So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

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davidburkart
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So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by davidburkart » August 5th, 2017, 3:57 am

In March of 2017 I moved to Barstow, CA, for a temporary position studying desert tortoises. Although the job location elicited eye rolls and sentiments when sharing the news with family and friends (no offense to my fellow Barstow-ians), I was excited about the potential herpetofauna I hoped to encounter in the Mojave desert and surrounding areas. As an east coaster, I am amazed by the proximity of ecosystems created by the extreme topography of the western United States. The unusually wet 2016-2017 winter was a lucky bonus.

ImageDesert Sunflower (Geraea canescens) by David Burkart, on Flickr

The desert was green and splattered with wildflowers for much of the spring, painting our field sites into kaleidoscopic landscapes of complimentary colors.

ImageDesert Sunflowers (Geraea canescens) and Blue Phacelia (Phacelia distans) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageGolden Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa) by David Burkart, on Flickr



The tortoises were happy, and after some cold weather lizards and snakes started showing up.

ImageMojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageNorthern Mohave Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageDesert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageMojave Patch-Nosed Snake (Salvadora hexalepis mojavensis) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageLong-Nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageSouthern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) by David Burkart, on Flickr


This sidewinder and several horned lizards were removed from a cattle guard on a dirt road one afternoon:

ImageMohave Desert Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes cerastes) by David Burkart, on Flickr


Snakes have been pretty rare to encounter in the field, but most of the lizard species that occur in that geographic area are frequently encountered. I never thought I'd get accustomed to seeing horned lizards....

ImageDesert Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma platyrhinos) by David Burkart, on Flickr



In March I met up with Jeff N., aka SurfinHerp, for some herping in western San Diego County. The temperature was pretty low and overcast skies dropped some rain, but the herping was excellent. I was surprised by the abundance of animals that we encountered- Over time I have learned that the seasonal conditions that influence herpetofaunal activity in southwestern California are different than what I'm used to on the east coast, and looking back, I definitely missed many potentially great herping opportunities this spring by assuming that it was too cold or too early to herp. Cover boards produced the usual suspects:

ImageCalifornia Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula californiae) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageSan Diego Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata webbii) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageGarden Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps major major) by David Burkart, on Flickr


On a rocky hillside we encountered the most exciting find of the trip, a rosy boa on the crawl:

ImageNorthern Three-Lined Boa (Lichanura orcutti) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageNorthern Three-Lined Boa (Lichanura orcutti) by David Burkart, on Flickr


A few other shots from the hillside:

ImageCalifornia Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Legless Lizard (Anniella pulchra) by David Burkart, on Flickr




Jeff also joined me for a couple of trips to the Anza-Borrego area. I was very excited to experience this well known herping destination, and it did not disappoint (although I'll need to return for sandstone night lizards)!

ImageThe Milky Way by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageColorado Desert Shovel-Nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis annulata) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageSpotted Leaf-nosed Snake (Phyllorhynchus decurtatus) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageSouthwestern Threadsnake (Rena humilis humilis) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageColorado Desert Shovel-Nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis annulata) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Palms (Washingtonia filifera) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageMearns' Rock Lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi mearnsi) by David Burkart, on Flickr


This brush lizard tried his hardest to intimidate me as I took a few photos:

ImageBaja California Brush Lizard (Urosaurus nigricaudus) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageBaja California Brush Lizard (Urosaurus nigricaudus) by David Burkart, on Flickr


Searching Canyon walls for nocturnal lizards reminded me of looking for green salamanders back east...

ImageGranite Night Lizard (Xantusia henshawi) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImagePeninsula Leaf-toed Gecko (Phyllodactylus nocticolus) by David Burkart, on Flickr


One night while cruising, Jeff pulled his car over and we got out to inspect a DOR king snake. After returning to the car and just before driving away, Jeff saw this previously unnoticed and very gravid glossy snake only a few meters in front of us.

ImageGlossy Snake (Arizona elegans) by David Burkart, on Flickr


Walking around Ocotillo Wells for flat-tailed horned lizards yielded nothing but desert iguanas and their tracks...

ImageDesert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) Tracks by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageDesert Sunflower (Geraea canescens) by David Burkart, on Flickr


Fortunately, an invitation to partake in a lizard survey on the Coachella Valley Preserve provided me with the opportunity to observe this rare species.

ImageFlat-Tail Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageFlat-Tail Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) by David Burkart, on Flickr


I also encountered a rarer lizard, the Coachella fringe-toed lizard. I was disheartened to witness how restricted this species’ habitat is and to learn of the negative anthropogenic effects caused by the encroaching developed areas. Even in the middle of the preserve, I remained in view of the bordering palm-lined neighborhoods and Interstate 10.

ImageCoachella Fringe-Toed Lizard (Uma inornata) by David Burkart, on Flickr




I feel very lucky to have been employed to work in the Mojave desert this particular spring. The weather was relatively mild, the wildflowers were exploding, and the herpetofaunal activity was good.

ImageCalico Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageLong-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageYellow-Backed Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus uniformis) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCanterbury Bells (Campanula medium) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageDesert Chicory (Rafinesquia neomexicana) by David Burkart, on Flickr



I joined Todd Battey and some other herpers for a survey of Tejon Ranch on April 9th. Although it was a cold day, we still managed some great finds, and literally didn’t let the many felled limbs and trees stop us from having a great day exploring the property.

ImageDesert Night Lizard (Xantusia vigilis) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageNorthern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus oreganus) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImagePacific Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer catenifer) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageYellow-Blotched Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii croceater) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata) by David Burkart, on Flickr



I also encountered some amazing herps (and spectacular terrain) on other trips around Southern California.


The Los Padres National Forest...

ImageBlainville's Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma blainvillii) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata multicarinata) by David Burkart, on Flickr


Death Valley...

ImageCalifornia Lyresnake (Trimorphodon lyrophanes) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageNight Hike in Mosaic Canyon by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCommon Chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater) by David Burkart, on Flickr


The Mojave National Preserve...

ImageThe Lava Tube by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageMojave Fringe-Toed Lizard (Uma scoparia) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageThe Kelso Dunes by David Burkart, on Flickr


And Nevada...

ImageJuvenile Banded Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum cinctum) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageWestern Banded Gecko (Coleonyx variegatus) by David Burkart, on Flickr



I try to road cruise once a week in the Barstow area and am discovering some great places to do so.

ImageCalifornia Kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageCalifornia Lyresnake (Trimorphodon lyrophanes) by David Burkart, on Flickr


Sidewinders have been the most common:

ImageMohave Desert Sidewinder (Crotalus cerastes cerastes) by David Burkart, on Flickr


A terrestrial snake pretending to be arboreal:

ImageMohave Shovel-Nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageMohave Shovel-Nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis) by David Burkart, on Flickr


And then acting more like it should:

ImageMohave Shovel-Nosed Snake (Chionactis occipitalis occipitalis) by David Burkart, on Flickr


I recently encountered this beauty:

ImageMojave Green Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageMojave Green Rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus scutulatus) by David Burkart, on Flickr


I'm particularly proud of finding this next snake, as it was truly a serendipitous moment. A last minute change of cruising destination led my coworkers and I on an exploratory cruise down a road that mostly transects creosote scrub bajada. Only briefly does this road pass through some rocky hills, which I had previously speculated might be good rosy boa habitat. As we approached this segment, I almost announced to my passengers "If we're going to see a rosy boa, it would be in the next few minutes." The thought had barely escaped my mind when I found myself stopping the car and staring at a snake stretched out on the road. I instantly knew what it was. Would I have jinxed our good fortune if I had vocalized the aforementioned statement?

ImageNorthern Three-Lined Boa (Lichanura orcutti) by David Burkart, on Flickr

ImageNorthern Three-Lined Boa (Lichanura orcutti) by David Burkart, on Flickr



It has truly been an incredible experience to live, work, and herp in Southern California. Many thanks to all of the generous local herpers who have given me valuable advice and joined me on herping outings. I look forward to what the next couple of months may bring!

ImageSunset in the Mojave National Preserve by David Burkart, on Flickr

ramblon
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by ramblon » August 6th, 2017, 7:08 am

Very nice, looks like you made the most of your spring down here!

The landscapes were definitely as colorful and alive as they've been in many years.

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Fieldherper
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by Fieldherper » August 8th, 2017, 9:47 am

Great finds and photos!

FH

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Ronquillo08
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by Ronquillo08 » August 8th, 2017, 11:06 pm

The Mojave Dessert Tortoise is beautiful. Do you have any close ups of the Patch-Nosed? Good Pics! :thumb:

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Calfirecap
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by Calfirecap » August 9th, 2017, 5:06 am

Very nice! Looks like you saw everything, it would take most people years to see that kind of variety.

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SurfinHerp
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by SurfinHerp » August 9th, 2017, 9:19 am

Fantastic post David! Love all the diversity. I didn't know you encountered a Gila monster on your Nevada trip....way to go man. I'm jealous.

How much longer do you plan to be in California?

Cheers,

Jeff

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TJA
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by TJA » August 11th, 2017, 10:09 am

Tons of cool stuff. I love the wide angle images and the night skies -- it's always nice to see not just the critters, but the world around them as well.

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davidburkart
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Location: Carbondale, Il

Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by davidburkart » August 12th, 2017, 3:23 pm

Thanks for the comments! It was a fun spring/early summer.
Ronquillo08 wrote:The Mojave Dessert Tortoise is beautiful. Do you have any close ups of the Patch-Nosed? Good Pics! :thumb:
No, I unfortunately don't, and I haven't taken any pictures of the others that I have seen.

SurfinHerp wrote:Fantastic post David! Love all the diversity. I didn't know you encountered a Gila monster on your Nevada trip....way to go man. I'm jealous.

How much longer do you plan to be in California?

Cheers,


Jeff
The Gila monster was indeed a pleasant surprise. I'm here until the end of October... Let's go herping!

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Chad M. Lane
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by Chad M. Lane » October 4th, 2017, 9:36 pm

Where was that Anniella from (don't need to be super specific)?


I enjoyed the Lyre on the branches shot!



Thanks,
Chad

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Ross Padilla
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Re: So Cal So Far (Mojave, SD County, Tejon Ranch, etc.)

Post by Ross Padilla » October 5th, 2017, 8:59 am

Great stuff, man. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

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