Buckeye Herps Blog

A photographic journal of the reptiles and amphibians of Ohio, Michigan and other places interesting wildlife call home.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Arizona: Grand Finale!

Carl woke up an hour early again (thanks Iphone/ATT).  My alarm hadn't gone off and I didn't question him and started getting ready.  I realized my mistake a few minutes later and lay back down.  Poor Carl had been up for a while, had his coffee and was stuck waiting for us to catch some more z's.

We were still on the road pretty early, and attempted some morning roadcruising for a few hours.  It was unfortunately less than productive.  We saw DOR coachwhip, whiptails and a hit mohave.  We were hoping for desert box turtles, hognoses and horned lizards.  We enjoyed a relaxed all you can eat breakfast at a truck stop that was actually quite good before setting off for the Tuscon airport.  Brian and I bid Carl a good day and set out for our next leg.

We arrived at a place Carl and I had luck at on the previous trip later that afternoon.  We were feeling lazy and there were some road issues so we hung our during the heat until a couple hours before dusk.

Elegant Earless Lizard Holbrookia elegans

Brian is probably less than thrilled about this picture...

Not all was lost as a good sized gopher was crossing the road slowly.

We tried hiking some talus for an hour without much luck, and then met up with an old friend from the midwest, Terry C.  Terry had lived in Ohio and Michigan, so we had met up a few times over the years and I was bummed he moved to Arizona about the time I moved to Michigan.  We roadcruised with Terry for a few hours some luck, all actually before dark.

This large atrox was crossing the road very near the gopher snake.

As well as this very large, and attractive molossus that was crossing the road just at dusk.

We cruising for a few more hours after dusk without any luck.  Oddly, it seemed to be great conditions and we know things were moving...

Brian and I slept on the mountain, one last night under the stars.  It was a great night, but I had ants crawling over me most of the time which made it a little hard to sleep soundly.  Luckily, it was very easy to get up early and we were soon on the road.  We had decided to try another new range for us, with the hope to get twinspots for Brian and to try and take another stab at cerberus.  I refused to give up. On the way up the forest road that morning I commented how excellent the boulders looked for a basking collared lizard.  It wasn't a few minutes later that I spotted one.

Eastern Collared Lizard Crotaphytus collaris

It was a first for both of us and we were pretty excited about this.  We hiked a small canyon with running water and were pleased to see the abundance of lizards that were out.

Gila Spotted Whiptail Aspidoscelis flagellicauda

I had just caught up to Brian after stopping to photograph the lizards when he yelled snake and dove.  He looked defeated on the ground as I ran up to him. Evidently I spooked the snake back to him and a little half dive from the ground (heroic some might say) by him provided a new species for the trip!

Striped Whipsnake Coluber taeniatus

We hiked a bit more with just a few more lizards so we decided to head up the mountains.  Walking out near a small talus slide at high elevation quickly turned up the 9th rattlesnake species of the trip.  I was glad Brian spotted this one.

Price's Rattlesnake or Twin-spotted Rattlesnake Crotalus pricei as spotted by Brian in situ

We checked some more of the rocks in the morning sun and were suprised to not see more.  Feeling real good, with 2 of our 3 planned targets for the day down, we decided to head back down a little lower in elevation.  We enjoyed the nice weather and great vistas with sammiches and a cold beverage.  We found a nice hillside a bit lower and we worked it hard for those pesky Arizona Blacks I keep talking about.  I spotted another whipsnake but we let it continue on its way. 

Acorn Woodpecker

We noticed nasty storm clouds on the horizon and dust storms blowing across the desert and we called it quits to make some decisions...  We could stay here and take our chances with rain all around and probably have crappy cruising with rapidly falling temperatures, or we could head back to Tuscon, try to out run the rain and hope for drier conditions.  Our plan was to head home to Phoenix from here tomorrow, and Tuscon is a bit out of the way.  We checked some satellite imagery, and opted for the drive.  The race. was. on.  We hauled it to the freeway and headed to the location we had hiked a few days earlier with Carl hoping for cerbs.  We we had tried to roadcruise the area that night there had been tons of rain and we of course didn't see much.  Well we got to our road an hour before dusk with great temps, dry conditions and thunderstorms all in the distance.  Of course, on the first pass through all of our persistence and hard work payed off and I went beserk.

Arizona Black Rattlesnake Crotalus cerberus or "cerb"

Do you love it?  I do...

We cruised another pass or two without any luck and decided to try a little bit lower.  Still no luck.  I didn't care.  We decided to just book it to Phoenix for a good nights sleep in comfy clean beds and relaxing day before flying back.  Of course I couldn't resist hitting a road on the way home and stirring up another sidewinder.

It was a little tough getting home when the highs of the day wore off.  Evidently I swerved once on the highway when Brian was sleeping and got pulled over again.  Carl got a speeding ticket earlier in the trip and we had talked with so many border patrol agents by this time.  Many encounters were very reasonable, but we had our cars searched twice at check points, once with the full over with the drug dog.  Anyway, this cop was talking to me about swerving and I just mentioned I was tired after a week of camping.  He said "smells like you guys have been camping for a week!"  That was enjoyable...

The last day Brian and I were lazy and hung around the house and swam in the pool.  We had some friends over for a beer and some homemade tacos, which really hit the spot.  I couldn't drag Brian out for one last night, so Marisa and I tried roadcruising around near the house and where we had luck earlier in the trip. 

More blacktail!  Crotalus molossus

Red-spotted Toad Bufo punctatus

We unfortunately also found a DOR gila monster.  I was bummed thinking it might be the last herp of a really great trip, but I soon spotted this large king crossing the road in a cool and damp area.

California Kingsnake Lampropeltis getula

We were working our way back and I decided to try cruising through a neighborhood I think should have tigers (rattlesnakes of course). I accidently turned up a driveway instead of a road and payed visit to a multimillion dollar house.  45 seconds later on the way back down I saw a flattened gila monster in the middle of the driveway.  Mortified that I had been the one to hit it, I was very pleased to see it start to move off the road.

I wish I could brag that was the last herp of the trip, but we also saw a stinking gopher snake right by the house.   All in all, it was an amazing trip.  There was great company, highs and lows, and awesome animals.  It was a pleasure to to spend time with Carl and Brian again, as well as run into some old friends in Mike, Terry and Marisa.  I can't wait to do it all again another time.  There are still tons of animals to see!


Click here for Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV.