23 June 2017
Trans Pecos Ecoregion, Texas
A little different format than in the past. My field notes are provided below in grey, italicized text. Commentary provided in normal, black text. Live links underlined.
Erin and I could hardly hide our excitement during the days and weeks leading to the 2017 Snake Days event. Catching up with friends, networking, updates on research and conservation, and of course the annual herping bioblitz contests contributing to iNaturalist.com. This was my third Snake Days and second for Erin. This year I was on the lecture agenda with a presentation I called Applying Big Day Birding Principles to the Snake Days Contest. I was eager to share my techniques and experiences from the past two Snake Days where I was able to observe 40+ species of reptile and amphibian while taking the honors of seeing the most species during the bioblitz. Unfortunately this year, Erin and I got a late start due to work obligations. It was with some trepidation that I received a late night text at the beginning of this year’s bioblitz competition. My good friend Drew Harvey reminded me that he was getting a head start and that I should be nervous; he was clearly aiming to end the reign of Swanson (all in good humor).
Late Night/Early Morning
Cross the Pecos shortly after mid-night. East of Sheffield. Nothing moving except mammals (deer, gray fox, porcupine, etc.). Get to Sanderson around 02:00. Found fledgling Rock Wrens at cuts 9 miles north of town. S. couchii (Couch’s Spadefoot) on HW 90 west towards Marathon. T. nigriceps (Black-headed Snake) on HW90 west. Collected alive to contribute to a research project. DOR T. marcianus (Checkered Gartersnake). A couple (2+) S. multiplicata (New Mexico Spadefoot) on HW 385 along the Marathon Prairie Dog Town. Back to Marathon Motel campground around 04:00. 3-5 L. berlandieri (Rio Grande Leopard Frog).
Late to wake. Brief visit to Post Park south of Marathon. Birding list kept during visit. Flipped T. marcianus below the dam. Photographed and released.
Longfellow Rd after noon. Find a DOR (more like mummified) O. aestivus (Rough Green Snake) Collected for deposit at UT museum. Visiting with Gerry Salmon, Travis LaDuc, and Michael Price, the green snake is an unusual and uncommon find in the area. Several lizards (the target of this day-time route) observed along the road:
- C. texanum (Greater Earless Lizard)
- P. obsoletus (Great Plains Skink) – flipped, beneath roadside debris
- A. gularis (Common Spotted Whiptail)
- A. inornatus (Little Striped Whiptail)
- A. scalaris (Plateau Spotted Whiptail)
Also flipped C. atrox (Western Diamondback Rattlesnake) under a roadside board. Check in and register at Snake Days in Sanderson. Checking roadcuts for diurnal (daytime) lizards find S. poinsettia (Crevice Spiny Lizard) 3 miles west of town and S. merriami (Canyon Lizard) 9 miles north of town. We find S. consobrinus (Southwestern Prairie Lizard) at the roadside stop approximately 5 miles east of town.
Despite the late start, Erin and I made good progress, 15 species during the first day. However, there are a couple of folks well ahead of us. My buddy Drew has been taking care of business and continues to hold the lead. This year’s bioblitz is looking competitive and I am hoping that, collectively, we can make this year’s event one of the best ever.
Cumulative Species List (bold species are new additions)
- Couch’s Spadefoot, Scaphiopus couchii
- Black-headed Snake, Tantilla nigriceps
- Checkered Gartersnake, Thamnophis marcianus
- New Mexican Spadefoot, Spea multiplicata
- Rio Grande Leopard Frog, Lithobates berlandieri
- Rough Green Snake, Opheodrys aestivus
- Greater Earless Lizard, Cophosaurus texanus
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, Crotalus atrox
- Great Plains Skink, Plestiodon obsoletus
- Common Spotted Whiptail, Aspidoscelis gularis
- Little Spotted Whiptail, Aspidoscelis inornata
- Plateau Spotted Whiptail, Aspidoscelis scalaris
- Crevice Spiny Lizard, Sceloporus poinsettii
- Canyon Lizard, Sceloporus merriami
- Southwestern Fence Lizard, Sceloporus consobrinus
For more reading check out my 2015 blog post about Snake Days.