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A Clevelander in Mid-August

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Posted by: tspuckler at Mon Aug 22 15:12:34 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by tspuckler ]  

I usually like to head out to California in April, but it's been a crazy year. The best I could do was to get out there last week. Here's what I found.

On Monday I started off in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

My first find was a pretty good one. California King as found:

Posed (you can see that she's gravid).

Then I found the biggest Coast Garter I've ever seen. She had two lumps in her, it felt like she ate two mice. I am endlessly fascinated by the color and pattern variations in Eastern Garter Snakes in the east. The same goes for Coast Garters in the west. So I will warn you in advance that there's going to be a whole lotta Coast Garters in this post.

A Southern Alligator Lizard with attitude.

Things really kicked into high gear when I found my first lifer of the trip - a snake I've always wanted to see in the field since I was a kid - Rubber Boa.

Close up of a snake I was totally stoked to finally find.

I also found this rather dull-looking Racer.

On Tuesday I set out to find another snake that has eluded me - the California Red-sided Garter. This time around I got smart and asked for Natalie's help - she said she knew where to find them. It wasn't long before she dove into the grass and came up with a snake in each hand. One was this Coast Garter.

The other snake was an Aquatic Garter intergrade. It was very cool with a wide stripe on an army green background.

Northern Alligator Lizards were seen moving through the underbrush. This location had some nice, high-contrast (for an Alligator Lizard) individuals.

Another cool Coast.

Several of this year's babies were seen as well.

Two lifers in two days? Yeah, it happened when Natalie caught this California Red-sided Garter.

After that we went looking for Western Pond Turtles, but all we found were these (Red-eared Sliders).

There were many newly metamorphosed Sierra Treefrogs hopping around.

Eventually a fine day of herping came to an end and I envisioned finding my third lifer in three days on Wednesday. To do so, I travelled south for about an hour, until I got to this hilly place.

Then I walked for a few miles. Along the way I saw a Tarantula Hawk.

And a Western Whiptail Lizard too.

And then I made it to this creek, where I was hoping to find...

...lifer #3 - the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (this was turning out to be a pretty good trip to the Golden State).

Even this Northern Pacific Rattlesnake was excited, as it started rattling when I was 20 feet away.

Turkey Vulture.

On Thursday I joined forces with Zach to once again herp the Santa Cruz Mountains.

We found some colorful Coast Garters.

As well as this not-so-colorful one which was in shed. This was the first time I've seen a western Garter doing the "flattening out" defense behavior. It seems eastern Garters employ this habit much more often than those west of the Mississippi.

This was a seriously sweet Southern Alligator Lizard.

We caught a Racer that looked like it was chewed up pretty badly in the past, but otherwise seemed healthy.

On Friday I herped some marshlands with Julia.

It wasn't long before we came across a Coast Garter.

Same snake.

Some parts of the marsh looked like a lunar landscape.

As you might expect, Western Fence Lizards were seen in a number of different spots.

Suede bike.

A "patternless" Southern Alligator Lizard.

Some of the rocks and logs around the marsh had many, many tiny newts under them.

On Saturday, my final day of herping, I took my friend's kids, Sarah and Connie herping. They were ready for action.

This Western Fence Lizard had blue flecking.

We also found a few Alligator Lizards. Did you know that they bite?

This Coast Garter had almost no red.

But we also found some very pretty ones.

Then we did a little creek herping and saw Western Pond Turtles.

Many of the waterways that I visited were overrun with Bullfrogs - some were almost black.

Kids don't care that they are invasive species - they're still fun to catch.

A young Racer.

By far, the favorite thing that the girls found were newts.

My favorite thing was this large (and pretty beat up) Rubber Boa.

It was a great trip. Thanks to Natalie, Zach, Julia, Sarah and Connie for spending some time out in the field with me.

Third Eye


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