Arizona & Mexico Herping - July
I spent 2.5 weeks in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico at the end
of July 2005, and it was a great trip with my 'son' Brian Fitzgerald and pal
Skip from California. I've embedded some highlights below. This is
my first trip shooting about half 'n half with slides and digital, so it's
confusing and time-consuming to orchestrate them into one slideshow without
digitizing many slides. This may be the event that pushes me into
PowerPoint presentations, which is probably a good thing. OK, some pics:
About half of the below shots were taken with my
new Sony F828 digital camera, the rest were scanned Velvia slides; each is
noted for comparison if you're into that sort of thing. The Sony is a
fine camera, but I wish I'd gone with the Nikon D70 for a variety of minor
reasons. It sure is nice not having to scan all those images, plus about
2/3 thirds of my slides have horizontal dust scratches across them -- a real
pisser! In the Chiricahua Mts. (S.E. Arizona) the first 4 days, I found
a yearling twin-spotted rattler Crotalus pricei (scanned
slide) at Barfoot talus slide where we camped (following in Carl Kauffeld's
Then it was on to Mexico where we lucked upon an ultra rare
herp -- the Bolson's tortoise Gopherus flavomarginatus - WOW
! ! ! Oh, wait a minute - that was seen during an
impressive tour of Jeff & Kim Gee's Captive Bred Wildlife
Foundation in Portal, AZ. (Digital original). Sure
resembles a Florida gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus, eh?
Now, down into Mexico. Below, that's an in-situ,
untouched shot of a male Mexican 'blue' collared lizard Crotaphytus
dickersonae (digital original) at Bahia Kino, Sonora, Mexico (on the west
coast of the mainland, several hours south of the Arizona border), with Skip
looking on from behind. I was blown away by being able to approach those
wild lizards so closely, though it being 115 F degrees in the shade
probably left it loathe to leave that spot. I was only 2 feet away on
this shot, close enough to practically count the red mites on its arm-
We later caught this pair (digital original) and posed them
on a rock, male on left, female on right. Wow, are they ever sexually
dimorphic, and tame! We even fed the male a desert
hairy scorpion, which he killed in a split-second in front of all three of us
and ate it in one piece as we all gawked a few feet away! The male
is the next best thing to a blue chameleon!
Our next goal -- the Rio Fuerte beaded lizard Heloderma
horridum exasperatum (digital original) -- was a cinch to find in
southern Sonora! We found this beauty at 10:30 pm on a hillside while
trying to find calling frogs. While exploring the rocky hillside, my
spidey sense was tingling that there should be a beaded ;lizard there, even
though I'd never seen a wild one before. I spotted the beastie lying
against a boulder while perusing the rocks by flashlight. When I saw
only its purplish-black head, I yelled "Beaded!" instantly without
thinking. Then I felt dumb because I thought it might have been just a
cow pie instead and I was just overly expecting to see a beaded that I
conjured one up in my imagination. When I moved a few feet for a better
view through the bushes, I knew 100% it really was a beaded. I think all
three of us had instant orgasms when I confirmed the sighting! We took
photos of the 28" beauty in its home turf for the next hour.
It was found on the night of our first day near Alamos, an area that's
apparently known for harboring them in abundance. We later caught a 2nd
beaded lizard on the paved road near the town of Alamos, plus saw 2 D.O.R.s
too. All specimens, even the D.O.R.s, were moving after dark.
Couldn't resist posing with the prize! I was
ecstatic about finding this critter so quickly, as my expression probably
Next 2-pic collage: We also found 6 Mexican boas Boa
constrictor mexicana around Alamos, 5 of them D.O.R.; only this lucky one
was nicked but still alive. The other critter is a Mexican dumpy
frog Pachymedusa dacnicolor (about 4" in length), which we found
many of calling. It's actually the search for the first one that led us
to explore the hillside where the 1st beaded lizard was discovered. (Both
scanned from slides).
The "Three Amigos" in their photo vests with
their catches. L - R: Me with the 2nd-caught smaller beaded
lizard, Brian with an opaque 6' indigo, and Skip with the only live boa we
got. (Digital original).
That big indigo was going opaque when found, and hurled the
remains of an estimated 4-foot long Mex. west coast rattler Crotalus
basiliscus. That horizontal line at the top of the image is a
scratch on the slide that I scanned - damn! A further push toward
all-digital for me, I suppose, is the not-so-subtle message it's trying to
We released the smaller beaded lizard we caught at the
place where we found the first larger one in the field, photographing it by
day in its habitat as it dove for a burrow that was probably made by a mammal.
It scurried down that hole like it was at home in its natural domain !
Besides the south-of-the-border herp thrills above, back in
Arizona the monsoons started late, but kicked in during the I.H.S. conference.
I road-hunted one night around Tortilla Flat, AZ with Tell Hicks. Herps were sparse that evening, but tarantulas were
abundant. This male - female pair (below) was posed for comparison, male
on the left, female on the right.
The snake is a narrow-headed garter Thamnophis
rufipunctatus, a protected species in Arizona that we found in
abundance at Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, AZ. My brother-in-law Bill
Libbey and I also found two small Arizona Mt. king snakes Lampropeltis
pyromelana (scanned slide, below) there while hunting under the expert tutelage
of Brian "Mt. King" Hubbs, the author of the superb new large-format
book on Mountain Kings.
Here's the nicer of the two juvenile pyros....
.... and the mystery herper who led us to them as he was
collecting some Lampropeltis snacks:
The I.H.S. conference was good as usual. Manny Rubio,
John Tashjian, and Dennis Johnston were the judges, and CA shutterbug Michael
Kern swept the contest with some great shots that will be in REPTILES in Dec.
2005. The next I.H.S. will be in San Antonio, TX in late June 2006
for the 30th anniversary, by the way. I shot this AZ coral Micruroides
euryxanthus at the meeting that a pal kindly brought
there for me to photograph. None were seen in the wild by me, nor were
any Gila monsters on this trip. Oh well, there's always next year!
Hope you enjoyed!
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