Wednesday, 30 November 2016

July Showers bring Amphibious Critters

July 27, 2016

Before our crew went separate ways Dave took us up to see Meadview's namesake, the view of Lake Mead. Its bright blue water provided brilliant contrast with the barren rocky mountains looming around it .

Lake Mead

From the same vantage point I also got to see the Colorado River for the first time as it exited the west side of the Grand Canyon.

Colorado River and end of the Grand Canyon

After saying our goodbyes Sally Suby carried my companions off towards Nevada, while my unnamed rental took me on the beginning of my first solo road trip. I was pretty tired to start off, but I decided to take the detour through Flagstaff and Oak Creek Canyon anyways. While it turned a six hour drive into 7 and a half, the route through the mountains was absolutely gorgeous, plus on a weekday it wouldn't be choked with tourists like last time we drove it. near Flagstaff, and I enjoyed my second drive through the mountains.

Oak Creek Canyon

When I stopped in Phoenix to fill up on gas the car thermometer read 115°F (46°C), which was the officially the hottest temperature I'd ever experienced (although anything over 100°F its is just stinking hot). Luckily Tucson is at a higher elevation than the low desert of Phoenix, so it doesn't get that as hot. I arrived there around 6:30 that evening I was greeted with an absolutely wonderful sight: a rainstorm pounding the Santa Catalinas and coming my way. Rain on the desert and night falling seemed like the perfect equation for some good herping, so I eagerly headed up into the mountains to wait for the storm to pass and the critters to come out.

Storm clouds over the Santa Catalinas

Waiting for darkness

After the sun set I made my way back down, and on my way a couple massive Sonoran Desert Toads that bounced across the road in my headlights. Once I hit pavement I soon got my first lifer of the night, a Red-spotted Toad.

Red-spotted Toad

Not long after I discovered this young Long-nosed Snake. Although this was a species I really wanted to see, when I got it off the road it was acting injured which really took the enjoyment out of the encounter. I checked it over and didn't see any obvious damage, but it was still acting fairly sluggish. Afterwards I read that they have a few defensive behaviours including writhing around and void the contents of their cloaca, so perhaps this was some other defense, sort of playing dead? Or maybe it was cold. Either way, I left it be and hoped it would be alright.

Long-nosed Snake

The most common species of the night was Couch's Spadefoot, of which I stopped for over 10 and drove by many more. This species is sexually dimorphic, with the males sporting a more contrasting brown and yellow pattern while the females are a more muted green.

Male Couch's Spadefoot Toad

Female Couch's Spadefoot

The "spades" of spadefoots are hard growths on their hind feet which aid in digging. Spadefoots spend much of their time buried underground, coming to the surface during wet periods when they breed. Couch's has a unique sickle-shaped spade.

Couch's Spadefoot's sickle-shaped spade

The only other spadefoot I came across was this single Mexican Spadefoot. They're quite small with a more warty appearance and a more bug-eyed look than Couch's.

Mexican Spadefoot

Their spade is more typical of the other spadefoot species, a smaller wedge.

Mexican Spadefoot 'spade,' more typical triangle shape

One one of the back roads I got a quick look of a pair of Antelope Jackrabbits in the headlights. No photos unfortunately, but these hares have ears that put the more common Black-tailed Jackrabbits to shame, they're ridiculously huge! Not simply to look silly, the large surface area helps them release excess heat for these desert-dwellers.

After some 4 hours of road cruising I'd turned up a few dozen toads of 4 species but only the one snake. I wasn't sure where they were at, but by midnight I'd given my second wind a solid run and spent over 12 hours driving, so I found a spot in the wilderness to crash for the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment