Monday, October 1, 2012

Suizo Report -- 21 through 23 September, 2012

Marty Feldner and I are tag teaming with this report. I'm keeping Marty's writing in the usual black font, while I go to blue. If you can't see color fonts on your screen, well..........then you're out of luck in this regard. No big deal. We're pretty much interchangeable.

On the evening of 21 September, I joined Marty for long enough to mass signal from the top of Iron Mine Hill (IMH). On our way down, we bumped into my shadow Tortoise #505. Or am I his shadow? Whatever that case may be, the number of "recaptures" with this tortoise has been nothing short of incredible. We see him an average of 20 times a year!

Regarding some of the action we're seeing, Marty takes over:
The snakes have made a decision: it's time to move back to Iron Mine Hill. Almost as if coordinated by a directive the 4 remaining tigers that were in Suizo Wash or on the bajada moved back to the mountain to join the two already there. The question is, what triggers the movement? Is it temperatures, day length, reduction in humidity with the end of the monsoon, mom calling them home for dinner? What time of day or night are they making the bulk of their movements? Do those movements coincide with moon phase? Whatever it is it seems obvious that the snakes all receive the message and act on it within a relatively short span of time. Four of the five molossus remained on IMH where CM14 has rejoined CM15 in a midden and, as reported by Roger, when CM12 was viewed during the morning tracking session, he was rejoining CM10. CM11 was all alone this week...or maybe not. We couldn't see him. He was in the wash to the north of Little Hill. The molossus have largely stayed on IMH after a period of time where they were using the wash edges. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a pattern over the next couple of years; hunt the wash edges during the summer and then head back to the mountain to hook up. The two atrox are in their active season ranges - how much longer will it be before they move back to the mountain?...and which mountain does John's bitch go to? Another good weekend. Looking forward to next Saturday.
Me too!Marty

You gotta love how Marty thinks. The guy is really trying to understand what it is like to be a rattlesnake. While I am content to think "tigers move to the hill because it is time for them to do so," Marty seeks the deeper meaning of it all. Of the scenarios Marty presents, I like "Mom calling them back for supper" best!

It's time to let the images tell the story:

Images in order of snakes seen
CT13 9-21-12: First snake tracked Friday night. Was on the cruise when found but set up in a prickly pear a short time later. CT13 has moved to the top of IMH. She was between IMH and Little Hill last week.
CT8 9-21-12: Two images; one a larger context, the second closer up. CT8 has moved from Suizo Wash where she was last week and is now next to the road at the base of IMH. She is using the same area/midden previously used by CA121.

 CA121 9-21-12: CA121 is still in Suizo Wash but has moved a little south. In the picture she is off the ground in vegetation. During ~45 minutes of watching CA121 she was apparently tracking something. She made no less than 4 circuits of an area approximately 6m in diameter including several ventures off the ground into vegetation. During the morning tracking session she wasn't visible but had a male friend waiting outside her refuge.
CRAT_FCA121_Site70_09_22_12: Way to steel my thunder, Marty! This is the male that was poised just outside the soil rodent hole that CA121 was in. What a nice boy he is! Note the how the rattle is just coming out of the coil. As we would approach for pictures, he would flick that rattle ever-so-slightly. Our guests were amazed at the mellow disposition of this snake. Normal stuff to us! I also did a quick tracking job on CA121 the evening of 23 September. She was now in a different soil hole, about 30 meters from the morning before, and the male was tongue flicking her refuge as I arrived. He can track her as well as I can!
CM12 9-21-12: CM12 was in a coiled hunting posture on the western slope of IMH. CM12 has been on the northern slope of IMH for the last couple of weeks where he's repeatedly been associating with CM10.
CM12_CM10_09_22_12 x 2 images: And by the next morning, we caught him moving back in with his girlfriend CM10. She is, as usual, behind him in these two images. He also seems to be good at tracking his lady. On the evening of 23 September, the pair had moved all the way to the bottom of IMH, just above Suizo Wash. They were in a soil hole at the base of a cliff face, surrounded by a lush and fragrant chest-high patch of Mexican oregano. As usual, the massive body of the male blocked the view of the female. I almost feel sorry for CM10. That big boy is not going to let her go until she yields.
CT12 9-21-12: CT12 has moved onto the south facing slope of IMH near the road to the top after having been on the bajada to the southeast of IMH last week. She had an obvious food bolus visible in the coil beneath her head.
CT10 9-22-12: CT10 is on the west facing slope of IMH. He was on IMH last week but has moved to the location where he overwintered. Is he done for the year or just stopping by a familar spot?
CT13 9-22-12: After tracking CT13 the previous night she moved further east to the highest point on top of IMH.
CT13_Site11.....This is an image from 8 September of CT13 on the move. When I tracked her on 23 September, she was on the move as shown here, ~70% downslope from where Marty saw her the morning before. She was traveling across the hill, following a contour, and about 10 meters below her, CM12 was doing the exact same thing. Both were traveling in parallel lines, and moving fast! And going along with Marty's thoughts about mom calling them back for supper--both are thick toward the rear.
CT8_CT14_Spooked: Speaking of thick toward the rear, check out the tail on female CT8 in this image taken 8 September 2012. I think all three of our tigers will have pups next year.
DT on back: Tortoise Ryan found just above where we located CT12. The tortoise stepped off the rock visible in the picture and rolled onto its back. After watching the tortoise try to flip itself for a short time a helping hand was lent and the tortoise went on its way. GREAT SHOT Marty!
CT12 9-22-12: From her position the previous night CT12 moved further up slope on IMH into a small outcrop. Note all the small rodent droppings nearby. Yep--Mom is calling them back for supper, Marty!
Sadly, I think all the tiger pairings are over. We did not see coitus this year, but we can certainly bet our bottom dollar that it happened. With the molossus, the pairings are still going on, and we will keep trying to get--and share, images of any mating that we see.

Thanks to John Slone, Marty, Gordon and typing boy here, we have never been poised better to see how three species of rattlesnake partition the habitat that they occupy. We look forward to next year already. It is likely that we will beef up our N with all 3 species. We do need money to do this. Expect some felonious begging in the months ahead. Before you hit the delete button, bear in mind that this is the premiere rattlesnake study of the southwest. Nobody has ever done it longer, or better.  Nobody has published more than we have, either. No brag, just fact.

If we had to put a price tag on what we've done over the past 12 years, it would be around $250,000. We've done it all out of pocket, and we have freely (emphasis on "free") shared the knowledge gained with the world. I hope you'll help us in the days ahead.

This here is Roger Repp, signing off from Southern Arizona, where the turtles are strong, the snakes are handsome, and the lizards are ALL above average.

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