Beth - "We surveyed a new (for the project) State Wildlife Area that had suitable habitat for Plains Hog-nosed Snakes; sandy soils, sparse vegetation, open prairie. Our hopes were high even for the short amount of time that we would be surveying the area and we actually found a young specimen, however, it was dead on a dirt road. A live Plains Hog-nosed Snake is still on my list for the summer."
Devin - "This weekend Danny and I met up with the folks from Colorado PARC for one of their field herping expeditions in Otero county. Going out into the field with these guys was a blast, everyone really knew their stuff and were startlingly good at finding critters. A few new species for me from this trip included a Lined Snake, a Glossy Snake, and some Plains Leopard Frogs! On Saturday Danny and I went off on our own to do some surveys, and right before we entered one of our survey plots we spotted an Eastern Collared Lizard. We took the opportunity to get some good pictures since it was posing for us, and at one point it even ran right up to us to check us out!"
Week 10 found 3 of us back from a 2-week trip to the Southern Plains. While one crew took a break for a few days, the other crew helped catch up on database management - a critically-important task for our large field effort and a necessary skill for the crews to have in developing as professionals. One of the crews will sample a State Wildlife Area in northeastern Colorado that we just added to the list of survey sites, and Devin & Danny headed to the Otero County Colorado PARC field trip and some surveys on Comanche National Grassland.
Other plans in progress: we are working on access to new sites in Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma for the coming weeks... stay tuned! Also working to get final edits done on the smartphone app for the project, and an e-mail for the Reptile Monitor volunteers.
Jake - "It can be truly awe-inspiring how suddenly and violently conditions can change on the eastern plains. One minute, sunny blue skies are shining down, and the next, the sky is filled with dark clouds and lightning is flashing all around. We had a particularly incredible experience last Thursday night, as a severe thunderstorm developed to the south of us and lit up the sky for several hours. As dangerous as it can be, from a safe distance these storms provide quite the spectacle."
Week 8 found the crews in Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. We added several new species to the project list, including Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (3), Plains Black-headed Snake (2), Yellow-bellied (Prairie) Kingsnake (1), and Speckled Kingsnake (2). While one crew heads back to Colorado for Week 9, Danny & the other crew remain in Texas, New Mexico, & Oklahoma for some additional survey work.
Week 8 Crew entries:
Celina - "When somebody mentions reptiles in the Great Plains, people typically think of rattlesnakes and Coachwhips, or horned lizards or whiptails. One species that may appear to be unexpected in the area is the Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata). The Ornate Box Turtle is a species that deals with drought by estivating (essentially hibernation except for hot and dry preriods as opposed to cold) underground and can do so for years at a time if necessary. This species of turtle is one of my personal all-time favorites, and they were out in force this week after the recent rains! I'm always happy to see a familiar species and admire their unique patterning. "
Devin - "This week, Celina and I started our big trip down to Texas, and I was very excited to see species I haven't yet seen. On top of checking out the amazing new scenery in and around the Panhandle's canyons, I also got a chance to see some very cool species I haven't seen before including Eastern Collared Lizards and a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. I also happened upon a Plains Black-headed Snake under a cow patty! I've been checking under almost every cow patty I've seen since then."
Beth - "Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas was crawling with Ornate Box Turtles when we spent a few days there hiking through sandy soil and sagebrush. One in particular was not happy to see Jake and I. When she escaped out of sight after we had snapped some photos of her wildly patterned carapace she butted herself right up to a sagebrush plant, eager to disappear. We left to continue surveying and when I was done, I returned to the spot we last saw her only to find a big pile of freshly excavated sand. I gently dug into it a few inches out of curiosity and unearthed her scaly blunt claw poking out. New Mexico however, had other surprises for us. Lesser Earless Lizards were scuttling through its short grass prairies and as we drove around the orange-streaked rock walls of a canyon on Kiowa National Grassland, there on the road lay a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. The geometric monochrome pattern that ran down her back with bold bands bordering her rattle were imposing and spectacular at the same time. An icon of the West, backed by the beauty of the canyon, she was easily a highlight of the week."
Jake - "I think the most memorable experience from this week had to be driving down into the canyonlands of New Mexico and finding a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) stretched out across the road. When we first spotted it, I could hardly believe what I was seeing! This was the biggest rattlesnake I've ever seen, and the diamond pattern on it's back was incredibly vivid. The most notable thing about this snake though, was its behavior; not once did it rattle at us, assume a defensive posture, or act aggressive in any way. This animal, who has such a notorious reputation, stayed completely docile and simply crawled into the rocks on the other side of the road. It was truly an exhilarating experience to come face to face with a creature that has been fittingly dubbed the King of the West."
Devin - "This week I really enjoyed spending time at Picture Canyon, and even found an Ornate Box Turtle crawling across one of the hiking paths there. I’d never seen a box turtle before, so that was a really exciting moment for me. We also got a chance to see some Round-tailed Horned Lizards, which was a really unique experience. I’m looking forward to seeing some cool Texas herps next week!"