Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Suizo Report -- Marty Rants and Raves, 28 and 29 September 2012

Howdy Herpers,                                      Tuesday, 2 October 2012

And happy October to all of you. I'm always glad to see October roll around, as the month signifies the end of another miserably hot summer season, as well as the promise of gorgeous weather for at least the next seven months. But October also brings on the realization that soon--very soon, all the action we've been seeing of late will grind to a whimpering halt. Already, the lizard numbers are starting to drop, and all we will be seeing surface-active are Utas by the end of the month. But we can still expect some big things in the days ahead, and anxiously await our next crack at paradise.

My original intent was to do another combination report with Marty. Instead, I choose not to profane Marty's words by adding my own. His latest experience with the ringtail was his alone, and all that he saw should remain intact and unaltered. I'll make a closing comment or two, and leave Marty to do the talking:

It always gives me a good feeling to see something other than the usual suspects - Uta, Callisaurus or Aspidoscelis - driving to the Suizos. Gives me the inspiration that it's going to be a promising trip, even if the promise fails to be delivered upon. This weekend the promise was both made and delivered. Within quick succession neonate Salvadora and Pituophis were encountered on the drive in. 

Arriving at the field site a little while before Roger and HW gave me the time to take pictures of the departing sun and arriving moon, get my boots on, and go for a quick hike and welcome our newest molossus, CM16, into the record books. 

He's a cute little tyke we're estimating to have recently celebrated his second birthday. Roger and HW arrived as I was bagging CM16 so I headed down so we could open the books, decide routes and prepare to get the night underway. Turns out we both had good routes and we go to the pictures to tell the rest of the story.
CM12 9-28-12: CM12 had moved from the north side of IMH, where he was in attendance with female CM10 the previous weekend, to the western slope where he was found in a relaxed and elongate double 'S' shaped hunting posture. One 'S' up front, the second in the rear...which reminds me of...a place I probably shouldn't go. You sick bastards have probably already conjured up enough mental images to make whatever I was thinking seem Catholic by comparison.

CT14 = Ringtail 1-3 9-28-12: On my way to track male tiger CT14 I chanced upon our furry friend from a few weeks back. I startled the ringtail out of a prickly pear as it was poking around for whatever ringtails poke around for. 
Continuing on my way to CT14 the ringtail intersects my route about 4 minutes later and, as seems to be characteristic with this ringtail, disappears only to appear a few minutes later. It does, and it picks up a prickly pear fruit, makes it way towards me with the fruit in its mouth and chooses a dead palo verde to sit on to munch its snack. I watch, take a few pictures and continue on until I get to where I'm confident I'm close to CT14 (I was about 8m away). Since I'm frequently seeing the ringtail as it makes wide circles around me I don't want to immediately go to CT14. I remove the tracking gear and move about 5m away while staying about 8m from CT14 whose flag from the previous week I can see. The ringtail continues making wide circles around me investigating a midden, snags of dead branches at the base of a palo verde, prickly pear patches in addition to climbing several palo verde and a large staghorn cactus...which Roger correctly noted I mis-ID as Chain Fruit and pointed out in a manner as gently as Roger can. Doing its circuits the ringtail came within meters of me on several occasions, encircled CT14's location and investigated the tracking equipment a couple times. It also took a leak near where I was standing. Don't know if I should feel honored or insulted. After about 20 minutes I thought the ringtail moved on so I headed up to collect data for CT14. As I'm writing I hear a noise and out of the bushes comes the ringtail, sticks its nose under the rock where CT14 is, and moves on. It didn't spend any more time nosing the hole under CT14's rock than it did other places it investigated so I took that as a good sign. It visits me once more while I'm taking data and then disappears. CT14 was under the same rock and not visible, same as the previous week.
CM10 9-28-12: CM10's signal appears to be coming from the western slope of IMH and downslope and NW of CT14's location so I take off following the beep...only to cross paths with the ringtail two more times. At this point I'm wondering how the ringtail knows where all the snakes are and which one I'm tracking next. Turns out the little guy isn't omniscient, more than likely just extremely active and covers considerable area when foraging. CM10 was on the northern flank of IMH the previous week; I find her on the crawl in the vegetated area west of and between IMH and Suizo Wash. She's moving at the edge of, and then into, a dense aggregation of creosote and staghorn cactus where she climbs through the lower branches before coiling in the cactus.
CA121: No picture. Still in Suizo Wash on a wash island to the NW of IMH, though she seems to have moved a little closer to the hill. Was visible coiled among creosote and PP.
CT10: No picture. Still on the western slope of IMH though he's moved to a large boulder where he wasn't visible.

CA133: No Picture: Visible in a coil under dense, dead shafts of ragweed. On a wash island to the NE of IMH.

Solare neo: Love these little guys and have only found a few. Found this neonate solare as HW, Ryan and I attempted to track male CM14, the only snake Roger designated as a "MUST GET." Thanks for jinxing me! Roger and HW got his signal the night before so he might have booked and made a significant move or, for some reason, my receiver wasn't picking up his signal. Hopefully Roger was able to locate him Sunday.
CM11: No picture and unable to see. He was in a midden constructed in boulders on the western edge of the wash N of Little Hill. Roger and HW saw him the night before in the company of a big-headed female; possibly the same female he was associated with a couple weeks back.

CM15 9-29-12: CM15 has moved from the midden on the southern flank of IMH where she was accompanied by male CM14 the previous week to an outcrop near the base of the eastern slope of IMH. From the balloon she was coiled next to I can only venture the guess she was sleeping off a hangover from a party we weren't invited to. 
CT12 9-29-12: So much for the idea that the tigers were ready to pack it in and hang out in the rocks on IMH. CT12 moved from near the top of IMH, to ~70% downslope to the lower eastern slope of IMH where she had her posterior half sticking out of a hole associated with PP. She popped her head out once during the time we were observing her but pulled it back in and didn't give any indication that our presence bothered her as she didn't try to pull into the hole. The picture shows she is obviously distended posteriorly. It seemed like an odd position for a snake to put itself in so I had to wonder if she was thermoregulating. Keeping her head cool in the hole while warming her fat nether regions (the sun was within as inch or two before Ryan provided shade for the picture so I could imagine there was radiant heat or the soil she was in contact with was being warmed).
CT11 9-29-12: CT11 has moved from high on IMH near the road to the top the previous week to a wash edge on the bajada east of IMH. He was in the same position under the dead branches as when tracked the previous night.
CT13 9-29-12: Don't think she's moved too far from where Roger saw her last week; maybe uphill a little. On the E/SE slope of IMH ~2/3 the way to the top. She was a couple inches under a flattish granite rock surrounded by PP.
Thanks Marty!

Having the luxury of three trackers has really opened up our ability to catch behaviors we would have otherwise missed. We are often able to track the same animal three times over the course of a weekend. By doing this, we learn much about what individual animals are actually doing--from early evening set up until late morning "time to get back inside" behaviors. I will be pulling some of Marty's images from this report, and combining them with my own with the next report, so that the reader will see what I'm talking about.

For now---C'MON WEEKEND!

Best to all, happy herping, roger

1 comment:

  1. Great story. I continue to be massively jealous at your ringtail experiences. The little Pituophis is striking.