This was the first week of work for the other two crew members, Jake & Devin. While Beth & Celina surveyed sites on Comanche National Grassland, Danny trained Devin & Jake at Pawnee National Grassland. On Friday, we all converged on Fort Carson and surveyed sites there with a biologist from the post. We were lucky in dodging heavy rain (it surrounded us several times but the valley we were in only received light rain) and got to see quite a few Colorado Checkered Whiptails! We also saw Sceloporus sp., a Coachwhip, and a Prairie Rattlesnake.
Beth - "We had a hunch it would be a good week for spotting herpetofauna when we started seeing lizards at 7 a.m., but we didn't know we would be seeing such a plethora of new species. This was my first time seeing a Spiny Softshell, a Six-lined Racerunner, Checkered Whiptails, and an Ornate Box Turtle. Beyond this mix of reptiles, it was a species we had already encountered that shocked me the most. At Carrizo Canyon in Comanche National Grasslands, as the day was ending, I saw what appeared to be a small blue dinosaur as it raced across our campsite. With a camera in hand we realized a Collared Lizard sat patiently on a paved pathway allowing us to get so close as to see the stunning detail of the leopard-like spots on its neck and face. It stuck around for a photo shoot for maybe 15 minutes and I wish it would have stayed around all night but I don’t know if I would have gone to sleep if it did."
Devin - "My first week has already given me a ton of new and exciting experiences! I've had a chance to see many species new to me including Many-lined Skinks, a Coachwhip, and a Prairie Rattlesnake. I never quite realized how much reptile diversity could be in your own back yard, if you only know where to look for it."
Celina - "This past week some of my burrow-checking paid off, as I found a Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis) sitting in the entrance of a badger burrow! This counts as the first snake found during a standardized survey for this season (given the cool temperatures so far), so that's really exciting for me! It serves as a reminder to keep checking mammal burrows for lizards and snakes because you never know... you might find that that one burrow you don't want to take an extra 2 steps to hides an exciting discovery."
Jake - "It was great to finally get started in the field this week. To be outdoors doing what I love, there really isn't a better feeling! If I had to pick some highlights from this week, I’d say finding my first Greater Short-Horned Lizard and Many-Lined Skink on Pawnee National Grasslands. While both are fairly common species, until now I haven't been in the right places to find them. It really is a thrill to see something new for the very first time!"
Most weeks we'll try to post a few thoughts from the field crew, including species or exciting new observations. Week 3 was our first full week in the field - spent in southeastern Colorado on Comanche National Grassland...
Celina - "My favorite thing about our first week in the southeastern part of Colorado was seeing a new part of the state, for me, and witnessing how well our team is meshing together already. We might not have gotten to see what we came for (those rascally whiptails), but at least we got to climb down (and back up) a canyon and see tons of Sceloporus!"
Beth - "Besides dipping into the mouth of a canyon and snapping some shots of an Eastern Collared Lizard, one big Bullsnake caught my eye this week. A common species in Colorado, this buff and black large snake is a new species to me and stunning nonetheless. A long winter has deprived me of snake spottings, so seeing my first Bullsnake, wearing black bars on its upper lip like a Halloween mask, reminded me why I love to go herping."