Celina - "Sometimes you don't notice how many of one species you're seeing, until suddenly you're not seeing any. This week was unique in that I only saw a handful of Lesser Earless Lizards, when typically they're swarming all over the place. The first time I ever saw this species was at the beginning of the field season, so it was a lifer for me, but quickly grew to be so commonplace as to seem a fixture in surveys. We started to say, when asking each other what we saw, "oh, just Lesser Earless Lizards" - like they're no longer exciting and magical like they were at first. I suppose I stopped appreciating getting to see them- they weren't as rarely observed as most snakes or even some other lizard species. With the weather a bit chillier and rainy, there really wasn't a whole lot moving around this week, and I missed the little guys. Even when they're zooming out of view or running down the roads ahead of us (making us nervous!)."
Beth - "Despite the rainy weather there was a great turnout when Celina and I surveyed in Weld County, Colorado this week. All in one hour I ended up spotting more reptile species then I usually see in a week in that area! A Plains Hog-nosed Snake was basking in the sun to greet me at the survey site and later I found a juvenile Many-lined Skink sporting a bright blue tail, hiding under a sheet of metal. Two Short Horned Lizards saw me out, one being a neonate the size of a nickel. Seeing these tiny horned lizards that are smaller than some crickets makes me realize how much better I've become at spotting the cryptic species since the beginning of the summer when I was struggling to spot the full-sized adults in gravel, however, I'm sure there are still times that their camouflage gets the better of me."
We're already receiving some cool weather, along with more rain in Colorado. It was a short week in the field for Celina & Beth, with Devin helping with data management/wrangling in the office and Jake helping as time permitted between classes. We're hearing forecasts for an early and cold winter, so for those volunteers who haven't gotten out yet, the coming weeks may be your best bet in the central Great Plains! Those in the southern plains may have a bit longer season!
After a break following the trip to the southern Great Plains, this week found Beth & Devin surveying some new sites in east-central Colorado and Celina, Jake, and Danny surveying private ranches in southeastern Colorado. With the help of one of our project's volunteers, Ben Fisher, we were able to document the 3rd known occurrence of the Round-tailed Horned Lizard from Las Animas County, Colorado! This was the last week of field work for Jake as he heads back to classes at Colorado State University next week. Devin will largely be helping Danny with data management over the coming weeks while Beth & Celina wrap up the field season into October.
This was the crews' second week this August spent in the southern Great Plains of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. The weather held out for most of the trip, and we documented many of the diurnal species found in the region.
Beth - "On the last day of this past week, Danny, Jake, and I were surveying among the red rocks and stunning scenery of the Black Mesa ecoregion. On the way to our plot, I stopped Jake in our tracks for one tiny little snake basking on the trail. He identified it right away as a Lined Snake. It was doubled over like a hairpin, relaxed in the sun. We took some photos of its striped dorsum and realized that even though this is not necessarily an uncommon species, it was the first we had seen all summer!"
This week found Celina & Devin surveying in eastern Colorado before heading south to sample in Texas and New Mexico. Beth & Jake left earlier for surveys in Texas before meeting up late in the week with Danny in south-central Oklahoma.
Beth - "After not seeing as many reptiles out in the field for the past few weeks, it was a pleasant surprise to see four snakes on one road in about 20 minutes. Even better, one of those was a Plains Hog-nosed Snake. This Plains Hog-nosed Snake was the first live specimen I've seen. It curled into its notorious defensive posture, tucking it's head beneath its coils and piling it's tail atop its body like a deceitful hat."
We're all looking forward to increased reptile activity in August! Hatchlings and neonates of many species will be coming out over the coming weeks, which means many more individuals available for observation! Adults of many species will become less active towards the end of August and into September, prior to entering hibernation this autumn. If you're interested in volunteering, August is a great time to get started! Please consider registering as a volunteer and submitting opportunistic observations with the mobile phone app, even if you don't have time to get out for formal surveys this season.
This week finds Beth & Jake headed to Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico for the coming weeks. Danny is burning the candle at both ends to get out volunteer protocols to newly-enrolled volunteers prior to heading south later in the week to survey some newly-accessed sites in Oklahoma and New Mexico. Celina and Devin will be surveying in Colorado this week and expect to see hatchling and neonate lizards out this week! They will then be surveying some sites in the western Panhandle of Texas and in New Mexico.
This week saw the crews largely stuck in the office due to rain and cool temperatures in Colorado. The crew caught us up on data entry/management for 2014, and worked on some additional materials for volunteers. Danny spent Tuesday out in the field training another Biologist for Colorado Parks & Wildlife, before the rain hit! With the weather cooling quickly before the storm, we felt lucky to see a male Lesser Earless Lizard (voucher photo below)!