Arizona & Mexico Herping - July 2005
 
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 footsteps !).  
 
 
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- and 'legpits'.
 
 
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 conveys.

 
 
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 send me!
 
 
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 !  (Scanned slide).
 
 
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 Luke Thirkhill 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!
 
Sincerely,  Bill
 
Bill Love
BLUE CHAMELEON VENTURES
EMAIL:  bill@bluechameleon.org
WEB:  www.bluechameleon.org
TEL:  (239) 464 - 6642
 

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