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NorCal in the First Week of April

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Posted by: tspuckler at Tue Apr 10 15:32:01 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by tspuckler ]  

From what I've heard, it's rained pretty much for the last three weeks of March in Northern California, essentially pushing back spring a bit. The forecast for the first week of April called for sunny skies most of the time and daytime temperatures in the 60s. After arriving at SFO airport, I took Skyline Drive down to my friend's house in Los Gatos and did some herping along the way.

It was no surprise that Slender Salamanders were very common and were the first herps that I came across.

Most of the Coast Garters at the beginning of the trip were small and in shed. This one was a bit bigger and exhibited some red.

A not-too-bad looking Alligator Lizard.

I took finding a Rubber Boa on the first day of the trip as a good omen of things to come.

It had a chewed up tail.

Some habitat from day one.

Hey, what do you think is under that board?

Answer: Four baby Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes. Here's one of them.

Ringneck Snakes were very common in certain areas.

There were a few of last year's Pacific Gopher Snakes to be found as well.

Some of the newts were so fat that they looked like they were going to explode.

Although I've read about the vocal abilities of Arboreal Salamanders and found a few over the years, this was the first one that I ever encountered which squeaked like a mouse.

On Sunday my friend's kids were intent on doing some herping. And although it was only in the upper 40s on the mountain we were on that day, we were undeterred by the temperature in our search for reptiles and amphibians.


Sarah likes salamanders.

And Connie was glad that cold Alligator Lizards don't bite.

We flipped this Yellowbelly Racer.

And we liked it.

California Toads were not especially common, but we managed to find a few.

A young Gopher Snake turned up.

But the highlight of the day was finding this California Red-sided Garter.

The following day I went for a drive a few hours north to look for my first lifer. I passed landscapes that looked like this.

And eventually made it to this habitat.

I saw some Ensatinas.

And many, many slugs.

This Trillium reminded me of my home state of Ohio.

Then I found my first "lifer" of the trip - a Red-bellied Newt.

A few more were seen "on the crawl" as well. Most were not far from this creek.

Slender Salamanders were present too.

Finding a "lifer" is great, but finding two in one day is even better and that's exactly what happened when I spotted this Northwestern Salamander.

As I was leaving I saw this Banana Slug eating a banana peel on a State Park garbage can.

On Tuesday I stayed close to Los Gatos, looking for herps that were in a 20 mile radius. There were still plenty of Ringnecks to be found.

As the weather warmed, Western Fence Lizards began coming out, but there were never out in "full force."

Skinks seemed to favor the relatively damp weather.

A young Santa Cruz Garter "on the crawl."

And a larger one that just ate something resting on the path.

I closed out the day by seeing my first wild Bobcat ever.

On Wednesday I headed up to Marin County. Amphibians were easy to find. Here was my first Sierra Treefrog of the trip.

Here's a "power trio" consisting of an Arboreal Salamander, Banana Slug and big spider - all under the same piece of cover.

Ringnecks were the snake we found the most of.

Everybody loves Ringnecks - even me.

But I was also glad to see the first Sharptail Snake of the year.

And the only scorpion of the trip.

This Fence Lizard had some cool markings.

We found a few Ensatinas too.

On the way home I stopped at a spot to look for snakes and came across a few Coast Garters.

And some Red-legged Frogs.

The following day I took a drive up the coast.

Many beetles, ants, voles and deermice were seen under artificial cover throughout the week, but this beetle was running around out in the open - Garden Carrion Beetle.

A Coast Garter so deep in shed that at first I thought it was a Santa Cruz Garter.

A more typical looking Coast.

An adult Northern Pacific Rattlesnake with a bit of yellow coloration.

Elephant Seals aren't herps, but they can be amusing at times.

This young Yellowbelly Racer was actively patrolling the edge of the walking path.

A somewhat colorful San Francisco Alligator Lizard.

As I walked, I approached this pond.

Has there ever been a herp that has been on your wish list for a long time? Something you've spent years trying to find in the wild and then one day you find it? If so, then you have some idea what it was like to find "lifer" #3 of the trip.

Here's a closer look at a San Francisco Garter.

The following day was Friday and Sarah and Connie still wanted to do some more herping. The problem was that Friday was a "school day." I've played my share of "hooky" back in the day and therefore I know that sometimes you just gotta skip school. So we went herping in Santa Clara County.

Little Ringneck.

We set out sights on finding 10 different types of herps, we exceeded our goal by finding 12. A Fence Lizard doing what it's supposed to do.

Sharptail Snake.

More log turning turned up several California Newts.

We were puzzled by this yellow Fence Lizard found underneath some bark, but then figured that it somehow got itself coated with pollen.

I caught a Gopher Snake and the girls dug how mild-mannered it was.

Habitat we were exploring.

Here's something that you don't see everyday - a Rattlesnake sticking its head out of a hole in a barn.

Did I mention that lots of Ringnecks were seen on this trip?

A huge Alligator Lizard.

We closed out the day (and the trip) by finding a few Coast Garters.

See you next year, California!

Third Eye


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