End of Year 2015! (TX, MX, AZ, NM)

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Ben
Posts: 26
Joined: December 13th, 2010, 11:40 am

End of Year 2015! (TX, MX, AZ, NM)

Post by Ben » January 24th, 2016, 1:16 pm

Well, well, well. 2016 already? :)

2015 was a fun year. I was able to visit some incredible places, hang out with some cool people, and of course find some herps. Not much story here, except short narrative where necessary. Just lots and lots (and lots) of photos!

JANUARY - MAY 2015

Starting off in Texas with some common species:

Crotalus atrox
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Sceloporus consobrinus
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Anaxyrus woodhousei
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Spea bombifrons
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Sistrurus tergeminus
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Acris crepitans blanchardi
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Lithobates catesbeiana
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Thamnophis proximus proximus
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At the end of March, I ventured west into Arizona. Of course I had to go through New Mexico along the way, so to break up the long drive I hiked in a couple mountain ranges:

Luna County, NM
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Dona Ana County, NM
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First night out was spent in Maricopa County, AZ looking for 'winders, but only DORs were seen. Oh, and of course these little dudes:

Coleonyx variegatus
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Next morning was spent hiking in Cochise County, not much to speak of herp-wise, but it was a great hike! The only thing seen was this engorged guy:

Salvadora grahamiae
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That evening we gave Maricopa County another shot. With more success this time:

Crotalus cerastes cercobombus
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In the morning I met up with Bill White and we drove out to a particular desert "moonscape" in search of some very attractive rattlesnakes.

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Sauromalus ater
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We found one.

Crotalus mitchellii pyrhhus
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Crotalus cerastes laterorepens
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Back in Texas, rock flipping was productive:

Lampropeltis getula splendida/holbrooki Intergrade
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Sonora semiannulata (Banded Phase)
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Lampropeltis triangulum (Intergrade, gentilis if being technical)
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Plestiodon obsoletus
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Anaxyrus debilis
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Anaxyrus punctatus
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With the warm weather, more and more snakes started to emerge.

Masticophis flagellum testaceus
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Heterodon platirhinos
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Sistrurus tergeminus tergeminus
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Thamnophis marcianus
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Pantherophis emoryi
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Also this little male 'sauga with a case of necrophilia I encountered one warm night:

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Towards the middle of May, I went on the coolest little "rocket run" I've ever been on. On my way down to meet up with some friends before said excursion, I did a bit of preliminary herping:

Terrapene ornata
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Lampropeltis getula splendida/holbrookii Intergrade
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Crotaphytus collaris
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And then the real fun began. Passports in hand, we made our push down to the border... And straight through into Mexico. Time was short, so we had to make the best of our time. Our first night was spent in a very cool little Chihuahuan Desert area in Coahuila.

Rhinocheilus lecontei tessellatus (familiar species, a little different looking)
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Hypsiglena jani
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Next morning was spent walking around some "pools" a lot of you may be familiar with.

Holbrookia sp.
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Terrapene coahuila
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As I said before, we were time restricted on this trip so we had to leave pretty quick so we could make it to Monterrey N.L. before nightfall. On the way, we saw the arid Chihuahuan Desert transition into the incredibly scenic and gorgeous Sierra Madre Oriental.

As we made our approach into Monterrey, we noticed a DOR Texas Tortoise and decided to stop. When we pulled off the highway, we found a live one!

Gopherus berlandieri
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Not very cooperative...

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After a night of relaxing in Monterrey, we hit the Sierra Madre for the better part of the day. Some herps were seen, including a couple big lifers for me:

Crotalus molossus nigrescens
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Thamnophis cyrtopsis cyrtopsis
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Barisia imbricata (These guys are super cool)
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This stunner of a gravid female blacktail was the highlight of the day:

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Some cool habitat
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After poking around in the mountains for a while, we headed south for the night to put us in closer proximity to the main species we were out looking for. This part of the Sierra Madre was absolutely incredible. After looking at it for hours and hours on Google Earth, to finally experience it in person... No words.

Here's a taste of some of the habitat we were playing around in:
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Here are some herps, all of which were lifers:

Sceloporus minor (Not very proud of this one...)
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Plestiodon brevirostris
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Phrynosoma orbiculare (I was super giddy about this one)
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Sceloporus parvus (Oh hey, look! Money!)
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A cool little encounter with a female P. brevirostris and her eggs under a rock:
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My favorite part of the story is where one of the guys in our group started yelling that he found what we were looking for. That was pretty cool. :D

Crotalus lepidus morulus
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Gosh... Just writing about this takes me back to the moment, I don't think I've ever been so ecstatic in my entire life. I'm a big lepidus fan, so seeing one of these was extremely cool. (Running out of adjectives...)

We saw another though, this time a female. A nice dark individual, showcasing the variation even within a single population, as well as the sexual dimorphism this species tends to exhibit.

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Another find was this tiny guy:

Storeria hidalgoensis (Terrible shot, I know)
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A pretty interesting find, especially since I had never heard of it prior to this trip. lol I remember yelling out, "Hey... I found a snake, kinda looks like a Storeria???"

We poked around a little more, but then decided to hit the road back to Texas. On the way out, near Saltillo, we cruised up this guy in heavy traffic:

Pantherophis emoryi (meahllmorum)
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I'd say we ended the trip on a very memorable note! Huge, enormous thanks to Mike Price for having me along and pretty much making U.S. herping seem only a fraction of what it was. ;) Nothing compares.

Back in the U.S. I went on a quick one night rocket run down to Sutton County to look for leps with Ryan Collister and Justin Elden. They were lagging a bit behind due to IHS going a bit longer than scheduled, so I went ahead and turned up a nice female on the first cut of the night! lol

Crotalus lepidus lepidus
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When we met up, we drove south a few cuts and decided to give it another shot. Not long after getting up on the cut, we spotted this nice male:

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A little later in Val Verde County, Ryan and I werechecking out some cool inverts in a puddle when we hear Justin around the corner giggling about something. Turned out to be this thing:

Agkistrodon contortrix pictigaster
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Not a bad night, and I had a good time with those guys!

JUNE - AUGUST

Soon, SnakeDays came around. I had a great time seeing those of you that made it out again this year! :) We saw quite a few species during the event, but I was a bit lazy with my camera throughout, only pulling it out for a select few herps...

I hiked up this pretty little guy just minutes before the SWCHR Rendezvous:

Crotalus lepidus lepidus
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That night, I rode along with Mike Price and Chris Harrison down to the Black Gap area. The rains had hit the area hard, but we managed to turn up some stuff.

Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus
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Crotalus ornatus
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We saw more, but as I said earlier, I was very lazy with my camera on this trip. lol

The next morning Ryan Collister and I went for a hike just before the lectures began and saw this guy out on the move:

Crotalus ornatus
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That evening we hit the Rio, but we had an extraordinarily uneventful night. Morning brought us back to Sanderson to part ways, and I ended up following Mike out of town to hit an area on the way home that night. Another fairly uneventful night, but I did get a lifer:

Diadophis punctatus regalis
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Back at home, the rains were starting to hit hard and it got a lot of stuff moving.

Incilius nebulifer (Not from the home area, rather a botched attempt at laticinctus one night in North Texas. lol)
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Anaxyrus cognatus
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Sistrurus tergeminus tergeminus
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Thamnophis marcianus (nicest one I've seen out here)
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Rhinocheilus lecontei tessellatus
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Arizona elegans elegans (Interesting color aberrancies on this guy)
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Ambystoma mavortium mavortium
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Gastrophryne olivacea
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Diadophis punctatus arnyi
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Crotaphytus collaris collaris
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In late July, Saunders Drukker and I went on a fun little weekend-ish trip out to Arizona. The monsoons had started so we were hopeful that we would see some stuff. On our way out, we took a slight detour to get a really cool lifer in New Mexico:

Aneides hardii
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The following morning we met up with Bill White for a little Cochise County hiking. We had a pretty good time to say the least. lol Within 10 minutes Saunders Spotted this tiny thing, his lifer:

Crotalus willardi willardi
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While Saunders and I photographed it, Bill and his friend walked around a bit and found this extremely in shed female klaub:

Crotalus lepidus klauberi
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After photographing bot the klaub and willardi to our hearts' content, Saunders and I were chatting about the experience so far when suddenly we heard a rattlesnake buzz us from a clump of bunchgrass not ten feet away from where we were photographing the two snakes. Saunders and I scurried over to the clump of grass and Saunders spotted what it was, another willardi! This time a nice young adult specimen:

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After taking our time making sure we got some good shots, we hiked back towards the car with Bill. We spotted another klauberi sticking out from under a piece of manmade cover and while we were photographing it, I recognized it as being the exact same snake that I'd seen last year with Bill. Such a cool experience!

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Back near the car, we began flipping some artificial cover. I was quite surprised and amused to flip one piece and find our third willardi for the day. lol

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Last but certainly not least, Saunders and I were walking through a field of tall grass heading toward more stuff to flip, when we nearly stepped on a most spectacular looking male klauberi. It's tough to capture the true beauty of a nice, green klaub and this one was VERY green. My shots do it no justice, but hopefully you can get an idea of it:

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After a long day of hiking and seeing some great scenery with Bill, we said farewell in the midst of a big downpour. Saunders and I planned out our evening, which didn't seem overly promising due to the rain. We ended up seeing this cute little guy, though:

Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus
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We also came across some Sonoran Toads which were just a bit too active to photograph... lol

The following morning we went out searching for Oxybelis, but only managed to turn up this decent sized (20in) Regal Ringneck:

Diadophis punctatus regalis
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Always in a hurry to get somewhere, we went east into another range to look for cerbs. It was a beautiful hike, but unfortunately no cerbs were spotted. We did, however, see one cool crote:

Crotalus molossus molossus
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After a few unsuccessful hours, we yet again found ourselves westward bound for the night. It was a HOT night... High was 114F and it remained in the 100s until well after dark. Nevertheless, we gave it a shot and saw some stuff!

Pituophis catenifer affinis
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Crotalus cerastes cercobombus
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Hypsiglena chlorophaea
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Yet another Crotalus cerastes cercobombus
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We decided to try again for cerbs the next morning and had the same amount of luck we did the prior morning:

Crotalus molossus molossus
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That evening we drove out to the Santa Ritas in hopes of seeing some Tiger Rattlesnakes. The conditions seemed pretty favorable, and within just a few minutes of it becoming dark we spotted this girl:

Crotalus molossus molossus
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Okay... So, not a Tiger. Still! It was early, so we had high hopes.

Long story short, we drove around for another hour and a half without seeing anything. Then we did... After staring at the road for a while our minds started playing tricks on us. We saw this big, awkward tarantula looking thing crossing the road. We squinted and could not make out what it was. Moments later our brains started working again and Saunders yells, "GILA!" Sure enough! What we had been seeing were the black markings moving as the lizard walked. lol

Heloderma suspectum
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Awake again, we pressed on, trying to make the most of our last night in Arizona. Another long length of time passed before we caught a glimpse of a familiar shape in the road. When we saw it, we both knew what it was.

Crotalus tigris
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Finally achieving our goal for the night, we decided to rest before the long drive home the next morning. When morning came, we bid Arizona farewell and started back toward Texas. On the road out, we got another cool little lifer:

Masticophis bilineatus
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We timed it just right to have a little "last hurrah" in the Davis Mountains that night.

Pantherophis bairdi
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We also saw a blacktail and a large number of Hypsiglena that night. We parted ways in Odessa, feeling accomplished and very tired.

Back home, snakes were moving in full force.

Coluber constrictor flaviventris
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Lampropeltis getula splendida/holbrookii
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Sistrurus tergeminus tergeminus
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Heterodon nasicus nasicus
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I also did one last rocket run to the Trans Pecos with Ryan Collister for leps. What was the first snake of the trip?

Crotalus lepidus lepidus
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Ryan spotted that tiny guy right after I had pretty much stepped over it. lol Good eye man, good eye. :)

No year is complete without at least a couple of these guys:

Bogertophis subocularis
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Thanks for looking y'all! :) Can't wait to see what 2016 has in store!

User avatar
Fieldherper
Posts: 236
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 9:46 am

Re: End of Year 2015! (TX, MX, AZ, NM)

Post by Fieldherper » January 24th, 2016, 1:38 pm

Epic and awesome.

FH

User avatar
Soopaman
Posts: 923
Joined: March 18th, 2012, 6:34 pm
Location: Houston, Texas

Re: End of Year 2015! (TX, MX, AZ, NM)

Post by Soopaman » January 24th, 2016, 3:19 pm

What a great year, Ben! You're really lucky to have been able to do the Mexico stuff. I fear that most of us won't have that opportunity due to the risks of traveling through that part of Mexico.

Your photography is excellent as always. I think my favorite shot though is the massassauga with all the grass around him. Usually it seems plucking the grass makes for a better shot, but that came out looking really natural!

Ben
Posts: 26
Joined: December 13th, 2010, 11:40 am

Re: End of Year 2015! (TX, MX, AZ, NM)

Post by Ben » January 25th, 2016, 2:44 pm

Soopaman wrote:What a great year, Ben! You're really lucky to have been able to do the Mexico stuff. I fear that most of us won't have that opportunity due to the risks of traveling through that part of Mexico.

Your photography is excellent as always. I think my favorite shot though is the massassauga with all the grass around him. Usually it seems plucking the grass makes for a better shot, but that came out looking really natural!
Thanks Kyle! :) Yeah, it was a very memorable experience, something I would still be kicking myself for missing out on had something come up. lol

I didn't even like that shot until probably a month or two after I took it, but there were some things that worked out pretty well (albeit unintentionally). A lot of times the grass will cast a shadow on the subject, but I think the balance between the fill flash and the sun from behind kinda helped negate those shadows. Like I said, unintentional, but it worked out in this case!

Rman
Posts: 142
Joined: April 22nd, 2012, 2:32 pm
Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Re: End of Year 2015! (TX, MX, AZ, NM)

Post by Rman » January 25th, 2016, 5:22 pm

Looks like a great year to me. Nice!

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