at least some skinks and lutosus. No pressure...ha ha.

Thanks,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by cameron.rognan » February 9th, 2015, 9:38 am

I might be interested in joining for a day or two, especially if there are some surveys done in the southern part of the state. My son really wants to go geode hunting - out by Dugway I think? If you have any survey locations out there, or along the way to the geode beds, I could probably convince him to join me.

Cameron

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » February 9th, 2015, 5:30 pm

This could be almost in sight of the Geode beds. Not what most people think of for pyros, but what can you do? They don't read, ha ha.

It would be great to have you guys up.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Rancorrye » February 9th, 2015, 11:49 pm

I'm interested. Still bouncing around between schedules, but I'll try to make it work if we get some dates set up. A couple places I had in mind were the Deep Creeks, House Range and the Wah Wahs. Never been out to any of these ranges, but I always thought they'd be fun to explore.

Cameron, I don't know if you've heard about it or not, there is a place out where I think Jimi has in mind called U Dig Fossils. It's not geodes, but if your son is in to that kind of stuff he might also be interested in this.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by cameron.rognan » February 10th, 2015, 7:50 am

Fossils, geodes - he will be ecstatic about any cool rocks that he is allowed to add to his collection. My spring schedule is pretty busy, but hopefully there is a weekend I can make this trip work out. I will second the Wah wah's and Deep Creeks as potential destinations, and I'll add the Beaver Dam's as another possibility if there are enough people who are willing to drive that far. The Beaver Dam's would of course be fun to see some of the Mojave species if we visit the lower elevations too.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » February 11th, 2015, 9:20 am

The Wah Wahs are already well-documented (in 2 canyons anyway, I think) for pyros. There is a low hilly zone between the north end of them, and the south end of the Confusions, that has some pyro reports (with at least 1 photo). That area is probably not very conducive to field herpers - where the snakes have been seen is pretty vertical as I understand it. These reports have stretched the mental boundaries of "pyro possible" even further than the 3-4 Confusions discoveries of the last few years.

The House Range has 1 pyro documented. East side of the South House. The Middle and North House still have no records. Right now the main interest for surveying appears to be the North House and also the Fish Springs Range (next range north). East side of both. They are both well-scouted now and it's clear where we want to look.

(U-dig is at south end of North House.)

North House would be better camping - access is way better than FSR. Geode beds are straight east of FSR. Tons of good roads out there, getting around is real easy, it just takes gas (closest is Delta). And maybe 2 spare tires. (As for rocks, there is a sweet black-and-white "layer cake" limestone that is soooo pretty. It comes in pieces ranging from sofa-sized to golf ball or smaller. N House and FSR both have it.)

Deep Creeks are a whole separate campaign of sampling need, and exploration potential. I don't think they are a great choice if our "why" remains "add another brick to the wall of pyro knowledge". A lot of people go out there now and it's odd there aren't anecdotes and even cell phone pics trickling in from there. People go out there because it's drop-dead gorgeous on the east side. Spectacular, even.

Cameron if you come up I suggest Cedar, to Milford, to Delta. Fast, open road.

Beaver Dams are intriguing. Mark and I scouted down there a couple Octobers ago. There are a couple spots worth looking at more for pyros. But in general I'd say that range fell down the priority list some, for this species anyway.

Anyway, just a quick response.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Brian Eagar » February 11th, 2015, 1:59 pm

I probably won't have time to participate in such a search this year unfortunately but when you have plans more settled keep me in the loop.
I like certain areas of the house and confusions and could stand to spend more time there. The deep creeks are nice and I think there is a lot of exploring to do in the Southern end of the range where not many have been but the access roads are horrible.
I've never been to the Indian Peaks range and would like to get out there also.

Jimi
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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » February 11th, 2015, 8:27 pm

I will do that, Brian. Sorry to hear you're about to be MIA but...hey how's the family! Hopefully all are well and content, and the newest one is eating & sleeping well.

Yeah, there are some bad roads available, ha ha. I have often thought about getting a dirtbike or ATV. Pull on that string though, and it'll drive you crazy. Trailer, place to park it, yada yada yada. So for now, the 4 runner will still do.

Indian Peaks is nicer than some might think (e.g., nicer than what I've seen of the Wah Wahs, IMO). There's more water, some aspen, quite a bit of high country, and not the worst access. On the east side anyway. The west side is about to the the subject of a decade or longer campaign by BLM to vastly improve the survival prospects of the Hamlin Valley population of sage-grouse. They will be burning, cutting, and grinding encroaching juniper & pinyon, and seeding grass, forbs, and in some places, sagebrush to the tune of probably 100,000 acres. They plan to start this year with about 5,000 acres. The birds winter down low and it's not so dire for them there yet (the trees are marching down, ringing the valley something fierce), but their high-elevation summer range is all treed up. In the long run all this habitat work ought to be great for bugs, lizards, rodents, and all the way up the food chain. But in the short term it'll be a lot of noise and dust. So I'd come at it from the Wah Wah side, if you want to go. There's a DWR cabin with a little pond (stocked w/ trout) and a picnic table and some shade. Great base camp, with a decent road to it. You can herp right from camp.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by MadManMoore » February 25th, 2015, 9:12 am

Sounds like fun, I have yet to be out that way. I would be interested for sure.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by simpleyork » February 26th, 2015, 2:12 pm

Cabin, you say? Trout, hum? Soooo in if I don't have to work!

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by hondo-dan » March 3rd, 2015, 7:32 pm

I'm interested Jimi.

Jimi
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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » March 7th, 2015, 9:46 am

OK guys, interest noted, looks worth some effort on my end. I will work with the principal surveyor, see what he's up for, and get back to you here in a month or so. That should give you plenty of notice of an actual field date some time between say 5/20 and 6/10.

Also - heads-up on an impending notice for a chapter Nevada-Mojave trip the weekend of 4/26. I think Bryan is posting it. (Heck, maybe he already did, I haven't looked yet.)

Thanks,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jeremy Westerman » March 9th, 2015, 9:48 pm

I am interested as soon as you can lock down dates i will try and get it off work.

Jimi
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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » April 8th, 2015, 9:50 am

Quick update on the west desert pyro (& other herps) surveys.

Due to the accelerated spring (today's cool wet storm notwithstanding...) field work will likely commence mid-April. It will likely begin on and near Dugway. I'm going to try & get you more info ASAP (e.g. some likely dates & locations). Some earlier trips might be pretty conducive to easy getaways from town (e.g., the Cedar Mtns).

thanks guys,
Jimi

PS anybody else headed down to Nevada in a couple weeks?

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by IReallyLikeHerping » April 8th, 2015, 2:42 pm

I'd love to go. I could swing one or two weekdays backed up to a weekend, but if it's going to be more like a week-long expedition, I probably have to miss. A pyro or regal would be a win for me.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by cameron.rognan » May 7th, 2015, 2:09 pm

Is this trip still going to happen? My kids are excited to go to the geode beds, so I may head up that way next weekend (5/16) or the following weekend. I'd love to spend a day to join some others in a pyro search if it is going to happen, but if not, I will probably just explore the geode beds and fossils.

Cameron

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » May 7th, 2015, 2:49 pm

Hi Cameron,

Yeah, the principal surveyor on the state surveys is going to invite some folks for a couple of more restrained (smaller group) events, and I think he's also open to a couple of bigger things too. This is over the whole summer. He has a schedule all worked out but I'm not sure which dates & places he's thinking of for the bigger group events. If he's even wanting those...sorry, I'm not quite sure. Trying to give him some space here, to run his project as he sees fit.

Setting all that aside, we can also do something(s) outside the confines of those surveys, and just call them NAFHA thing(s), for the HERP database. Some of those events might be worth doing down south, in the Beaver Dams or the Bull Valleys, for example. Pyro hunts, I mean - there are anecdotes for both ranges, and no proof. Frustrating...

I'm actually going out tomorrow with him to deploy a bunch of funnel traps west of Delta. We had planned to hunt it hard too, all weekend. But the weather has turned out to be pretty wet and cool for most reptiles...as have several weekends lately. It's like an inverted spring...

The practical effect is, a do-over would be great. I think he will be somewhere else but I can lead a group hunt this month. We can do it near the geode beds, there's some great unvouchered habitat right close to there.

I already know Rye can't make it, but those others of you who noted interest - which weekend would you prefer, 5/16-17 or 5/23-24? The second one is Memorial Day weekend, which will have zero effect where we're going, crowd-wise, but which might already be occupied for your calendars.

When I get your responses I will post the date decision, and PM all respondents the logistical details. I won't post those here.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by cameron.rognan » May 8th, 2015, 7:34 am

I didn't realize this was a part of a state survey, sorry for trying to rush their plans along. If there is no official state survey organized in May, I totally understand, I just don't want to miss the window of activity when pyros are usually most active. I would be less interested in doing anything later in the year when our chances of finding something will be much less. I also didn't realize it has been so cool up north. The weather down here has been perfect for herps and it looks to continue that way for the next few weeks. I found a pyro last week and I understand others have been searching and finding them as well.

I currently have the weekend of 5/16-17 open and I would be willing to go to a range near the geode beds or a southern range closer to St. George or Cedar City. I don't mind if its a state sponsored survey or a NAFHA event, as long as there are a few other like minded herpers to help in the search.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » May 9th, 2015, 9:22 am

No worries man. We're having sort of an inverted spring up here, which has made short-term planning kind of sketchy. I swear, March was way hotter and drier than May so far. I bet I've gotten 2.5 inches of rain at my house over the last week. There have been a few nice-feeling daytime windows for walking, but recently the nights have been pretty cold (high 30's-low 40's) so I doubt flipping has been any good. Maybe Eagar could give an informed opinion there, my flipping success in Utah remains pretty weak.

Note however that the forecast for the upcoming week and following weekend is looking pretty epic at the moment (although forecasts the last couple of weeks have been very shifty). The area I'm looking at has highs forecast to hit the mid 70's and lows to get up to the mid 40's all week, with a nice daytime cool-down at the end of the week. I think this next weekend 5/16-17 should be great, weather-wise. I'm thinking the snakes will be out hunting by Monday, the lucky ones might be digesting in sunny cracks this weekend, the unlucky ones will still be out foraging.

I would like to return to where I went yesterday to deploy some funnel traps (in a low-50's drizzle; it's worse today). It's a rimrock-lined bowl at about 6700' with a S-facing spring, rocky slopes facing all directions, and good access. Plus unlike a lot of limestone spots, there's quite a bit of flippable rock, and also a good amount of medium-sized talus (not just gravel, and not huge boulders). With all the different aspects, there's very open slopes and some pretty thick PJ woodland too. And the bottom of the bowl has a lot of riparian-type deciduous woody species. Truly, multi-modal herping with bonus passerines, raptors, etc. Cool terrain, lots of ledges, outcrops, caves etc to explore.

A ringneck was found on-the-crawl there last year but it's hardly been herped. It's about 15 air miles north of the nearest pyro detection (2011 or 2012, I forget even though I was there ha ha), with no major discontinuities in habitat. Just a couple of mid-elevation passes that present no barriers. I feel like the odds of pyros not being there are about zero - nobody's tried much, is all.

This spot is 3 hrs from SLC and 1 hr W of Delta. Anybody else able and desiring to hit that? This spot sure could use a little crew to work it. Four or five guys would be great but it could hold more, easy.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by cameron.rognan » May 12th, 2015, 6:32 am

It looks like interest in this survey has dropped. The weather forecast also looks to have taken a turn for the worse. Maybe memorial day weekend will be better after all?

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Two_headed_dog » May 12th, 2015, 12:51 pm

My name is Ben and I'm new to this forum but would be down to go wherever and look for King snakes with you guys. The weekend of the 16th is booked for me but the next week and memorial weekend are perfect.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by AndyO'Connor » May 12th, 2015, 2:22 pm

This sounds like something I'd be interested in talking Mack, Josh, and maybe another northwesterner or two down for.

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » May 12th, 2015, 2:31 pm

Andy, lemme know. I think we can adjust.

Cameron - oh I dunno, people are busy and the forum is slow. The same few guys will still be into it.

I agree this weekend's weather is looking pretty sketchy. Well, Saturday does (as does Friday). Sunday (and Monday) look fabulous however. Sheesh...I have some flexibility, I might go out alone.

So - pencil in Memorial Day weekend?

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Mark Hazel » May 18th, 2015, 5:20 pm

I'm the "principal surveyor" Jimi referred to earlier in this thread. Jimi works full-time for UDWR, mostly in an office. I work part-time (& seasonally) for UDWR as a field technician. This season my project's goal is to photovoucher lesser-known species in W UT. The main target is mountain kingnsnakes, which in the last few years have been vouchered in the Confusion & South House Ranges. Western skink, ringneck snake, nightsnake are the other species on the list that we'd be glad for help photovouchering.

I appreciate Jimi's initiative regarding this west desert pyro survey weekend. It's this weekend. Its location is the North House. I'll be out there Thurs afternoon until Sun eve (May 21-24)--and maybe most of Monday too if I'm not too worn out. If you are interested to tag along, contact Jimi or me.

I think there's a chance Jimi & I could each take a volunteer out there (from the SLC or Provo areas) in state pickup trucks. Some of the North House roads we'll be on are pretty poor. But I know some of you are used to that with your vehicles and would like to bring your vehicle.

This will not be road-cruising--pretty much not at all. Volunteers would have to be in good shape for walking around in rocky limestone habitat. Look at the forecast for Delta, Utah. Add 10-20% to Delta's chance of rain for that chance in the hills of the House where we'll be. Take sunscreen; bring whatever food, water & gear you'll need. We will be working long hours and trying to get the most out of our time invested in this visit to habitat before it's heated up much.

Some of us remember the mountain kingsnake surveys that NPS Biologist Bryan Hamilton organized each May in the Great Basin National Park area. Those were cushy. There were campsites & picnic tables. There were a visitor center and paved roads a short drive away. Hah. This weekend will be more rustic. It's also true that on Bryan's surveys it was probably easier to find "pyros" than where we'll search in the North House.

We will surely see the easy lizard species, and probably great basin rattler and striped whipsnake. There will be some reptiles (plus birds, flowers, snails, scorpions) to see even if we find no kingsnake.

If you are still seriously interested after all this encouragement, PM Jimi or me.

By the way, the geode beds I've heard of are just SW of the Dugway Range, quite a way NE of where we'll be. The trilobite quarries on the S side of the South House ("pay the fee & you'll surely find some") & are closer to where we'll be. If you are interested in visiting one of those as part of your trip, that would be separate from our surveying with us in the North House.

Also, in a separate post I just offered my personal "Utah Mountain Kingsnake Search Tips" guide. The audience for that can include others who are not considering joining us in the House Range this weekend.

Thanks, Mark

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by sdFH'er » July 2nd, 2015, 12:28 pm

Did this event end up happening? Results/trip report? Pics? Never enough pyro posts!

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » July 2nd, 2015, 1:50 pm

Yep, sort of. It was cold and rainy - like, daytime highs struggling hard to hit 60F. No sun but a couple 15-20 minute bursts, not long enough to raise temps much. Over the weekend I bet we got 2 inches of liquid sun; funny, it was the 3rd weekend in a row I actually wore my rain pants. Too funny in Utah, I felt like I was back in the Pac NW. But the campsite was good, the water drained off or soaked in great (limestone gravel) and there was no wind. I slept longer and better out there than I had in probably 8 weeks. Dark and quiet!

Crazy thing was, we actually got about the same diversity (the usual 3 snakes and 3-4 lizards) and - with the snakes, anyway - numbers of animals (1-3 of each snake) as you'd expect on a "normal" (sunny, maybe about 70F) day out there that time of year. Lizard numbers were down, we only saw a few of each of the usual suspects, unlike the dozen-plus of each you'd get on a "normal" day.

Suffice it to say, we saw nothing "interesting" - no ringnecks, pyros, night snakes etc. Also none of the typical but less-abundant-out-there lizards.

Only me, Mark, and Cameron (and his little girl) went out. Most animals were in rock crevices, a few were out on the crawl or basking. I think all of us had our mental lower-boundary-acceptable temperatures lowered a little bit. We got a couple rattlesnakes "basking" in cloudy mid-50's temps for example. One factor was that the week before had been super nice, so everything had a meal in it. Poor buggers were just desperate to digest, I reckon. It is the Great Basin though - anything here needs to be pretty cold tolerant.

Mark has since been back at least once to set & close traps, and to walk it. I think he's only gotten more individuals of the same half-dozen or so common species - which is pretty typical for the Great Basin. If I recall right he also got his all-time record for collared lizards out there a few weeks ago, something like a dozen in one day. Any glory out there is well- and hard-earned. I'm going back with him in early August, hopefully the thunderstorms are popping out there then and the humidity is up. Night-time wash-walking can be productive, it's the most efficient way Mark has found to locate pyros (they shine great!). Perhaps we'll publicize that outing, it's Mark's call though.

Cameron takes lovely pics, Mark takes pretty nice vouchers, I mainly take no pics unless it's a "significant" find (range extension, poorly-documented species, etc). If I can keep my thumb out of the frame it's a good day.

Thanks for asking, maybe Cameron will post a pic or 2.
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by sdFH'er » July 2nd, 2015, 3:50 pm

Awesome, thanks for the report Jimi! Glad a good time was had by all. Its always great to get out even if the target eludes you. I'm not sure about August (or if thats even open invite), but this is something I would be very interested in participating in if it is a repeat event in the future. Any reason is a good one to head to Utah, and pyros would be icing on the cake. Very interesting about wash walking for them, I would never have expected that to be successful! Any idea what the rough temp cut off is for their nighttime activity that far north?

Thanks again for the update!
-Shaun

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by Jimi » July 7th, 2015, 11:09 am

Any idea what the rough temp cut off is for their nighttime activity that far north
Yeah, and it's pretty cold. Low 60's are routine for this animal, exceptional temps are no doubt quite lower (maybe mid-low 50s???). They don't call the Great Basin a cold desert for nothing...and even to manage a 4-month active season, any herp living there has to be able to work with, or work around, some chilliness. Tough living...hence the low herp-species richness. But pyros are in the mix, which many of us find pretty fascinating.

We could probably get a few people interested in an August repeat, whether or not it's part of the "official" ongoing effort. Holler if you're serious. Also, there will be likely another pyro-hunting opportunity in S NV (N Mojave ecoregion) in early fall. Which would have much better "bycatch" opportunities (Gilas, specks, etc) too.

cheers,
Jimi

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Re: early survey of your interest - pyros in the west desert

Post by sdFH'er » July 8th, 2015, 4:44 pm

Very interesting! Thanks for the reply, I haven't been to the Great Basin area in years, and I'm definitely overdue for a return trip (or permanent relocation) so will definitely keep in touch with you. The Nevada trips may actually work out much better for me as I should have some vacation accrued by then, and bycatch is always a plus. I'll be in touch soon! Take care.

-Shaun

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