Kyla - "I really enjoyed surveying sights in Bailey County, Texas. Here we encountered our first Ornate Box Turtles! Danny found a very small juvenile and Carissa found two adults. On our last survey site, I spotted a large female Texas Horned Lizard in the tall grass. Surveying in Yoakum County provided us an exercise in patience. The landscape was characterized by dense scrub oak which made it difficult to spot reptiles. However, it was almost a guarantee to see Lesser Earless Lizards in most open patches we came across. Getting successful voucher photos of these speedy lizards was another story! Due to severe storms to the east, we returned to Randall County to complete a survey that we didn't have time for previously. This change of plans worked out well for us, as we got another up-close sighting of a Coachwhip crossing a road! In addition to the Coachwhip, we spotted more Common Checkered Whiptails, Eastern Collared Lizards, Prairie Lizards, and a ~3-foot long Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake."
Carissa - "Danny, Kyla, and I continued to survey sites in western Texas this past week. I found a Many-Lined Skink and two adult male Ornate Box Turtles in Bailey County. Both turtles exhibited striking red eyes and bright orange scales on their front legs, earning them a new spot among my favorite Great Plains reptiles! In Yoakum County I spotted Lesser Earless Lizards and a Six-Lined Racerunner flitting below thick scrub oak. I also encountered a group of inquisitive Mule Deer that posed elegantly for a few photos. We then returned to Randall County after severe thunderstorms steered us away from our survey sites in the eastern part of the Texas Panhandle."
Week 3 found the crew continuing training and sampling in west Texas. Due to severe weather we were largely restricted to sampling on the west side of the Panhandle. The crew split up more for independent surveys this week as Kyla & Carissa became more familiar with survey protocols. We continued to survey some caprock canyonlands and shortgrass prairie as in Week 2, and got into some sand dunes with Shinnery Oak. Week 4 will be short for crew Biologists after 12 days in the field, with a few days out on Pawnee National Grassland in northeastern Colorado. Danny will be preparing for the rest of the field crew who begin work in Week 5, and catching up on the backlog of volunteer registrations the coming weekend!
After spending week 1 of the 2015 field season in the office completing trainings, crew Biologists Carissa and Kyla headed to Texas with Danny for their first few weeks of field training and sampling. We wanted to get to the southern plains earlier this year to improve our chances of seeing species that may be more diurnally active early in the season. During the first week, the crew surveyed public lands in the Panhandle including Rita Blanca National Grassland, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, and Caprock Canyon State Park.
Kyla - "The first week in the field proved to be an exciting one! We saw a lot of Common Checkered Whiptails darting about and colorful Eastern Collared Lizards basking in the sun in Palo Duro Canyon. Being a native to California, I got to see a plethora of species from the Great Plains that I've only seen in photos. My two favorite encounters this past week include seeing Texas Horned Lizards and both Western Diamondback and Prairie Rattlesnakes. I also can’t forget to include some of the iconic non-reptile species of the Great Plains such as Bison and Pronghorn."
Carissa - "This week was my second on the job and my first in the field. Danny, Kyla, and I have been surveying sites in the great state of Texas. I saw my first Lesser Earless Lizards on Rita Blanca National Grassland, and the iconic Texas Horned Lizard! Next we surveyed the beautiful Palo Duro Canyon State Park, where we documented Eastern Collared Lizards, Common Side-blotched Lizards, Common Checkered Whiptails, Common Spotted Whiptails, and Prairie Lizards. At Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge I saw my first Six-lined Racerunner (see photos below), who was hiding under a sheet of metal that Danny carefully lifted with his field hook. Just before leaving the Refuge we saw a Bullsnake, and just after leaving we spotted a hefty Great Plains Ratsnake; both had ventured onto the road to soak up heat from the asphalt as evening approached. Last but not least, we ventured into magnificent Caprock Canyon State Park where we encountered Greater Earless Lizards, Side-blotched Lizards, Six-lined Racerunners, Texas Horned Lizards, and the first Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes I’ve seen in the wild!"