23-24 June 2017
Marathon, Texas – Brewster County
Sanderson, Texas – Terrell County
**Gray italic text is quoted from my field notebook, Black normal text is additional commentary. Most underlined text is a clickable link.
After a strong start observing reptiles and amphibians — 15 species total so far (see Part 1 here) — Erin and I begin the evening pursuing a couple of expected lizards we have missed so far. Night time road cruising is limited due to my needs for sleep and time to prepare for the next day’s presentation. Hopefully the missed opportunity doesn’t end up costing us too much. We are still behind on the bioblitz leader board.
Enjoyed the Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research meet and great. Visited briefly with Chris M., Jeff A., Tim C., and met Mike P.. Delicious picnic foods and cold drinks on a hot Friday evening. Thanks to SWCHR, Chris, and volunteers for hosting a really nice social.
Click this sentence to learn more about SWCHR. They are running a membership special during 2017, for $10 members receive regular newsletters and Bulletins along with other benefits. I’m hoping to contribute an article based on my Snakes Days presentation to the SWCHR Bulletin soon.
With the last hour of light, we target P. cornutum (Texas Horned Lizard) and P. modestum (Round-tail Horned Lizard), Erin drives Longfellow Road again beginning about 20:00. Quickly pick up on two different Texas Horned Lizards. Each photographed. No P. modestum. Before dark, we road cruise a small P. catenifer (Gophersnake) and photograph. At one point, the snake takes refuge underneath Erin as she is kneeling to take a photo. Later cruise C. atrox (Western Diamondback Rattlesnake). This snake is greenish-yellow in base color along the distal third (tail end).
An intense wind/dust storm blows in around 22:00 while we are still on Longfellow Road heading northwest. We see many tarantulas on the road and occasional Solpugids. We collect a Giant Vinegaroon (I plan to keep this unique arachnid as an office pet and educational ambassador). Rain begins to fall heavy as we near HW 385. The temperature has dipped to nearly 60 degrees from 90 degrees in two hours. The rain lightens up and temperatures go up as we travel south.
We observe 2 A. elegans (Glossy Snake) on HW 385 as we approach the Prairie Dog Town which generally coincides with the edge of the weather front. The snakes represent both ends of the size spectrum; one a juvenile, short maybe 16 inches and the other an adult, long around 40 inches. The temperature increases roughly 10 degrees to 70. L. splendida (Desert Kingsnake) is our next find. This is a brilliantly patterned juvenile about 16 inches. In addition to the snakes, we noted more S. multiplicada (New Mexico Toad) on the wet pavement but no other amphibian species.
Instead of finishing the night at Black Gap WMA as we hoped, we decide to turn in early and assure I have time to finish preparing my slideshow to Saturday’s presentation. As a compromise, we drive down to Post Park south of Marathon. C. atrox is the only thing on the road. Photographed. Bed around 01:00.
The following morning was spent finishing my slideshow in the shade of a cottonwood at the Marathon Motel Campground. In addition to my own talk, I wanted to attend other talks and enjoy the company of fellow herpers and enthusiast during lunch and the banquet dinner. This kept Erin and I out of the field almost the entire day except for a brief foray to look for lizards with my good friend Eric L.. However, I did have one noteworthy observation around 10:30.
Headed west on HW 90. To the south I see a Vulture being harassed by two smaller-looking white birds. Pull over to inspect. Getting my field glasses (binoculars) up, I note that the two small white birds are actually adult Swainson’s Hawks and the Vulture is a Golden Eagle. Too distant for photos. The hawks chase that eagle off a good ways. I leave before they have both abandoned the chase.
The day ends with a generous barbecue dinner. Erin’s name is pulled as the winner of a drawing for Viper Hook from Animal Equipment by Stoney (thanks Stoney!!!). I’m still a few species behind the bioblitz leaders but, despite only adding 4 species since the previous day, the gap is closing. This is the big night though. The “Death Loop” is a multi-county 300+ mile overnight route aimed at maximizing snake diversity.
We finished the day off with 9 species observed (denoted with an * below) and four new species for our 2017 Snake Days list (bolded below).
Cumulative Species List:
- Rio Grande Leopard Frog, Lithobates belandieri*
- Couch’s Spadefoot, Scaphiopus couchii
- New Mexican Spadefoot, Spea multiplicata*
- Greater Earless Lizard, Cophosaurus texanus
- Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum*
- Southwestern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus consobrinus
- Crevice Spiny Lizard, S. poinsettia
- Canyon Lizard, S. merriami
- Common Spotted Whiptail, Aspidoscelis gularis*
- Plateau Spotted Whiptail, A. scalaris
- Little Spotted Whiptail, A. inornata*
- Great Plains Skink, Plestiodon obsoletus
- Glossy Snake, Arizona elegans*
- Desert Kingsnake, Lampropeltis spendida*
- Rough Green Snake, Opheodrys aestivus
- Gophersnake, Pituophis catenifer*
- Black-headed Snake, Tantilla nigriceps
- Checkered Gartersnake, Thamnophis marcianus
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox*