Monday, November 10, 2008

Seasonal Depressions

It is widely known that people can suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter. Those that like to field herp can suffer even worse from something called HAD (Herp Absence Distress). The most common symptom is constant frowning, even after looking through field guides:
Recommended treatments include looking at photos of places where cool snakes have been found:

(Dense populations of Crotalus Oreganus Lutosus near home)

And planning herping trips for that first warm week in the spring:

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Whiptail Nutcase

My wife and kids and I were hiking a canyon in S Utah near where the Colorado River meets the Green River. This was our first time in this canyon and we were exploring the beautiful scenery (well, they were checking out the scenery and I was checking out the herps). The creek was full of tadpoles, frogs, crawdads, and other things most hikers miss. The canyon walls and rocks had different types of lizards all over them. There were a lot of colorful birds and some other hikers as well. I kept seeing Grand Canyon Whiptail Lizards running around in pairs or groups of up to 4. Most of these lizards were more than a foot long and extremely fast. Observing how these lizards moved their heads around to see things and the way their tongues lashed out made me think of little dinosaurs. At one spot in the canyon I found a group of these lizards in an area that seemed possible to catch one of them (note: catching one of these bare-handed is not easy). I quickly climbed down a 12 foot ledge and started herding the lizards towards the sheer rock face where there would be less chance that they could disappear into the cracks of rocks. Just then a group of hikers came by and began to watch me try to catch these lizards. (Great!) I wanted them to just continue on their way but they stayed to watch and I could tell from the looks on their faces that I was their sideshow entertainment for the moment. As I herded the lizards up close to the rock face, the group of hikers moved closer to the edge of the trail so that they could see, and an old man in the group nearly fell down to where I was. He didn't fall, but he did drop his water bottle down by me. A few moments later a young woman then asked me to get the water bottle for them. Was she crazy? I wasn't going to let the whiptails get away, so I told her I would get the bottle in a minute. I caught one of the whiptails and afterwards got a lot of stares from the hikers as I made my way back up to my kids, who were totally excited. Moments like this make me realize that when a young boy chases after frogs, lizards, and snakes, he is normal. But when a grown man chases after frogs, lizards, and snakes, he must be some type of an oddball.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Goblin Valley

After learning that the weather would be warm this weekend, we headed down to see the goblin rock formations. They were pretty cool:

Then we drove out of the state park and did some hiking. Colorado Side-blotched Lizards of all sizes and geodes were everywhere (note: the Northern Side-blotched lizards found up around Highland are much more colorful). Lizards seem to be able to deal with freezing temps at night as long as the sun comes out and the daytime temps are still in their range.

There was ocean front property?
There were castles in the sky:

I flipped a lot of small rocks:

The only snake seen on this outing was a Striped Whipsnake that was badly smashed on the road. Goblin Valley has Midget Faded Rattlesnakes, but overnight temps had dropped low enough to make them impossible to find. I asked a ranger if he had seen any snakes lately and he told me that I wouldn't have to worry about snakes in the goblin area. I then told him that I was looking for snakes to photo and he told me where a Midget Faded den was. We will have to return in the spring.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Garters on 10/16/08

My son and his friends (all herper converts) rounded up more Garters. This wouldn't be too unusual except that we had snow on the ground the other day. The large Garter had more yellow. I also saw numerous roadkill snakes this day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

California Herping From 2004

I didn't think that I had many pictures from past herping. My wife has been the one taking all the pictures up until this year and she usually snubs the herps, but I dug into the photo files and found something from a Coastal California trip we took in 2004 to Lompoc. We found a California King Snake, numerous Gopher Snakes, lizards, etc. At one section of road right near the beach one evening, the snakes were so numerous that I had to drive carefully so that I didn't smash any of them. I jumped out and started grabbing snakes and running back to the car to hand them to people. At that point a new in-law announced that she wasn't comfortable having snakes that close to her, so I stopped collecting them (If I had another herper to go with me, I would have cruised roads all night that night. As it was, my in-laws acted like my herping fascination was some sort of mental illness and maybe it is). I'm realizing that I should have had a camera all these years, but there will be good finds to come and they will end up right here on the blog.
(note: after enjoying their company for a short time, the herps were all released)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Still Herping On October 7

My son greeted me with a Garter Snake today. He found some Garters in a hollow log near our house. In the years that I have lived in Utah, I don't remember temperatures allowing for herping this late in the season. I took some pictures of the snake and told him to release it where he found it so that it can hibernate somewhere other than in our house. The snakes that I already have are enough work for me. Garter Snakes and other Diurnal snakes have huge eyes and very good vision.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Snake Called "Hiss"

Hiss became part of our family 2 times this past summer. The first time we found him was during a tee ball game. I should have been watching the game, but I slipped away for a couple innings to the nearby woods and flipped some boards and rocks (I can't resist). When I flipped the rock that Hiss was under, it sounded like someone started letting the air out of a tire. He was a real windbag. He had a cool personality. After hissing loudly, he would then snuggle up against your warm skin. The kids loved him. I brought Hiss home because construction was closing in on all 4 sides of his habitat and I figured my relocation would be friendlier than what would happen when someone else found him (Note: a 6.5 foot snake skin was found near some construction discard. This was probably from Hiss's mama). Even though gopher snakes are very common in Utah, every kid within miles of our home came to see the snake that hissed. After a while and for no apparent reason, Hiss quit eating. I tried a lot of tactics to get him to eat, but he wouldn't. I realized that it was time to return him to the wild, but on the day that I went to release him in a good spot I couldn't find him anywhere. The clamps were on the cage properly, but somehow he had squeezed out of the small corner crack or something. After a couple months went by, we had forgotten about Hiss. Then my mother-in-law came over one day and found him on our front porch. He was a little bigger, so he had been eating something. He also had a recent flesh wound on his back that looked like chew marks. This wound was probably from a mama mouse defending her babies. Finding him again was cool, but we still had to find him a home. We let him go on an outing in a perfect spot that was a long way away from roads. I flipped some rocks and found a mouse nest under one. That was the perfect new home for Hiss. Most of the pictures were taken on the day we released him. We wish him well and maybe we will see him again. Perhaps there will be another Hiss post next summer. (Note: Hiss is a Gopher Snake and his pattern of light and dark rectangles is typical of the countless Gopher Snakes around here)

Should've Hibernated

Finding herps in Utah in late September or into October is usually tough, but with the temps and absence of snow in the valley the herps are still active. Unfortunately for the Gopher Snake pictured, the long nap should have come sooner, or if I could have crossed his path first I could have escorted him off the road. My sister in Tallahassee told me the other day when I called that she has about 15 green Tree Frogs on her window and that she has witnessed an Oak Snake climbing the trim to catch them. If I can get her to catch that on camera, it will definitely show up on this blog. As for the snake hunts, I might be down to the last few of the season around here. At least I have my pet snakes to observe, hold, etc.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Night Snake & Other Herps

Whenever weather allows (and even when it doesn't) we spend time outdoors. This outing included a lot of 4-wheeling and also some good nature finds. The snake pictured is a Night Snake and is not so common to find in this valley. We rode over the mountains west of Santequin and found a cool canyon. After crossing a creek and climbing a hill, I stopped to flip some rocks. I am always looking for snakes and herps and my brothers decided to flip a few as well. One of my brothers flipped 5 or 6 rocks before finding the Night Snake (beginner's luck). The snake was photoed and released. I usually don't photo toads, but they are getting pretty hard to find in Utah County. The pics don't show it well, but the Northern Side-blotched Lizards that we caught had a lot of blue specks on their backs. Also, the grasshoppers in one area looked like an explosion of blue when they hopped and flew. I caught some to photo their blue wings. The photo of the bee on the flower was just me practicing photography while catching some of the beauty in the desert.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mexican Milk Snakes

My birthday came a little early this year. I purchased 2 more snakes at the Wasatch Reptile Expo. I had made my mind up about what kind of snake I wanted to purchase next, but going to a reptile expo and seeing so many cool snakes all together quickly changed all that. Instead of standing at a distance and scowling at me, my wife actually helped pick out the Mexican Milk Snakes. The price made the snakes quite a bargain, which is great because every $10 I spend on snakes allows my wife to spend $1000 on whatever she wants (that is her rule). Milk Snakes (in all their varieties) are about the prettiest snake in the pet trade. Their beautifully contrasting bands of colors, small size, relatively low prices, and calm personalities make them an easy choice. (Important care note: Milk Snakes don't drink milk)