Thursday, September 6, 2012

Suzio Report: One From Mart Feldner


Howdy Herpers,

As Marty suggests below, on the evening of 1 September, I left him and Hans-Werner Herrmann with a receiver, and turned them loose. I chose the wrong night to be "uncooperative," because one of the coolest events I've ever heard of involving a ringtail and a black-tailed rattlesnake occurred.

Marty was kind enough to do a write up for our team, and I leave you with his words and images.

We really have a good team out in paradise these days. Best to all, roger
*********
Marty Feldner takes over: We started off the most recent Suizo adventure with a colorful sunset while walking around looking for tortoises...none of which were found. Shortly after tortoises proved evasive and uncooperative Roger departed leaving HW and me to bear witness to nocturnal events.

The first snake tracked was female tiger CT8 that was hunkered down and not visible in a large fortress of hackberry. Female atrox CA121 was next and was found coiled on a 'wash island' in Suizo Wash. Shortly after CA121 came into sight a tarantula entered the open area a couple meters beyond CA121 with a trajectory that would bring it near where she was coiled. The picture shows a tongue-flicking CA121 where she's extended her head slightly from her coils as the tarantula passed. I thought that was what I saw but waited until I confirmed it on the pictures taken and, she did; she extended her head when the tarantula passed and withdrew it back to the normal position of a resting hunting coil afterward.


Next, we climbed Iron Mine Hill tracking female molossus CM10 to find a beep coming from underneath a large boulder. Before leaving we tuned in the signal for male molossus CM11 and, as Roger correctly guessed, his beep was coming from the same unobservable location as CM10's. Back into Suizo Wash male tiger CT14 was tracked to a tangle of ragweed where he remained unseen. Then, with the tired and hungry HW ready for a beer and dinner we headed back to the hill to track the last snake of the night; the big boy, male molossus CM12. On the way the cable for the antenna got tangled in a bush and as I spun to relieve pressure and undo the snag a short buzz came from a couple feet behind the heel of my boot and, as I turned, a new female tiger was breaking coil and heading towards the nearby prickly pear.
The new tiger was bagged so blood could be taken and a PIT tag implanted. Back to tracking CM12 we found him on the crawl in a bouldery area a short distance uphill from an area previously used by female molossus CM10. Under the boulders there was a stick midden and
CM12 headed under the boulder.
A few minutes passed and from the bushes and boulders a couple meters below a ringtail emerges and moves up to check out the midden. The ringtail notices company and vanishes...only to circle around and re-emerge on the rocks above us.

For the next half hour CM12 crawls up, over, back and forth throughout the boulders as if he might be tracking a female and during the entire time the ringtail is moving about the area keeping an eye on the Saturday night entertainment. A couple times the ringtail comes close to the snake, seemingly interested. During the closest encounter the ringtail came within a foot on the snake and was perched on a rock slightly above the snake with the fore part of its body lifted off the rock eyes and ears forward and directed at the snake while it sniffed at the air. The snake appeared to be equally aware of the ringtail. The morning tracking session reinforced what we had suspected the night before; snakes are moving. We handed off male tiger CT10 to Roger and Gordon when we found it moved out past where we parked instead of being south of the road to the parking area where the signal came from the night before. At least female tiger CT13 was where she was supposed to be based on the previous day's checking of signal locations. She was tucked into some prickly pear near the edge of a small wash.
From there we headed out to track male tiger CT11 and found him deep in a prickly pear strewn atop a coiled female where he head-jerked slightly above the female...or else it would have been chin-rubbing. CT11 took obvious notice of me as I climbed under the nearby plants to get a picture but went right back to the object of his interest after I retreated.



The next snake checked was CM15, the new female molossus found with male molossus CM14 the previous week. 


CM15 was pulled out of her crevice Sunday morning, had surgery Monday and was released at her capture site Tuesday and, what do you know? She's back to using the crevice she was she was initially found in. Male CM14, who was found with CM15 the previous week and whose signal the night before indicated he was still close to her was nowhere nearby. He had moved to the other side of Iron Mine Hill where he was found on the crawl before taking refuge at the base of a boulder.
So, after essentially circumventing Iron Mine Hill HW and I headed over the top to try and get female tiger CM12's signal which we weren't able to get previously. We get a signal and a general idea of a direction from the top of the hill and head off into the bajada where we lose the signal, walk all the way out to Park Link searching and finally find the signal and follow it to female tiger CT12 coiled at the base of prickly pear close to the location she used at the end of July.
Then it was time for beer, mussels and brats!

Best,
Marty

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