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 Post subject: California trip question
PostPosted: August 1st, 2017, 7:26 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2014, 8:31 pm
Posts: 82
Location: North Providence, RI
Thinking of having the annual herping trip in California next July, and wanted to run some ideas by people familar with herping there to see if im on the right (or wrong?) track. Main interest is snakes (I am interested in seeing the cool garters, ringnecks and yellow bellied racers out there; son is interested in gopher, coachwhips and some of the sandy soil "nose type" snakes (see #3). Kinda long, please bare with me - and I may end up cross posting this in other forums/groups.
1. Im thinking coastal California, whether southern, central or northern, would be a productive place in summer, as temperatures are mild (though im sure costly). (I am so sick of traveling to deathly hot places where daytime herping hours are severely limited and many snakes are likely in estivation - unfortunately we can only do long trips in summer bc of school ). Thinking we could spend a lot of daytime hours herping here, like we do in New England.
2. Im thinking northern inland California might be good, especially in the mountain ranges, as even though it gets hot mid-day, could at least be productive in morning. However, I am unsure if the altitudes of the cascades/coastal ranges and Sierra nevada up that way are too high for snakes - would I need to stick to the foothills, valley (so hot!) or Modoc plateau (interested in the plants and geography there too)?
3. My son really is interested in the snakes in southeastern California, especially ones in desert/sandy habitats. Are snakes there only going to be nocturnal in July, if they are even active at all? Will they pretty much be in estivation? (We could arrange things so we start off the trip there end of June, if thats any better). And what is this high desert vs low desert? (I am so confused).


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 1st, 2017, 10:45 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
I'm not the "final authority" but I've got some experience.

Timing: Back the trip up as far as possible into June, July is not a great choice.

Elevation: I would say "in general" there are "plenty" of snakes up to about 6000', it's "not bad" - sometimes even still "pretty good" - from there up to about 7500-8000', and "generally drops way off in diversity and/or abundance" above about 8000'. Aspect, insolation, availability of secure hibernacula, presence of water, latitude, etc all influence the accuracy of this generality in any specific place.

Geography: It's a big state. Modoc to Imperial is a long, hot drive in summer. You can avoid the worst of the traffic by staying east of the Sierra/Cascade crest (run down 395), but still. Jeez. Ugh. I think you would have more time to hunt if you spent less time driving. If it was me I would constrain my area a bit.

Here's an idea. All or nearly all that SE desert stuff comes all the way up to about Bishop. Bishop is close to mountains with garters, boas & zonata (on the west side...) etc. And its elevation & latitude means that June is still spring up there, as opposed to maybe "it dried up and got hot as hell 8 weeks ago" like could totally happen to you in SoCal. There's good cruising and great field herping around Bishop. From there, if you really really really need to get to the coast you can drive over through Yosemite and get to the Bay Area/Santa Cruz (for more garters, boas, and zonata). Honestly though, with the desert plus mtns plus creeks/springs/riparian opportunities, you don't need to go more than about 30-40 miles from town to have a ton of fun.

Another idea (if you could forget the glossies & shovelnose) would be to do something similar further north - say a transect Eureka-Alturas or -Susanville. The Cascades are far easier to cross than the Sierras anyway. That would be a good trip too, running across the 299 and/or 44. Go climb Mt Lassen, jump in some hot springs. Nice country, hardly herped but with some good diversity and potentially, high abundances of some species.

So...there's something to chew on. Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 1st, 2017, 12:53 pm 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 9:46 am
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July can be very rough in CA. I would suggest April-early June as your window. Flipping is good in Southern CA Feb-April. In Central CA, the window is April-May. If it has to be July, I would stick to the Central-Northern coast or higher elevation areas in the Sierras. Desert snakes can be found in July, but often are active well after midnight and not in the numbers you would see in May/June.

FH


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 1st, 2017, 3:54 pm 
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Joined: August 19th, 2014, 8:31 pm
Posts: 82
Location: North Providence, RI
Jimi and FieldHerper,
Thanks so much for the quick and informative replies!
Unfortunately, bc I am a teacher, and last day of school is anywhere from June 19-June 26 (depending on snow days), earliest I can go is late June. However, we plan to be out there for 4 weeks, so I dont mind driving - the Bishop idea sounds good (it looks like a few of the species he is interested in, patchnose, longnose and coachwhip are just west of Bishop in the National forest - i guess id have to explore the topography/habitats of it later - however would you say they are typically there, or is rarer for them to be up there. Like if best to go farther south to the desert for them, even if it means becoming a night owl, then may have to do that). Maybe spending half the time in Bishop and central CA, including around Santa Cruz (went to UCSC, so that would be fun to see again), and then half the time up north (drove from Susanville to the coast once - know exactly where it is!). Lastly, Jimi, when you said all those diverse habitats within 30-40 miles of town, were you talking about the Bishop area?


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 1st, 2017, 8:55 pm 
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Joined: August 24th, 2010, 8:34 pm
Posts: 425
Location: Los Angeles County
The Bishop area can be unpredictable. I definitely wouldn't go there hoping to see anything but gopher snakes and panamint rattlesnakes. Garters can be had in the area, but even they can be tuff to find. The desert is the same way, but the earlier you can get there the better. I've had great nights in July and August, but you really never know. Since you have four weeks, it's probably worth at least trying a number of different areas, at least for a night or two, all over the state to get the most diversity.

I would, however, spend the majority of time on the Western side of the Sierras and along the coast.

I spend several weeks each summer in the Bishop area, so it's possible I'll be up there should you decide to head that way. If you think you want to hit that area, or any of the desert areas, PM me and I'll try to get you on some of your targets.

It looks like you're familiar enough with the state to have a good trip no matter what.

-nightdriver


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 2nd, 2017, 9:55 am 
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Joined: August 19th, 2014, 8:31 pm
Posts: 82
Location: North Providence, RI
Thank you, night driver. Im going to spend some time with him going over the range maps and the conditions, and make a decision (its either this trip to Calif., or southeast CO again, which we are pretty familar with, and then on to NM, which seems to have the favorability of monsoon season - my wallet definitely prefers anything but California too!). If we end up with calif and Bishop area, ill gladly take you up on offer and pm you the specifics.


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 2nd, 2017, 12:27 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
Quote:
the Bishop idea sounds good (it looks like a few of the species he is interested in, patchnose, longnose and coachwhip are just west of Bishop in the National forest - i guess id have to explore the topography/habitats of it later - however would you say they are typically there, or is rarer for them to be up there. Like if best to go farther south to the desert for them, even if it means becoming a night owl, then may have to do that). Maybe spending half the time in Bishop and central CA, including around Santa Cruz (went to UCSC, so that would be fun to see again), and then half the time up north (drove from Susanville to the coast once - know exactly where it is!). Lastly, Jimi, when you said all those diverse habitats within 30-40 miles of town, were you talking about the Bishop area?


Quote:
The Bishop area can be unpredictable. I definitely wouldn't go there hoping to see anything but gopher snakes and panamint rattlesnakes. Garters can be had in the area, but even they can be tuff to find. The desert is the same way, but the earlier you can get there the better. I've had great nights in July and August, but you really never know.


Yes, I was speaking of Bishop. Which is at basically the northern tip of the Mojave - it is in the desert. All that country bottoms out around 4000', so it's "high desert" (the cutoff commonly being thought of as maybe 3200-3500'). The river off the mountains, and all the irrigated ag, can fool the casual eye, but Bishop itself doesn't get much precip. With the Sierra rain shadow I would be amazed if the average exceeds 7-8 inches. Heck it might be half that for all I know. To me the closest, easiest, best "true desert cruising" (unaltered habitat) would be across the river, just east of Big Pine. Or about 15-20 miles from downtown Bishop. I haven't spent tons and tons of time there, but I have had some fun. I would characterize it (no guarantee!) as good flipping from March to maybe May, and good cruising in May and June. Probably crappier later. Yes, you never know. The 3 species you mention your kid wanting to see, should be doable but you'll need to hunt different times and maybe ways. All are very cruisable, and IMO not rarer up there than down south, but the longnose would be at night (or if it's hot, really early in the AM - you might try going to bed for the heat, and be awake & hunting say 3 AM - 10 AM, cruising the first half and walking the second). It would be criminal to visit the Mojave and not experience it afoot.


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 2nd, 2017, 7:41 pm 
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Joined: August 24th, 2010, 8:34 pm
Posts: 425
Location: Los Angeles County
Jimi is correct, Bishop is in the desert, but don't tell the people that live there that....or my wife.....she never would have let me buy a house there.. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: California trip question
PostPosted: August 4th, 2017, 1:30 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
No, it ain't Trona. Ha ha. Bishop could be a great place to get old. Hopefully you can get your wife into it!


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