Title Image

Title Image


This blog is predominately about camera trapping in California. We camera trap to save our souls and to teach primary school students about biology and conservation. We will also touch on other camera trapping news and musings, sets from afar, mediocre herpetology, sucky birding, and other natural history discussions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Herping in the SC Mountains and the UCSC Campus Part 1

My buddy John from the East Bay Vivarium came down this past weekend and we did some feasting and herping.  The only thing we collected were the following pictures.  I have to say the weather was not perfect.  Warmish, but some cloud cover.  Not the best for reptiles nor for amphibians. None-the-less we had an excellent day.  More species than I had expected, although we got shut out on Rubber boas and Zonata.  I never expected Zonata; it is still too cool and early but it would have been nice.  Come May hopefully I can bring you some Zonata pictures.

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.

Patternless male

Gravid female

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
Also under the mat was a Western Skink, Eumeces skiltonianus. We found four or so more at the next stop too.


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.


  1. Outstanding! Pituophis is my favorite snake Genus!

  2. Nice. Glad to still see coerulea that far down the range. So far our herping seasons are quite complementary - I've only found coast & sc mtn garters, a sharp-tailed snake and northern alli lizards. :)

  3. Seems like it was a tremendous day. I dig that skink shot a lot too.

  4. Hey, my old stomping grounds. Used to get there via Hubbard Gulch. Sounds like you had fun, except there were no sallies. Got two zonata in Santa Cruz County-- one in Ben Lomond and one on Rt 9 near Big Basin. That was long ago.

  5. randomtruth: I was a little surprised we did not turn up a sharp-tail. Nice on the Northern alligators, even in the North and East Bays the Southerns are more common.

    Codge: We were in your old background. No Dicamptodons but some good Salamanders in the next post. Still have to give Rt 9 a good look this season.

  6. Trailblazer: Pituophis are great but you may the first person I know to call them their favorite genus. Really hope to find some in the Mojave Desert this year. The Great Basin Gophers are just stunning with their sharp contrasting colors.

  7. JK: My fave, for sure! My disseration research was three years of radio telemetry on a congener: the Bullsnake (P. c. sayi).

    Big, fiesty, a draw blood if they bite. Doesn't get any better! :)

  8. Trailblazer: That is awesome. Is your research published somewhere? I would be interested in reading it. I have access to most journals so subscription is not a problem.

  9. Sure....

    I suppose it would seem alittle self-gratifying for me to post the citations in the comment area...

    If you'd like to give me your email address, I can send pdfs of them directly to you...

    Thanks for your interest!

  10. Sorry I did not realize you were already faculty looking at your bio. Asking if it was published was pretty stupid in hindsight.

    I look forward to reading them: kirklandj@gmail.com


  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Not stupid at all! Email is forthcoming!

  13. OK, JK...

    Hopefully, the email should have reached you. Let me know if you don't get it and re-send.

  14. I actually meant southern alligator lizards (unfortunately). I've only caught a couple of northerns up here along the peninsula in my years looking - they're quite uncommon and I only find them on the ridge and west side of the sc mountains.