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 Post subject: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: November 29th, 2017, 8:03 am 

Joined: October 27th, 2017, 11:41 am
Posts: 4
Hi All,

I live in the midwest, do a large amount of herping in the midwest. I recently got to take a quick (2 day) trip to Phoenix for the first time but no time to leave the city.

This spurred the desire to make a trip out there next year with a couple buddies.

I am not looking for anyone to give locations, I know how this goes being a herper and I am a new / unknown person to this forum.

I was hoping to get an idea for a decent month though. I am a turtle and lizard guy, snakes don't bother me but chasing rattlers is not on my list but will photograph any encountered.

Geckos, gilas and desert tortoises would be awesome to see. Sounds like the western banded gecko should be an easy find but other two more lifer type events but will see. Does anyone have a good guide to differentiate the subspecies of banded gecko listed out there?

From my reading online, I am leaning towards the middle of May to head out and spend 5 days or so in Arizona, likely traveling around the whole state. Any suggestions / opinions on this time frame?

Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: November 29th, 2017, 10:37 am 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 8:49 pm
Posts: 1145
May can be good for sure. Lots of folks prefer to herp the Mexican monsoon, which typically starts in July and runs through September. The pulse of moisture during the growing season can bring out your target species.

May or August would probably be my choice for time to herp Arizona.


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: November 29th, 2017, 3:11 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
Quote:
May or August would probably be my choice for time to herp Arizona.


That'd work. April or July/September too. Depends on elevation and ecoregion. But the time you cite should be fine, unless there's hardly no rain and the spring heats up early (which is, sadly, the forecast: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/multi_season/13_seasonal_outlooks/color/page2.gif)

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Geckos, gilas and desert tortoises would be awesome to see.


Geckos are vermin, they won't present a challenge in the least if you flip before it dries out. For the others, April or May would be my suggestion. Location, luck, and technique would all up your odds. (Heads up - DT's can be easy to overlook if they aren't on the crawl.)

If this winter is a dry bust (monitor where gets rain, and how much) then you might be better off waiting for the monsoon - say after 7/15.

A fun book is Lizards of the American Southwest.

Good luck!


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: November 29th, 2017, 5:51 pm 

Joined: October 27th, 2017, 11:41 am
Posts: 4
Thank you for the input!

I thought April and early May might be a little too cold for the target species to be on the move. We are thinking about road cruising and hiking in the mornings until around noon.


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: November 29th, 2017, 6:16 pm 
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Joined: June 25th, 2014, 10:34 am
Posts: 62
Location: Huntington, West Virginia
I have gone in August during the monsoon and I have been very successful. Even lizards like a little rain. I would also recommend "A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona" by Thomas C. Brennan and Andrew T. Holycross. The distribution of each species is plotted on a state map with counties outlined. I find this very helpful in determining the presumed location of a target species in relation to parks and forest lands. To do the entire state in five days would be a daunting task. I would suggest concentrating your efforts in the southeastern part of the state.

Good luck.

Mitch


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: November 29th, 2017, 6:36 pm 

Joined: October 27th, 2017, 11:41 am
Posts: 4
I will get that book on order!

Thanks! Was worried August would be too hot for hiking and even road hunting but maybe not.


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: December 1st, 2017, 10:57 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
Quote:
Thank you for the input!

I thought April and early May might be a little too cold for the target species to be on the move.


No problem. No cost, and possibly equal value! Ha ha ha.

Re: target species, perhaps I fixated too much on geckos, Gilas and torts. But if you think they need it very warm, you are in for a surprise. A dead-calm sunny morning can have an air temp of say 62-65F, but the substrates (or a basking "object") can easily and quickly warm up to the high 80s/low 90s. Perfect operating range with little danger from overheating. Whereas air temps above the low 80s, with full-roasting sun, will quickly generate full-sun substrate temps of >>105, which is not much good to you. You'll be searching only in the shade, which is a smaller area but much of which is totally visually obscured by vegetation. Or actually underground...buh-bye.

Think some more on elevations and the lat/long distributions of your "real " target species. Maybe it's just those 3 species you mentioned, maybe you also wanna see more like chucks, desert iggys, Phrynos, I dunno. Whatever, that's all you man. My point is, elevations on the CO River are like 400-500', Phoenix is something like 1100', Tucson is ~2400', and the valley floors in SE AZ are ~4500'. That right there is "montane" to an easterner. A useful rule of thumb is you lose/gain about 3 degrees F for every 1000' you go up/down. So if the daytime high in Tucson is gonna be 85, down in Parker or Yuma it's gonna be probably about 90 or a little more. And Wilcox or Sierra Vista might be in the high 70s. Don't get all hung up on that 3 degree number, it's often a little - occasionally a lot - off, but it's still a useful rule of thumb. It's usually pretty close.

Also consider seasonal climatic norms that drive seasonal herp activity patterns. If you want to field-herp the river corridor for diurnal lizards, you can do well in mid-late March (if there's no cold wind from a dry cold front). Wait for perhaps late April or early May if you wanna do the same thing in Tucson. Most of the river's (paltry) precip comes in the winter, whereas at least half of SE AZ's precip comes in the summer. Most desert wildlife's life cycle is tied to the dependable growing season - when it's warm and there's some soil moisture.

- In the low western deserts, that is much more in the spring (March-May), much less summer (June-August).

- In SE, there's a spring window and a monsoon window. In between (always June, plus often/usually late May and early July) there's a hot dry season that's "less awesome" than either spring or monsoon. "Less awesome" can range from full-suck to meh. How lucky are you? Ha ha ha. Got a lot of time and money to gamble?

Quote:
We are thinking about road cruising and hiking in the mornings until around noon.

- Morning walks are spot-on. Personally, for what (I think...) you're after, forget the car. Or leave it until after your walk, and maybe just use it to spot baskers for an hour or so before lunch, on the bigger roadside rocks. Walking a desert morning will delight you in so many ways, don't give much of that away to the car, for God's sake. Are you really coming from NYC? Jesus, get outside - afoot outside, not in the car outside - and absorb all the glory that is the desert in spring! Sights, smells, sounds, all of it.

- Work the washes, cut banks of which are good where there's holes in the bank and such. Look in and around the holes but don't stick your hand in them. Make a habit of frequently switching your gaze from right around where you're stepping, slowly out to as far as you can see up to the next bend in the wash, and then back to your foreground on a different path. Periodically, stop moving completely and take a good slow long hard look all around you, at all distances, in full sun, in full bank- or boulder-shadow, in dappled shade under bushes. You're gonna probably see some big, medium, and small rattlesnakes both coiled up and stretched out, possibly uncomfortably close to your feet. Atrox are pretty camo, and really pretty mellow until or unless you scare them - so don't count on a buzz to keep yourself un-bit. Also FWIW, most of my on-foot Gila sightings are of them pretty far away from me, just motoring around a wash bottom doing their thing. It's a rush, of which I will never, ever tire. Don't try to touch them, it's illegal and dumb - they will bite the hell out of you, given a chance.

- Take a temp gun and use it to figure out what objects to flip and which to skip, as well as what the full-sun substrate temps are. You can flip up geckos real easy, as long as it hasn't all dried out yet. Usually if it's still cool nights and nice days, smaller and lighter objects (a bonus to your back!) will have better temps (say 68-80F) underneath. Garbage, woody stuff, and little rocks. Carpet is the bomb if you can find any! Watch out for scorpions and black widows, leather gloves are your friend.

Don't forget to buy a license for herping. $20/day, get it online ahead of time, so as to not waste valuable vacation time indoors waiting in line. Chapstick and sunscreen - just sayin'.

Good hunting, be careful, let us know how you did.


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: December 4th, 2017, 5:06 am 

Joined: October 27th, 2017, 11:41 am
Posts: 4
Thank you Jimi for the time to type out that reply. Appreciate all the tips and suggestions.

We are heading down from Michigan, so about 30 hour drive to Phoenix. Total trip of a maximum of 9 days, planning on driving straight there / back. Likely hit Texas and New Mexico a little on the way down but focusing on Arizona. Maybe head up to the Mojave area on the way back but unsure.

Got a nice camera we are bringing along so hopefully will get some amazing shots of the terrain and critters we encounter along the way. Wont be touching anything protected or venomous. I am a lizard and turtle guy so unsure my reflexes are good enough to deal with snakes safely.

My Reptile and Amphibian of Arizona Field Guide arrived yesterday so have some reading ahead of me now and looking forward to this! Really like the temperature gun idea. Yes we would prefer to get out and hike for the items we seek rather then road hunting if possible.

What are the Arizona trespassing laws like out in the desert? Is there a map I can buy that shows the areas open to the public vs private? I would prefer to find some less common areas to hit rather then the common tourist / out of town herping areas.

We are currently planning on leaving May 11 and returning May 20. With time off work we do need to try and schedule this trip out as much as possible. Do you think it would be better to move it up a week or two? I know this can be hard knowing until we get closer.

Thank You!


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: December 4th, 2017, 10:35 am 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
Quote:
We are heading down from Michigan

Thanks, sorry I passed too quickly over your "living in the Midwest" opener. I mis-focused on "yonkers".

Quote:
What are the Arizona trespassing laws like out in the desert?

Hmm, that's pretty freighted. I'm not sure if the state is an open or closed one regarding signage - does a private owner need to advertize "posted" or not, in order to press charges through to prosecution. I will offer that folks in rural AZ are often pretty - sometimes extremely - conservative. They can be quite friendly if you're not offensive, but, ahhh, you won't get thanked for hopping their fences (most internal pasture or allotment fences on many publicly- or commonly-owned lands are different - hop away). There's not a ton of straight-up private property out there, most of the AZ desert is publicly- or commonly-owned - whether by a tribe, a state agency, or a federal agency. Rules and rights of access on these commonly-owned properties vary a whole lot, from not so far from "come on, do what you want" all the way to "forget it, no way".

One occasional complication is that land that is owned by someone else (including many public lands) is usually leased for e.g. grazing. Sometimes the tenant ("permittee" in cow-speak) is hostile to certain other users of the land, even though they have a legal right to be there. You hear stories of people getting chased off land they're part owner in (due to their American citizenship) by gun-toting permittees. Or sometimes, there's less drama but something like this: http://www.bowiechamber.com/doscabezas.htm. It's not real common but it's worth a call to the local office. Even just to ask about road conditions (road maintenance is limited and thunderstorms are destructive).

Quote:
Is there a map I can buy that shows the areas open to the public vs private?

Sure, of course. I'd start with asking "analog or digital?" If digital, go on to "static or dynamic"? Like, a chip vs a live-data, streamed feed.

- I assume you want to be able to just wander around, see a place you like, and check if it's legal. Kinda tough with analog (scale plus updating issues), or static digital (updating issues only, usually you can zoom in pretty close, e.g. 1:24,000). Dynamic digital is the best from a purely "correct information" POV. It can also be a damned hassle, and not worth the effort if you prefer other approaches.

- One other approach could be to scout with - say - GE, ID your areas ahead of the trip, ensure they're public, and stick to those.

- Really, regardless, I'd recommend some online scouting this winter. During your GE scouting, have a DeLorme or Benchmark atlas on hand - those are good enough for a coarse land tenure approximation. Once you get a ways down the road, I'd get on the phone with the local manager. This could give you a first impression of the task ahead of you: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/Arizona%20Grazing%20Map.pdf. With BLM and what you want to do, ignore District offices, just look at the Field Office titles. The Field Offices have websites and periodically-updated ownership maps. (FWIW, same goes for National Forests.)

- If you're gadget- and technically-oriented, nowadays there's practically no limit to how far down the rabbit hole you can go, with keeping track of where you are, and downloading spatial data beforehand. OTOH you can go pure-analog and get by just fine. Depends on which way you want to swing, I guess. I do a mix - I do like my paper, and, gadgets aren't always the enemy! Ha ha.

Here's something that folks in my circles are really liking right now: https://www.avenza.com/avenza-maps/

cheers


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: December 4th, 2017, 1:03 pm 
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Joined: April 2nd, 2015, 7:30 am
Posts: 92
Location: SW Michigan
Hey Yonkers,

I'm a fellow Michigan herper chiming in (usually SW but often in SE). :)

I had my first AZ herping trip over the summer and would be happy to talk to you about it. Jimi has (much) more knowledge than I do, but I can certainly provide any info your way via pm or whatever.

Hope your trip ends up well. Road cruising is great, but *for sure* get out there and hike in the desert. My best experiences were on my own two feet.

Best,
-Derek


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 Post subject: Re: Best Month For Arizona and Lizards?
PostPosted: December 4th, 2017, 3:05 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
Posts: 1662
Probably worth pointing out - I'm coming at this from a professional/work standpoint of "under no circumstances are you to be guilty of trespassing!!!"

Normal private citizens are more able to live by free will...realistically, you aren't likely to incite trouble by just looking at some lizards. Still, it's always best to respect property rights to the absolute best of your ability - minimize honest mistakes, and don't screw around with "dishonest mistakes".

Happy trip planning!


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