Saturday, July 18, 2009
- 18 Coachwhips
- 7 Glossy Snakes
- 5 Longnose Snakes
- 4 Gopher Snakes
- 4 Prairie Rattlesnakes
- 3 Western Hognoses
- 2 Milk Snakes
- 1 Checkered Garter Snake
The weather the first few days was rainy and overcast. However, by the end of the session the temperatures were reaching 105˚F. Fortunately, we had access to the Maljamar rest area because Matt contacted DOT, informing them of our situation and our dire need of shade! The rest area has been closed for a while because someone put a pipe bomb in one of the compost toilets, rendering the facilities useless. DOT informed us they are being repaired, and they hope to have the rest area open to the public in 4-6 weeks. Until then, it was very nice having our own private oasis to escape to in the heat of the day. Because it was so hot, we spent most of our afternoons relaxing in the shade of the trees and shelters, watching the Western kingbirds and Bullock’s orioles flit about. We did venture out to Bottomless Lakes State Park and Bitter Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Roswell for an afternoon. Nothing exciting to report for birds, although we did see a lot of dragonflies.
Amphibians were more abundant this month due to heavy rains shortly before we arrived. A small pond formed next to our campsite where toad and spadefoot tadpoles were plentiful, and dozens of toadlets emerged every day along with a few spadefoot metamorphs. We also encountered a Couch’s spadefoot and a plains spadefoot in the traps.
Other highlights included great plains skinks, hatchling lizards, yellow mud turtle, and tarantulas.
Overall, not the most exciting month for herps, but not too bad. I’m hoping for a tiger salamander next month!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
As the trapping session was winding down we finally had camp to ourselves so I decided to sit in the car to catch a few minutes of one of my favorite programs - NPR’s Marketplace. I was in the car perhaps 5 minutes when I began to exit the car to grab a water bottle only to see a huge cloud of dust and debris 60 yards behind me. I was barely able to close the door before the dust-devil passed over the car. When I exited the car a moment latter, I was less than thrilled to see that our camp was destroyed. The A-frame was wrecked as the winds had pulled several of the stakes out of the ground (keep in mind these stakes were driven into very hard, rocky ground), snapped several anchor ropes, ripped the tarp and the whole structure was discombobulated and had flipped over my car, putting a good size dent in my hood and smashing my driver’s side mirror. I think we were lucky that the heavy lid to one of our large 20MM ammo cans didn’t smash a window seeing how it flew 25 yards and landed 3 feet from the rear window. After we retrieved our gear, which was blown as far away as 150 yards away, I decided to go look for Barn Owls with my friend Bacardi in a large arroyo (dry riverbed) that Aubrey found earlier in the week. Sure enough, we found where 2 adults were residing in a small burrow about 15 feet above the ground. Less than 48 hours later we gladly wrapped up the week and got the hell out of dodge.
Here is our count including a few recaptures:
14 Western Hog-nosed snakes
4 Gopher snakes
3 Longnose snakes
6 Glossy snakes
1 Plains Black-headed snake
2 Prairie Rattlesnakes
12 ornate box turtles, 3 Hog-nosed, and 2 coachwhips near the traps
Plus another half dozen snakes and turtles on the roads.
South TexasAfter a long 2 weeks in the oil fields of southern New Mexico, we headed south to visit with Aubrey’s grandmother in Weslaco, Texas, near the Mexican Border. If you haven’t driven through West Texas lately, well then count yourself lucky. I would consider driving 80 mph (that’s the speed limit) on I-10 for 6 hours to be one of the most boring drives I’ve possibly ever undertaken. If you like looking at nothing, then I would highly recommend it.
Our first morning there, I awoke early and hopped in the car at 6am and headed to Santa Ana NWR located half an hour away. In a little less than 2 hours we found 30 species. Admittedly, this isn’t a huge number but considering we were sharing 2 pairs of binoculars among 3 people and we weren’t hustling I think we did pretty well. Here is the list:
Eurasian Collared dove
*Black-bellied Whistling Duck
*Clay-colored robin?? ---According the SANWRefuge bird list they are encountered every 2-5 yrs. I thought I was just adding another S TX specialty so I didn’t think much of it at the time.
Little Blue Heron
*(Black-crested Mexican) Tufted Titmouse
Yup, 17 life birds (*) for me. On the way home, we encountered a dozen or so Roseate Spoonbills in an irrigation ditch. This was a nice treat and a fitting way to end the trip as I last saw this species 5 years ago in Southern Louisiana. Someday I will return to the area with the intent of birding more seriously.
A few days later, we headed over to South Padre for a picnic. While there, I suggested we head to the jetties on the southern part of the island as I remember reading on the internet that is was possible to find sea turtles there. Sure enough, after a nice frolic in the water, we spotted one after a few minutes of sitting on the jetties. This prompted me to take a quick walk and I found another six in a matter of 10 minutes. I believe they were Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas). I have a feeling if you walked to the end of each of the jetties you could encounter quite a few. I was really excited as I had not previously seen this species in the Continental US and it was a first for Aubrey. On the way back we stopped at a local brewery and sampled a few of their brews. The seasonal Cinco de Mai Bock was unanimously voted the winner.
After a few days of intense heat, (99º, HI 115 degrees), short-course golf (the longest hole was 91 yds) and Rummikube (similar to rummy but instead of cards, players use tiles and the rules are slightly different), we headed back to New Mexico. The first 2 hours of the drive yielded 15 Northern Caracara (another life bird for me) and several dozen scissor-tailed flycatchers.
After a long day of driving, we took in the Brasilian Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) mass exodus at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I wasn’t sure what to expect and although it was pretty neat it somehow didn’t captivate me the way I expected. Perhaps it was the several screaming children and the young kid who asked if you could eat bats. One child was so bad that I chastised the mother to quiet the runt and quit irritating the people around her. I guess I prefer to not experience wildlife with the masses. Should I return, I would take in the spectacle from the parking lot where there are less people and where photography is not prohibited.
The next morning we returned to the Park and took in the giant hole beneath the earth. WOW!! We did the self-guided walk for the first mile and then took a guided tour of the King’s Palace. The walk down was great because the foot traffic was very minimal. Of course, when we made it to the main room, we watched as hordes of people excited from the elevators. The whole experience was great and I would highly recommend it to folks if you are ever within a day’s drive of Carlsbad.
After leaving the Cavern’s I planned to search for Grey Vireos within the park, but someone decided to close the Walnut Canyon Wildlife Drive at noon instead of 6 pm for a private tour. So, I decided to visit nearby Rattlesnake Springs to see if we could find a few brightly colored neotropical migrants to show Aubrey’s parents. Within 5 minutes we had several painted buntings, vermillion flycatchers, summer tanagers, black-head grosbeaks and, another life bird, a hooded oriole. Happy with my tour-guide hat, we departed to head home. On the drive back to Bosque Farms, we found 3 prairie rattlesnakes, 1 gopher snake, and a few unidentifiable snakes (heavy traffic behind us). Overall, not a bad little vacation.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Well it’s early May and its migration time here in the West. The reports I’ve read on BirdMail suggest northern Florida and southern Alabama are having a good year.
While working down in the Oil Fields I decided to see what I could find at Rattlesnake Springs in southern Eddy County. So after 8 long days in the field digging trenches by hand we finished trap installation and opened the traps. We then decided to drive the hour down to Carlsbad to get a shower and plate of food sans a side of dust. The next morning we awoke before dark, drove the half hour to the site, arriving at daybreak to a cacophony of birdcalls and a visual feast.
Here is what we found in a few hours:
Eurasian Collared Dove
*Mexican Cave Swallow
Great Horned Owl
We went back a few days later to RS and nearby Camp Washington Ranch and here is what we added to the list:
Black and White Warbler
*Zone-tailed hawk- atop a Mulberry tree as we were exiting.
A total of 52 species in a few hours at one locality. While not a record breaker, I was pretty damn happy having seen quite a few eastern species at the edge of their range and a number of life birds (*). If I could bird by ear and we had taken time to explore some the desert areas adjacent to the springs we probably could have pumped up the list, but a rookie has to start somewhere.
SW New Mexico, Gila NF, and surrounding areas
In late May, Aubrey and I participated in a 2-day workshop pertaining to the Endangered Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chiricahuensis) in Silver City, NM. During the workshop, we found a few of the CLF along with a dead Bald Eagle face down in a large debris pile. It looked to me as if someone shot and tried to hide the bird. USFWS personnel were present but didn’t seem to be upset or bothered by it.
On Friday, after the workshop ended, we decided to head ~ 20 miles north to camp in McMillan Campground along Cherry Creek in the Gila NF, north of the ghost mining town, Pinos Altos. My immediate impression was favorable as we entered a beautiful forest of pine trees and ascended in elevation. The campground was beautiful and limited to 3 spots. We set up camp and immediately took off to explore the woods and boulders. We spent a few days in the area alternating between bumming, birding, and scampering around.
Here is the bird list we generated:
Hermit Thrush (their beautiful melodious call echoes throughout the mountains and we were serenaded by them our entire time there)
*Mexican Spotted Owl (call only)
*Red faced Warbler (Probably the most abundant bird present)
*Dark-eyed Junco (Grey head form)
We also found a few Clark’s Spiny Lizards, ornate tree lizards, golden columbines on a rock face above the creek, and a narrow-headed garter snake.
Before turning onto the main highway, we ducked into the Glenwood Fish Hatchery to see if I could find a nesting Common Black Hawk. I inquired at the office, and a gentlemen pointed me in the right direction. However, a nasty storm was rapidly approaching and I didn’t want to get caught out in the mess, so I waited in the car for a few minutes to see if would pass. It wasn’t looking promising, but about this time a large darkly colored bird took flight out of the trees. I stepped out of the car and sure enough, a beautiful Common Black Hawk. Shortly after lowering my binos, a raptor came swooping in front of me after a bird and quickly disappeared out of sight. My initial guess was either a Merlin or Peregrine Falcon but the bird did not reappear so we started the car and got back on the main road when the sky opened up and the hail began to rain down.
Throughout the day we stopped to bird a little here and there. We turned up the following species throughout the day, giving us a total of nearly 40 species for the day including a few species at Cherry Creek.
Violet Green Swallow
Great Blue Heron
After thinking several times throughout the day about kingsnakes, I found a nice desert kingsnake in our yard in Bosque Farms underneath a coverboard. Overall a great trip.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
· Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum)
· Western Hognose (Heterodon nasicus)
· Longnose Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
· Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
· Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum)
· Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
· Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
· Desert Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus edwardsii)
· Sand Dune Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus)
· Prairie Lizard (Sceloporus consobrinus)
· Six Lined Racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)
· Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)
· Lesser Earless Lizard (Holbrookia maculata)
· Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum)
· Marbled Whiptail (Aspidoscelis marmorata)
As is common with most funnel trap studies, we encountered a few small mammal species in our traps:
· Ord Kangaroo Rat
· Pocket Mouse Species
· Pack Rat
· Spotted Ground Squirrel
· Grasshopper Mice
The birding in the area was pretty good. The highlights for me were pyrrhuloxia, barn owls, Bullock’s orioles, and Lazuli buntings, but be sure to check back soon for a full bird list from Mescalero Sands and nearby Rattlesnake Springs, a well known birding area in New Mexico.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Ah, the land of entrapment (or so I’m told) and extreme weather. Now, according to the locals, April is typically windy but those same yokels also say this one is a doozy. We’ve been here <>hail, and dust-devils. Oh yea, wind, lots of wind with gusts up to 60 mph. I’m told Mescalero Sands (60 miles East of Roswell where we will be working a lot this summer) is a magnet for extreme weather in the state.
Work thus far has been a lot of snake-trap building, a week of lizard trapping in the dunes down South and a couple trips to a prairie rattlesnake den out in the middle of nowhere. To access the site you have to drive an hour plus and then hop on a 4-wheeler for another 30 minutes. We only found a handful of prairie rattlesnakes and wandering garter snakes on our last visit, but earlier in the week Larry (Game and Fish employee) captured 74 rattlesnakes and another dozen or so garter snakes and a couple of gopher snakes in one afternoon!!
I’ve been spending a lot of time birding or at least paying more attention to the birds around me, and in less than 3 weeks I’ve seen over 80 species including 26 life species:
· Cooper's hawk
· Eurasian collared dove
· red-tailed hawk
· pinyon jay
· scrub jay
· horned lark
· curve billed thrasher
· pied-billed grebe
· cormorant sp.
· great egret
· snowy egret
· cattle egret
· turkey vulture
· snow geese
· blue-winged teal
· Northern shovler
· Northern pintail
· green-winged teal
· lesser scaup
· hooded merganser
· Canada geese
· Northern harrier
· American kestrel
· ring-necked pheasant
· American coot
· black-necked stilt
· American avocet
· long-billed dowitcher
· ring-billed gulls
· greater roadrunner
· vermillion flycatcher
· tree swallow
· barn swallow
· red-winged blackbird
· Western meadowlark
· American crow
· common raven
· Clark's grebe
· white-faced ibis
· cinnamon teal
· ruddy duck
· Gambel's quail
· Wilson's phalarope
· black pheobe
· Say's phoebe
· downy woodpecker
· mourning dove
· common poorwill
· Eastern meadowlark
· American kestrel
· Swainson's hawk
· lesser prairie chicken
· lark bunting
· Chihuahuan raven
· great-tailed grackle
· hairy woodpecker
· chickadee sp.
· dark eyed junco
· pygmy nuthatch
· American magpie
· Northern flicker
· Stellar's jay
· Western bluebird
· mountain bluebird
· Townsend's solitare
· red crossbill
· Wilson's warbler
· Audobon's warbler
· Western tanager
· European starling
· Brewer's blackbird
· house sparrow
· white-crowned sparrow
· white-breasted nuthatch
· lesser goldfinch
· black-chinned hummingbird
That’s one day birding down at Bosque del Apache NWR by car, birds encountered around our lizard assemblage sites, walking around the Herp Tech house after work, and a few mountain birds seen while taking a scenic drive up in the Jemez Mountains last weekend after a recent snow storm.
So maybe you are thinking what have we found for herps thus far? Not much, but hopefully this miserable weather will quit pretty soon. We’ve seen a few prairie rattlesnakes, and wandering garter snakes near ABQ, and down south in Mescalero Sands, Aubrey found a nice AOR prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) and a nice desert massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) while I found a couple of western coachwhips which were slightly green in coloration. I was blown away at how similar the massasauga dorsal pattern resembled that of a corn snake or fox snake. During our lizard trapping we found:
- sand dune lizards (Sceloporous arenicolus)
- prairie lizard (Sceloporos consebrinus (formerly S. undulatus but I’m told recent genetic work out of California suggests multiple species are represented))
- six lined racerunner (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)
- side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana)
- lesser earless lizard (Holbrookia maculata).
Mammal diversity has been high as well, and to date we’ve seen coyotes, black-tailed jackrabbits, mule deer, pronghorn, tassle-eared squirrels, fox squirrels (introduced population near Roswell), prairie dogs, DOR skunks, 1 DOR badger, and several species of small mammals including kangaroo rats or k rats (Dipodomys), pocket mouse (Perognathus) and grasshopper mouse (Onycomys).
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Today the drive was rather uneventful although the scenery was beautiful, and we did see several large herds of pronghorn antelope along the way. Through CO a blanket of snow covered the landscape but as soon as we hit the NM border the snow disappeared.
We arrived at the house in Bosque Farms around 8:30 pm MT. The house belongs to Geoff, a friend of our boss, and is apparently referred to as “Herp Tech.” The house is awesome and there are critters everywhere – 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 tortoises, a rabbit, a skink, a hamster, fish, turtles, an iguana, and chickens! The house is what I imagine ours will look like one day with antlers, skulls, and herp stuff everywhere. Who could ask for a better place to hang our hats?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
We also heard western chorus frogs beginning to call on the way home for the first time since we arrived, a sign that spring is near. Two nights ago, we saw a fox curled up sleeping along the side of the road ~ 1/8 mile away.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
I was out in the woods today in part because this time of year is great for scavenging shed antlers since the trees haven’t leafed out quite yet and the visibility is high, but I didn’t really expect to find anything. I had been following a wet ditch, but I found a suitable place to cross and no sooner did I begin to cross through the brambles and up the other side of the ditch did I spot my prize. I crawled through a small (and I mean small) opening in the fence already established and found a nice 8 point buck carcass with the anterior in good shape, perhaps a young 2 year old as the base of the antlers weren’t very wide. There was a pretty decent shell of the animal present, so I had to drag the animal ~ 400 yards to retrieve a knife in order to remove the skull from the carcass.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Only minutes from our destination we stopped to watch 3 baldies (1 adult, 2 sub-adults) dance around on the frozen ice of Beaver Valley Wetlands reserve. A great way to finish off a road trip by keeping our good fortune of watching so many eagles over the past year in Florida streak alive.
Side note: Last year while passing through Beaver Valley Wetlands (a road bisects the wetland), I saw a nice sized snapping turtle basking about 6 ft above the water, assisted another snapper while trying to cross the road and found a dead northern water snake in the same stretch.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Yesterday we hit up St. Marks NWR over in Wakulla Co. Saw a nice bald eagle on the way. We are really going to miss baldies and box turtles. As a friend would say, both are as common as rats here. I would estimate we’ve had at least a hundred sighting of each over the past year. There are 54 eagle nests in Franklin County so undoubtedly we are seeing individuals multiple times. Still, it is a treat to drive a few miles to town for milk or an oil change and see 3 or 4 in 15 minutes time; walk outside the house or hit the trail and see / hear a pair soaring overhead. As far as Gulf Coast box turtles go, Aubrey has found as many as 12 in one day and it is not uncommon to see a couple a day when the weather is just right.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Aubrey and I accepted 6 month professional contract herpetologist positions working for Charlie Painter (state herpetologist, curator at Musuem of SW Biology, co-author of NM Herp Field Guide) beginning April 1 and lasting through mid-October. We will be assisting with several ongoing long-term T&E studies, initiating a snake community study, and filling in species distribution gaps statewide. We’ll be “based” out of Albuquerque but we’ll be doing a lot of camping up to 10-12 days at a time. A lot of our time will be in the southern portion of the stat, in the SE around Roswell (I want alien photos to sell to the tabloids so we can buy a ranch in Florida) and in the SW around Silver City, helping conducting long-term studies which is great so I can duck into the Sky Islands of SE Arizona and do some of the Mexican birding. We will also be doing high elevation amphibian work during monsoon season, turtle trapping during the summer, searching for New Mexico ridge-nosed rattlesnakes in the Sky Isands, etc. Should be pretty damn fun.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Thanks for taking the time to browse Fingerprince Prints Photography. Since we can often be found on the road, we thought we would try our hand at putting together a blog consisting of a few notes and photographs from our adventures. We hope you will visit often as we hope to post updates often.