First we headed up Empire Grade to hit some spots on the side of the road. Flipping an old carpet and another rubber mat we ran into our first herps.
Under the rubber mat was a pair of Northern Alligator Lizards, Elgaria coerulea. The normal female was gravid with a uterus full of babies that she will give live birth to in a few months. The male was stunning and patternless. Even this far north in California the Southern gators are more common so this was a great treat. I always enjoy seeing wild morphs, such as the leucistic Coleonyx we find in the Mojave Desert.
Next under the old carpet we found my first snake of 2011. It was a nice adult Ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus. In the third photo notice the mangled tail. The evolved defense mechanism worked!
|Mangled tail means the defense mechanism worked|
Next we hit up another Empire Grade spot and found a pile of roofing tile. John was much more ambitious than I was and started digging through the 200 plus tiles. We found Blue-bellies, Sceloporus occidentalis, under every few tiles. We must have seen 40+ individuals. Nearly all the adults were female (9 out of 10 or so). There were also dozens of youngsters running around among the tiles.
At the bottom of the one of the tile piles was this gopher snake, Pituophis catenifer catenifer. It looked as if it was just coming out of hibernation, maybe throwing a coil or two out when the sun shined its life giving rays near the tile pile.
Stay tuned for Part 2 when we get to the Amphibians.